The ALTANA Group is investing in the future with its highly innovative High Throughput Screening (HTS) system. Serial tests are carried out with enormous speed and efficiency at the highest level of quality. Manfred Knospe is responsible for the implementation of this ambitious project.

ALTANA is investing around 15 million euros in the new technology. With the fully automated system at BYK in Wesel, 220 samples can be produced and tested in 24 hours in high throughput. The total number of samples per year is 80,000. “The decisive factor for success is that the HTS system will enable us to test products in the future without any restrictions on results, thus opening up completely new application possibilities,” explains project manager Manfred Knospe.

Specialty Chemicals in XXL

The purpose of the system is to determine the most suitable products for individual customer requirements from a wide range of additives in series tests. “The system acts like a giant filter. We can say exactly which of a large number of tested products are the two or three that offer the customer the greatest benefit,” says Manfred Knospe. Whereas tests used to take months, fully digitalized application technology means that in the future they will only take days.

The ultra-modern facility is complex. It fills a fully air-conditioned room of over 300 square meters. There are 32 modules with 27 different functionalities for testing additives in coatings, plastics, and adhesives. The modules are connected by a rail system; shuttles move the samples from one module to the next. The system, called FlexShuttle, specially developed for the requirements of the ALTANA Group and its customers, is unique. It permits samples to be prepared and examines their liquid properties. The samples are applied by pouring out, drawing down, or conventional spray application and cured using UV radiation, or by means of oven or air drying. The finished dried samples can then be tested for properties such as gloss, flow, and color.

Mit der vollautomatischen Anlage bei BYK in Wesel können 220 Proben in 24 Stunden im Hochdurchsatz hergestellt und geprüft werden. Manfred Knospe verantwortet die Umsetzung des ambitionierten Vorhabens. Im Cockpit werden die komplexen Vorgänge gesteuert und überwacht.

Boost for Innovative Strength

The FlexShuttle relieves application technology of disliked series tests. The time saved in this way gives the highly qualified application engineers freedom: Those who previously had to deal with uniform series tests can now concentrate on more demanding, creative laboratory work and develop new solutions thanks to the new HTS system. “As a result, we are giving our innovative strength a big boost,” says Manfred Knospe enthusiastically.

Conversely, the system can also be used to test existing products for their uses in other areas of application without there being a concrete need for this. “This opens up completely new possibilities for us, which would be unthinkable without the digitalization of series tests,” says Knospe.

But this is not the only reason why the HTS system is an investment in the future. Another is that it is already designed to meet the capacity and infrastructure requirements that we expect in three or four years. And it can easily carry out tests for other ALTANA divisions, as well as for external customers. “Our researchers are working today on tailormade solutions of the future for our customers. This is what makes us ALTANA. That’s why we are also investing in the appropriate technology in the long term,” explains Manfred Knospe. “Seen in that light, with this investment we are ensuring that we will grow successfully in the future – completely in the interest of our customers.”