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Researcher uses Peters as academic stepping stone
Researcher uses Peters as academic stepping stone

Peters Research turns 26 this year: The research and development department enjoys an excellent reputation not only with customers worldwide, but also locally at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences which the family-owned company has been cooperating with for many years, and which recently became a partner for the junior researcher programme launched by the NRW Ministry of Science. The aim of this programme is to qualify young scientists for a professorship at a university of applied sciences. Right now, one of these scientists, Dr. Christian Schmitz is present at Peters.

Dr Christian Schmitz studied and completed his doctorate on the subject of "Near Infrared Curing Systems" at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. In close cooperation with the research and development department of Peters, he will now dedicate himself for three years to ink development, statistical test planning and the processes of machine learning which are quite new in the ink industry. Machine learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence: Algorithms learn from input data and build up a statistical model.

Software written especially for Peters' needs

In the first year at Peters, Schmitz worked with the R&D team to write software suitable specifically for Peters' needs. It has already served to realise a number of development tasks such as improving product formulations, analysing influencing variables or robustly predicting long-term tests. This software permits to integrate into the machine learning process, further projects aimed at shortening development times or better understanding the system.

Specifically, the university's AI-based high-throughput equipment is included in the planning and research here: Located at the university's Institute for Surface Technology (HIT), the robot is capable of producing, applying, curing and testing up to 120 coating formulations per day in a fully automated process. As a result, it optimises and accelerates the development process significantly.

"For the analysis of the complex formulations, this software is another step towards optimising," explains Christian Schmitz. And that is indeed a philosophy in itself. The raw material selection or even pigment volumes in the concentration can be changed, thus allowing the coating to be optimised in a much more complex and simple way. This is indispensable, because the products have to meet new requirements constantly. For example, high temperatures with even greater packing density in even smaller spaces in high-performance electronics, or high currents in LED lighting systems where heatsink and thermal interface pastes function as layers between the printed circuit boards, to allow heat spreading and prevent individual parts from becoming too hot.

A combination of robot and software

The robot of HIT supports accelerated material development. Combined with machine learning algorithms, this creates direct benefits for the university, companies, industries and future ink chemists.

How did Christian Schmitz decide to become an engineer in coatings technology? "In terms of my inclinations, I come from mathematics and chemistry - I'm scientifically oriented," he explains. "I started studying mathematics, but quickly saw that I lacked practical benefits there." He first did a an apprenticeship to become a lab technician at Dupont (now Axalta Coating in Wuppertal) and realised that he enjoyed it. He consistently followed the path towards becoming a chemical engineer, never regretting this step. The great advantage of gaining practical experience in a medium-sized company like Peters is obvious to Schmitz: "I can implement the evaluations via the software directly in the laboratory. The learning effect is high and I see the result right away." All these research and development projects of the Peters Research department are important to continue reacting flexibly to the market. "The properties of the coatings and their prices have to be constantly adapted," Christian Schmitz sums up.

High-tech inks further developed with latest technology

It's not for nothing that Peters' high-tech products are in demand worldwide. Peters Research was founded 26 years ago as an independent limited company and has constantly developed the ELPEPCB® circuit printing inks, ELPEGUARD® conformal coatings, ELPECAST® casting compounds and ELPESPEC® auxiliary products at highest level using state-of-the-art technology.

Since the beginning of the year, the engineers Detlev Schucht and Johannes Tekath have been heading Peters Research, Research and Development. Thanks to the first-class Elpemer® solder masks, Detlev Schucht enjoys a very good reputation among PCB manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (OEM), while Johannes Tekath is known as a specialist for thermal conductive pastes, plugging pastes and the Elpejet® solder masks from the 3D inkjet laboratory. Based on their complex expertise, the team of 30 people supports the development of the numerous high-tech coatings for electronics. 

Christian Schmitz also benefits from this professionalism: "I am directly involved in many issues here and taken along with them," he says, pleased about the good integration into the company. He will continue to gain his industrial experience at Peters until 2022 when he will apply for a professorship. "This is my thing - I enjoy teaching and research," Schmitz summarises.


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