Listening. For Archipelago, the key to developing the right solution.

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Asking the right questions, listening and then developing the right solution was instrumental for Archipelago in the development of Powerdrop. Powerdrop is a new technological solution for the jetting of viscous fluids in manufacturing processes. In this interview we talk to CEO Guy Newcombe about Powerdrop and the opportunity that it presents.Guy has worked in inkjet for over 30 years.  In this time, he has created deposition and printing technologies in piezoelectric, electrostatic and continuous inkjet.  Before starting Archipelago, he ran TTP’s printing technology group and was a director of Tonejet.

Guy, you were for many years at TTP running Tonejet, how did you come to launch and run Archipelago?

I had a number of great years at TTP and for many of them I was running Tonejet. Around 2008 we decided to strengthen the leadership team and once this new team was successfully in place, Idecided the time was right to move onto something new. I had been at TTP since I was 26 so I had seen how Gerald and the founding team built up the business. During the first ten years of TTP we created six new businesses. With each one, we took five years to decide on the business direction, and then took another five years to grow it.

The founding team at Archipelago were all experienced in building technology businesses.  Our first Chairman at Archipelago was David Connell. He called this approach the ‘soft start’. If you like, it is the ‘Silicon fen’ model of creating a business by really finding out what it is that people want and then using boot strapping techniques to build up the business.

At the beginning of Archipelago, we sold consultancy work and due to our experience in the field, we were very well connected. So, we invested time and went and visited 50 companies. We asked them, at a very senior level, what they wanted and listened intently. It became clear to me that people were very interested in jetting viscous materials. I remember clearly the first person to tell me that they wanted to jet glue.  That was in Barcelona at the IMI in 2012.  I heard the same message from another company and soon discovered this interest was widespread.  This gave us our focus and led to the development of Powerdrop.

How did you go about bringing this to life?

We began by making a demonstrator which showed that we could jet glue without the glue‘stringing’. This was instrumental to the project and this message was passed up the customer’s management chain where it was well received and led to the build of a full-scale machine. We have continued to talk to people in the market about using Powerdrop for manufacturing processes such as depositing functional coatings, glues and paints.  This confirmed it is an area of huge interest.

Why are people so interested in this?

As I said in my talk (at IMI in 2018) it is not really about items of one. Powerdrop is all about putting material down where you want it and nowhere else.  Every drop you jet stays where you wanted to put it.  This leads to big reductions in the amount of material you use and this saves money.  A lot of money. And when you can make a machine which pays for itself in 6 months, by reducing waste in this way, you have a serious proposition. There is a very clear economic case for bringing in this technology as it quickly contributes to the bottom line.

What is it that Powerdrop actually does?

Powerdrop dispenses viscous fluids as micro-droplets. Many manufacturing operations need to dispense precise, micro-litre, quantities. Conventional metering systems can’t deliver volumes that are sufficiently small at the right speed. Inkjet systems cannot deliver viscous liquids.

Powerdrop can do both. It provides precise, consistent, micro-litre dispensing of viscous liquids such as paints, adhesives, pastes, polymer precursors, and food ingredients such as chocolate, sugar-syrup, and flavourings.  Importantly, it is both effective and efficient.

For what sectors is Powerdrop most of interest?

It is very broad, so from furniture and flooring, packaging, to anything that needs coating. All surfaces need some kind of coating on them. A table has a coating, a wall has a coating, and windows have a coating, as does a steering wheel. Everything is coated! You look at all these markets and each one is interesting. You look at how much they are wasting using existing solutions- materials, time, and money - and see how much you can save them then and you get clarity on the true potential.  With Powerdrop - it can be added into an existing production operation relatively easily.

If you look at inkjet printing of ceramics,why did this takeoff? Because the inkjet solution enabled a clear cost saving and the solution could be dropped into the existing industrial structure.  Powerdrop simply wastes less material, thus making it very compelling for large scale manufacturing process in industries such as fast-moving consumer goods, interiors, and furnishings.

How do you bring Powerdrop to market?

When you are selling a new manufacturing technology you sell it to the end user because these are the people who stand to gain the most from any performance gain that reduces cost. For example, if BMW are spending 300 euros on painting each car and you can save them 100 euros per car, they have the greatest motivation to work with you. In terms of what you are selling – you are selling them the first machine – in that sense similar to the scenario with Inca and BHS. You sell the first machine and provide them with ongoing support.

We have now got to the point where we are building the first machines.In terms of how we launch, we don’t sell Powerdrop via a catalogue we develop solutions in partnership with our customers.

How long is the development process?

If you think in terms of introducing a new technology, there is a ‘traditional’ process. Ron Gilboa (Keypoint Intelligence) talks of the three Drupa process. In year 1 you have an early stage demo, 4 years later you have the prototype, and then finally you get a finished market ready machine. For some of the large print manufacturers this could be an 8 to 12 year process!

Our approach is different. We are making machines that we know people want. So, we work with a customer,install a machine at their site and then scale up from there. The approach we take is more focused, shorter and therefore more efficient.

I am really positive about the future of Powerdrop.  Because we asked people what they actually wanted we are responding to the real needs of very serious customers. We’re delighted to be working with some of the finest companies in the world helping them make better products with much less waste.

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