Alchemie Technology: Jetting into white space

Hannah O'Brien one of the founders of Alchemie Technology

Hannah O'Brien one of the founders of Alchemie Technology

Alan Hudd and Hannah O’Brien, the founders of Alchemie Technology, based in Cambridge, UK come with a track record and long (long by inkjet standards) history of success in terms of integrating inkjet into industrial applications. We talked with Hannah about the vision for the company and what their technology can do for industrial printing.

So what is the vision for Alchemie?

“The way we describe ourselves is as a company that offers digital dispensing solutions for materials science. We are focused on the jetting of ‘difficult’ functional materials such as the printing of graphene, metallic, pre or post surface treatment coatings that are not normally possible with conventional inkjet due to the particle size or viscosity.  We offer the opportunity to jet new types of materials that will make a big difference to manufacturing operations.

As a result we are displacing jet spraying applications and analogue printing applications by providing cost savings, selective patterning, less wastage and new coating chemistry potential. We offer digital manufacturing technologies with the potential to take inkjet into new segments, or as we describe it, white space.”

Jetronica has the ability to jet a variety of different functional fluids

Jetronica has the ability to jet a variety of different functional fluids

Tell us about the head technology

“The head is called Jetronica. We think it is a truly industrial head in that it has been designed for industrial use. Most heads available out there are fundamentally designed for graphic printing so the emphasis is on high resolution print for precise image reproduction. Jetronica comes at it from an entirely different angle and designed for digital deposition of a variety of functional fluids requiring high speed, high volume deposition. 

The core of our technology is based on a piezo-needle.  If you could imagine a hypodermic needle which is effectively our nozzle – onto each nozzle we mount a piezo actuator– when activated, it creates a standing wave down the needle which is amplified at the tip.  This amplification creates a vibration at the tip of the needle which flicks or ejects droplets onto a substrate.

We operate at frequencies that are higher than normal inkjet and the size of the droplets can be controlled to allow for a range of drop volumes. Regular inkjet is jetting picolitres, whereas our technology operates in the micro litre range with up to 50 micro litres/second possible in continuous jetting mode.  This enables higher flow rates and the opportunity to deliver high volume coatings. The needle is made from stainless steel and is compatible with a wide range of oil, aqueous, UV and solvent based materials so we can avoid issues with materials compatibility.  Needles can be stacked to create custom print widths.”

So this is a technology that you have developed?

“Jetronica is an Alchemie owned product and the inventors are part of the Alchemie team.  We saw an opportunity in the industry to offer a digital solution for dispensing difficult functional materials.  Market feedback indicated that there was a requirement for a digital solution for industrial processes.  Through discussions with industry leaders we began to see a trend of companies who had struggled to find a solution for functional materials depositon – they had tried with the commercially available heads but challenges with the fluid profile, materials compatibility and throughput had prevented implementation.  It was these findings that led us to bring Jetronica to market.  We have been investing heavily in the technology development and have recently filed patents on several new innovations.  

How is Jetronica being used currently?

“We supply prototypes and evaluation kits and we have customers out there testing the systems for a range of industrial applications. The application range is wide but the devil is in the detail and we have been helping our customers to optimise set up for application specific requirements. We are now at the point where we will take things to the next level and we have plans in place to scale up and productise the heads. The technology is well suited for the application of industrial coatings, paints, adhesives, pre and post surface treatments across a wide range of industries.  We have the potential to offer a digital solution to any surface that is coated, painted or treated.  Jetronica has all the digital benefits of being able to apply materials only where it is required and we can also offer customers the ability to take digital into new areas of manufacturing."

Who is the customer, the end-user?

"We work with end users and OEMs to implement the technology.  Our long term strategy is to work with OEMs where we can achieve economies of scale and roll out the technology on a global scale through integrator partners.    We offer the opportunity to license the technology and manufacturing licenses for partners looking to create systems for a given application or sector. "

What would make the difference to getting Jetronica more widely used within manufacturing?

“We are aiming to get Jetronica heads used by OEMS. I guess with anything new it is about providing access to the right information and communicating the benefits of the technology to the customer base. We think we can offer a unique set of properties for industrial coating and surface treatment and we are working hard to reach out and introduce our offering to a range of different industries.  Shows like InPrint are an excellent way for us to reach this wider audience and we are looking forward to participating in both the European and US shows over the next year.

How was InPrint 2015 for Alchemie?

“InPrint in Munich was absolutely superb – the industrial customer that we want to be talking to attends InPrint. The focus and quality is outstanding and we filled the sales pipe line surprising even ourselves”!

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