Frank De Voeght at Chemstream tells us how the company has developed as a flexible but highly innovative Inkjet ink specialist.
Frazer Chesterman interviews Frank De Voeght
I arrived at Chemstream offices, just south of Antwerp, on a grey & snowy Belgium morning to be met by the smiling boss of the business - Frank De Voeght . After a short but informative tour of their modern facilities, Frank and I sat down to talk more about the how the business started and why they have a unique place in the world of Inks, Polymers and Dispersions?
I asked first, about the story of the beginning of Chemstream and in particular his role in development the organisation?
Frank starts with a statement of intent ‘In a world that is changing fast, there is a need to be flexible’
After working at AGFA for many years, he could see that big business is always faced with a degree of inertia, but that being small, fast , flexible and adaptable in the world of inks, could be a unique business proposition. So, Frank and two other ex-employees of the R&D team at Agfa decided to set up a business that would offer new chemical formulations for dedicated end user requirements. From the beginning of our company both ‘Ink development’ service to bigger players as well as designing and prototyping of highly functionalized inks (low volume but high added value) were key to support our organic growth. Initially our main focus was on the newly developing world on Inkjet inks initially for textile, ceramics, packaging and labels. Now, it really is Decorative inks that we develop, particularly in areas such as surface decoration – with high functionality, scratch resistant and textured wood & laminates – typically for short run applications and highly Functionalized inks for electronics, barriers, encoding and 3D printing for optical applications.
What are the key strengths of your business?
We always want to try to give the complete solution to our customers particularly with system integrators – a from start to finish solution. But we believe you should start with the ‘chemistry’ not with the technology. Create the Chemistry to match the system. Better that the customer comes to us saying ‘ Customized product development stands for a tailor made solution’ . Our team translates customers requirements into specific chemical formulations taking their working environment and planned applications into account.
Our chemical formulations are based on in-depth screening of the commercially available raw materials with respect to the technical specifications. In case there is a need for modified or new raw materials, we are able to do the in-house synthesis, based on a molecular modelling approach.
We are able to test and evaluate new formulations against the technical specifications in our lab, but our team can assist to implement the new formulation in their adapted workflow or new application.
Indeed, we have the ambition to provide you with a sustainable solution creating a long lasting added value with respect to cost and ecology.
Our expertise is consolidated in the development of customized and or functionalized dispersions, coatings and inks for inkjet.
Are the demands for new Inks and dispersions growing ?
I see lots of interest in Inkjet inks for packaging – direct and flexible packaging. Mainly water-based because of the complications with migration. We have been asked by a number of large companies to look at this. We think packaging is interesting and we are waiting and listening to see where inkjet for packaging develops.
As regards dispersions, we believe that whatever solid material you have, we can disperse it in the liquid of your choice. Our unique approach is based on the chemical and physical analysis of the solid interfaces and characterisation of the physicochemical properties of the liquid. We have a high performance collection of commercially available dispersing agents for all types of materials and for liquid dispersing phases ranging from apolar oils, over solvents (including UV-curable monomers) to water based applications.
We believe the industry is very collaborative – How can you show that Chemstream works with partners to develop your products?
We believe collaboration is very important, we are working with many of the ‘Head’ technology manufacturers to test, refine and define inks to match their heads and we also work on certain applications. Companies such as VdW, IACS, NTS – all system integrators - work very coldly to perfect the best ink solution.
We work in close relationship with system integrators and head manufacturers to optimize the ink / head interaction (drop formation process, wave form. droplet speed ...) and the ink / media interaction (drop spread, image quality, drop placement accuracy ...). We can provide inks for the most common industrial print heads on the market: Xaar, Toshiba Tec, Konica Minolta, Fuji-Dimatix, Kyocera, ...
In fact, we are open minded about furthering collaboration to the extent of ‘Joint venture’ partnership where this might be useful in development of complete industrial Print solutions.
Tell me about your Inkjet inks for Industrial applications?
Our inkjet inks reach the highest quality standard level for zero defect performance in an industrial application environment. Based on a well considered carrier design and based on our high performance dispersion technology, our inks have a long shelf life and they can be used in constant high quality mode. Depending on the application we can provide you with water based, oil based, mild solvent - a low volatile carrier or curable (UV-light, UV-LED, electron beam) inkjet inks.
We can perform in house jetting and printing tests to finalize the ink formulation to your specific process conditions, like throughput, cure speed, curing system, pin curing, multi pass, single pass... .
What is your vision of the future for your business in this sector?
In the long term Chemstream is looking to build on three key building blocks.
1. Polymer dispersion agents
2. Surface active products
giving you the possibility to get to higher functionality
Our mission is to continue to innovate the chemistry of Inkjet inks and I challenge the team with this every day !