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Process development

When the product is not good enough: The innovation push from the lab

Many people are familiar with the dilemma: The production process must be improved; the reject rate must be reduced. But with operations running smoothly, there is no time for experimentation. What can be done? Simply test externally, without interrupting production.

Everything the customer needs is available on 200 square meters: various lapping, grinding and polishing machines, steam, and ultrasonic cleaners and - they are the highlight - a laser scanning microscope as well as a laser profilometer for 3D measurement of even large-area components. With these devices, every groove can be detected to within 0.5 nanometers. "Many of our customers have a real 'aha' experience in the lab. Because we offer high-resolution images of their workpiece. There they see details of the surface that they weren't even aware of before," reports Dr. Christian Jentgens who holds a doctorate in chemistry and is responsible for research and development at Pureon. It takes a lot of work before customers receive the documentation of their test series together with the new solution in the form of image, Excel, and Word files. One thing at a time.

In the Surface Lab, every groove can be detected to within 0.5 nanometers.

In the Surface Lab, every groove can be detected to within 0.5 nanometers.

Let us take the case of a manufacturer of sapphire components for optoelectronics. When talking to Pureon's sales force, it became clear where the shoe pinched: the reject rate of his product was 15 percent, too many scratches, and that was costing money. Because the components all must be reworked. And at some point, even the customers get nervous. The polishing process could not stay like that in the long run. Anyone who has reached such a point must honestly ask themselves whether they have the time and the possibilities, but above all whether they have the necessary know-how to develop a new solution. So, hand on heart...

Our customer was quickly convinced by the lab idea. He sent his workpiece to Pureon and later, when all the preparations were complete, booked himself into the Surface Lab for a few days. There, Pureon sets up the test machines exactly according to the customer's specifications during the planning and preparation phase; further adaptations as needed are a matter of course. Once the solution to the problem has been found, the correct setting is of course also made on the customer's machines. "Our Surface Lab is completely independent of machine manufacturers, which is a great advantage," says Jentgens. What happens next with the workpiece?

Process development in our Surface Lab at a glance

At our customer, the scratches occurred at elevated temperatures, i.e., when the machines had been running for a long time. After preparation, we approached the optimum result in a multi-stage process: parameters were varied again and again in a targeted manner: Speed, pressures, suspension formulations, the property of the polishing pad or the machine presetting. Precision, knowledge, and a lot of experience make the master. "This is done step by step, with many discussions in between and with approvals by the plants. New production processes must of course be treated confidentially," emphasizes the laboratory manager. He receives new customer inquiries at least every two weeks, and expectations are high. Sometimes the search takes several months. But the Pureon specialists always find what they are looking for. This was also the case with our sapphire example.

Here is the result in telegram style: the reject rate was reduced to less than two percent, the specific suspension formulation made the process less susceptible to temperature fluctuations, the change of polishing pad to IRINO-Pro proved its worth, and the new process ended up costing no more than the old one. "The investment in a new solution pays for itself very quickly with the help of the Surface Lab. Every machine day that produces defects costs more than a day in our lab," Christian Jentgens sums up.

The chemist feels in his element in a laboratory. Trying out something new and applying it successfully is indispensable for him from an economic point of view anyway. But it is also simply fun. Pureon conducts research and participates in international research collaborations with various universities. "We consciously invest in research and also want to open up new business areas with new developments," explains Martin Spring, Pureon's co CEO. His grandfather also once started with research. Inventiveness is simply part of the family company's DNA.

Interested in process development in our Surface Lab?


Book your appointment with our experts now or get in touch for any further questions.

Dr. Christian Jentgens

Head of R&D and Director Surface Lab