A different way of thinking
The breakthrough, ultimately, happened because Kevin approached the problem in a new way.
“I realized it was to do with physics, not chemistry,” he says. “Paint is about chemistry, but a lot of the problems we want to solve are as a result of physics. Once I understood that, I started taking a different view.
“I also always look at a problem myself – I don’t accept any explanation at face value. Investigative science is about perturbing a system and measuring the response – I’ll kick something 100 different ways and analyze every single result to find anomalies and work out a solution. But there has to be invention in how you kick it and how you measure it.”
Always aiming higher
With 23 patents and numerous inventions under his belt, you might think Kevin was satisfied with his life’s work. Not so. After more than 30 years, he still challenges himself every day to find solutions that will benefit our communities and our planet, seeking the next “lightbulb moment” that will make a world of difference.
Most recently, that has involved developing a method of achieving a true effect finish for metallic shades. The details are still under wraps, but it’s a huge step forward in a very important market.
“Traditionally, you don’t get that ‘bling’ finish with metallic powder coatings. It’s just not easy to replicate. Or at least, it wasn’t. I’ve found a way that makes the finish much more true to life – we’re currently trialing it with a customer and the results so far are excellent. We’d hope to make it more widely available by the last quarter of the year and we know it will bring significant change to what is a very important market for us. As VOC levels come under increasing scrutiny customers want sustainable alternatives to solvent-based paints – but of course they still want the best possible results.”
Looking to the future
Far from resting on his laurels, Kevin is keen to explore new powder coatings solutions as he liaises with a laboratory team in Felling, in the northeast of England. Future projects including working on a range of better-looking dry powders with improved application and investigating the potential for low-bake powders that will work on plastic.
“We work on platform technologies and building skills so we can mix, match and manipulate them to invent what we need. I used to be the one in the labs, kicking the problem – now, I want the new guys to continue in the same vein. I might spend days in conversation with them, discussing ideas and mentoring them, and then it’s up to them to go and turn their results into actual products,” he says.
“I’ve loved every minute of my career. I’m curious about understanding things and I think that’s what’s kept me driven. I still have ideas and I want to see them become products – essentially, my aim is to make powder coatings as much like liquid paint as I can.”