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Opportunities in Academia

Solutions to technical problems often can be found by contacting academic institutions. Here are two resources available to converters.

Two academic research centers that interact with converters include the Center for Interfacial Engineering (CIE) at the University of Minnesota (UofM) and the Web Handling Research Center (WHRC) at Oklahoma State University (OSU). These two highly successful research centers offer technology transfer opportunities.

Technology transfer is simply the movement of a technology from where it is generated to where it is used. The technology transferred may be any combination of information, data, and ideas; skills and expertise; or models and prototypes.

Two events must occur in the technology-transfer process: contact and interaction between generator and user and actual transference of technology.

Technology generators may be classified as either commercial (typically, industrial laboratories) or noncommercial. The most important noncommercial sources are academic institutions, federal-government laboratories, nonprofit institutions, technology-transfer intermediaries, and independent inventors.

Two federal laws that facilitate technology transfer in the US were enacted in 1980. They are:

  • University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act (Bayh-Dole) — giving academics under federal contract rights to inventions they make.

  • Technology Innovation Act (Stevenson-Wilder) — enabling technology transfer from government laboratories.

Typical modes of academic technology transfer include licensing of patents, new-business startups by academic personnel, hiring of graduates, exchange of researchers, graduate-student research at user facilities, written reports of research results, publication in peer-reviewed journals and trade press, theses by graduate students, meetings with faculty, presentation of research papers, and invitation-only conferences on focused technologies.

Center for Interfacial Engineering
CIE — founded in 1988 as an Engineering Research Center by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with support from the UofM and 124 industrial partners over the years — has produced many scientific breakthroughs of benefit to converters. These involve analysis, computation, visualization, characterization, and publication activities related to coating, drying, and related processes.

Analytical activities include developing fundamental understandings of various coating and post-coating processes; broadening the operating windows of coating processes to reduce defects in coated paper products; understanding the bubble behavior of microfoams in spray-applied coatings to broaden application windows of new polymer systems; and solving problems associated with calendering processes.

Computational activities include applying predictive performance models to printing-press design and diagnostic-tool and procedure development for the metering and transfer of thin fluid films; finite-element modeling of drying stresses to analyze starry-night coating defects in graphic films; and optimizing the coalescence, leveling, and film-formation processes associated with the deposition of atomized droplets on various surfaces in the production of photoconductive copier and printer drums.

Visualization activities include real-time imaging and microscopy of weeping phenomena commonly observed in the blade coating of paper to solve a persistent process problem, and the development of a fundamental understanding of the photochemical machining process to identify factors contributing to nonuniform etching of low aspect ratio holes to improve product quality.

Characterization activities include scanning electron microscopy of water-based ink/paper interaction to provide a fundamental understanding of the process of rotogravure printing with solvent-free, water-soluble inks, and micro-indentation of the texture of polymer films to quantify their expected adhesion to glass in glass/film/glass laminates used in automotive windshields.

Publication activities include production of six textbooks in the series “Advances in Interfacial Engineering” (more than 10,000 copies sold to date), the first title of which was “Modern Coating and Drying Technology,” by E. Cohen and E. Gutoff; and publication of 393 Ph.D. and 59 Masters theses; as well as publication of more than 1,400 research papers, including industry-wide publication in TAPPI of the results of paper-coating weeping experiments.

Web Handling Research Center
WHRC is the second major academic research activity considered, one of approximately 52 such centers sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

WHRC concentrates on the development of enhanced understanding of fundamental issues in the handling of continuous, thin, and flexible materials to improve product quality.

Established in 1986, it is the only center concentrating exclusively on web handling. Web materials cover a broad spectrum from extremely thin plastics to paper, textiles, metals, and composites.

Web processing pervades almost every industry today by allowing the mass production of a rich variety of products from materials that originate as a continuous strip of material. Products that involve web processing somewhere in their manufacture include aircraft, appliances, automobiles, bags, books, boxes, clothing, floor covering, furniture, newspapers, photographics, plastic sheeting, tapes of all types, and video tape.

Processes used include calendering, casting, cleaning, coating, cooling, drying, dyeing, embossing, folding, heating, laminating, moisturizing, printing, sheeting, and slitting.

