Chemical formulation development
An important task for the R&D department in the chemical industry is the formulation of new products and the reformulation and optimization of existing products. This often involves looking for and qualifying new ingredients to improve the cost and performance of existing products.
Currently, the most common approach in developing and improving formulations is using the expertise of the researchers often in combination with classical Design of Experiments (DoE) software. These approaches often require a high level of expertise and statistical knowledge from their users and an extensive number of experiments, especially for more complex products with many components. Experiments where alternative components are replaced with each other add to the complexity even more.
xT SAAM AI R&D platform’s proprietary formulation development tool helps researchers develop and optimize formulations with fewer real-life tests taking into account data from various sources such as component costs, availability, and previous experiments. This greatly reduces R&D time and cost and shortens the go-to-market time for new products. The artificial intelligence software is easy to use, which allows users with no or limited statistical and limited domain expertise to use the software efficiently.
With current increased fluctuations and changes in the raw material prices, the Italian coating developer wanted to explore ways to reformulate an existing product with new components with better availability and price performance.
The main aim of the pilot project was to compare the xT SAAM AI software, developed and distributed by Exponential Technologies Ltd with their current methodology for formulation development for a UV curing topcoat for curtain coaters and find alternative components to an existing formulation to optimize its performance.
The goal was to improve the product’s technical properties and potentially find a more cost-effective formulation and improve properties such as reactivity of the resin with UV light, scratch and micro-scratch resistance, gloss, and reduction in the product’s tendency to shrink after the curing process. Properties of the product such as viscosity, appearance, and processability had to be kept as close as possible to the existing product.
The experiment was set up in xT SAAM software by adding all of the components of the mixture and desired measurable objectives. The formulation consisted of 8 components such as resins, monomers, and other agents. One of the formulation components was varied between 2 alternatives and all other component proportions were varied.
Initial baseline formulation was used as a benchmark and as initial data for the software. 4 new formulations were generated by the software in the first iteration of the product. The formulations were tested and feedback was given back to the software. The second series was generated with 5 formulations.
If only the replacement component was changed while keeping other proportions the same, the resulting formulation was worse in its properties. But by varying all proportions within the formulation, within only 9 experiments xT SAAM found a better formulation in both technical and cost performance than the current company benchmark with:
- Doubled scratch-resistance of the coating
- While keeping similar viscosity & reactivity to UV light
- Improved appearance with better gloss & reduced yellowing
- 5% reduction in the overall mixture cost
The Italian coatings developer concluded that xT SAAM improved efficiency, usability, flexibility, and the overall experimental costs of the formulation development compared to their current approach.
xT and Italian coatings developer continues their business relationship and xT SAAM assists their researchers in their formulation development in a longer-term pilot.
Using valuable feedback from the pilot project Exponential Technologies implemented additional analytical modules and tools to improve the information depth and is working on further improvements to include more data in the optimizations and analysis.
xT is an experienced player in the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in industrial markets. In particular, xT has a track record of delivering world-class software products in the field of industrial R&D. Combining their experience with AI/ML technologies, xT is ready to gradually turn the promise of “first time right” into reality.