Web handling involves the physical mechanics related to the running and control of continuous strip materials through processes and machines. A primary goal of web handling is the transport of material through processes and machines with minimal defects and losses.

The mission of WHRC is to advance the knowledge base in technologies applicable to the transport and control of continuous-strip materials.

Primary activities include fundamental and generic research, as well as knowledge and information exchange with its industrial sponsors.

Research problems pursued are fundamental and generic — and not specific to a particular material — with emphasis on: mathematical model development for web handling “primitives” based on first principles; experimental parameter identification and model validation; and computer modeling and simulation.

Fundamental and generic research studies are conducted in mechanics of winding and unwinding; longitudinal dynamics and tension control; lateral dynamics and control; guiding and tracking; out-of-plane dynamics; wrinkling; air films between webs and rollers; aerodynamic effects in transport; and measurement of tension, wound roll properties, and physical properties.

Materials considered in these research studies include plastic films, papers of all types, thin metals, and composites.

WHRC's extensive research facilities include a high-speed web line capable of running 30-in.-wide webs at transport speeds to 5,000 fpm.

Key deliverables to WHRC sponsors include analysis and design software packages for winding, wrinkling, and transport.

Web-transport system configurations can be analyzed with a computer-based software tool for the analysis and design of multi-span Web Transport Systems — WTS for Windows.

Your Action Plan
Whether at the Center for Interfacial Engineering, the Web Handling Research Center, or another academic institution, you are likely to find solutions to your major technical problems through the application of academia's analytical, computational, visualization, and characterization capabilities.

Perhaps appropriate solutions already have been published. Your visit with academic researchers certainly will provide new insights to your pressing technical problems and opportunities.

So, make contact today and let the interaction begin!


Coating Symposium Focuses on New Advances
The 11th International Coating Science and Technology Symposium was held September 23-25 in Minneapolis, MN. This symposium focused on recent advances in the fundamental understanding of all phases of the liquid film coating and solidification process. Papers and posters were presented by both academic institutions and industrial companies on both fundamental and applied research and development topics. Coating process engineers from the US, Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia attended.

The papers covered basic studies on all aspects of the coating process by using computer simulation and modeling. Also presented were advanced characterization techniques for coating solution properties, techniques for visualizing the application process, and studies on the drying process. New applications of the advances were discussed. Specific topics covered in the symposium sessions were:

  • Coating fundamentals viscoelastic effects

  • Wetting and roll coating studies

  • Microstructure and gravure coating

  • Drying and solidification

  • Liquid interactions and coating instabilities

  • Liquid drop interactions and coating instabilities.

Examples of technology presented are as follows:

  • A new dry coating process for paper coating utilizes a freeze-dried coating powder and electostatic corona charge to apply the coating. The coating is thermally fused to surface. This process improves process efficiency by replacing wet coating and drying. Presented by Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland, and Metso Paper Inc., Järvenpää, Finland.

  • A liquid bridge technique characterizes point-to-point variation in surface energy and porosity. The technique can measure smaller variations across a web than with previous methods and will help in understanding and reducing defects. Presented by University of Maine, Orono, ME.

  • An interesting new approach to directing ink drops from a microscopic jet uses an asymmetric heater. The effect can be used for ink jet printing, DNA arraying, printing of circuits, and etching. Presented by Eastman Kodak Co. and Purdue University

For further information on the symposium and its sponsor, International Society of Coating Science and Technology, visit cce.umn.edu/iscst or contact Edward D. Cohen Consulting Inc., 480/836-9452; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article, along with future articles by other authors, is provided as a cooperative effort between PFFC and AIMCAL (Assocation of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators). Authors contribute to AIMCAL's technical and educational offerings, which include the association's Fall Technical Conference, Summer School, and Ask AIMCAL.


William H. Fuhr is managing principal of Pilot House Assoc., which specializes in technology-transfer-based business strategies, licensing, sourcing, and acquisitions. His 30-year technology-transfer career includes 15 years exploring, forming, and managing strategic alliances with Control Data Corp., 10 years with the Univ. of Minnesota, and five years consulting for industrial clients with Pilot House Assoc. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering and an M.B.A. in strategic management. Contact Bill at 952/920-3847; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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