We knew we could expect great things to come from our 2019 edition of the global startup challenge. Pushing the boundaries of the paints and coatings industry – that’s what the collaborative innovation ecosystem of Paint the Future is all about.
Now the solutions that captured the imaginations of our experts are gaining momentum. We’re excited to share more about what’s happened since the awards were handed out, starting with Qlayers. Combining their passions for sustainability and technology, Josefien Groot, CEO, and Ruben Geutjens, CTO, have big ambitions to improve the world – and they’re going to do it together with AkzoNobel.
Time for a revolution
You might be wondering why we need to change how industrial coatings are applied in the first place. It turns out the way we apply industrial coatings is really important. Coating certain surfaces, especially when they’re outdoors and subject to variable conditions, can be difficult, time-consuming and inefficient – as well as unsafe for the painters who often have to work at height.
Qlayers has a solution. The unique automated application technology they developed can coat large surfaces in any weather conditions, while maintaining consistency and quality.
“We’re mainly focused on large surfaces that need to be maintained outside, starting with pipes and storage tanks,” Ruben says. “Coatings are currently applied by hand using rollers and paint brushes. Spraying would be faster, but up until now it hasn’t been possible. Overspray is such a big issue, both wasteful and bad for the environment. That’s where we can help.”
“Our automated spraying head – which we call ‘the Slash’ – applies coatings within a locally controlled environment,” explains Josefien. “It allows us to control all the factors that influence the coating process.”
By eliminating overspray and reducing the number of man-hours and coating material needed to do the job, the technology increases the efficiency, safety and quality of coating application, offering an incredible advantage.
Making progress together
Josefien says the collaboration with AkzoNobel is a naturally good fit: “With our focus on application methods and AkzoNobel’s focus on coatings, we can create value together. Having a large, established partner like AkzoNobel also helps give our customers more confidence.”
“Throughout our collaboration, I have come to know the Qlayers team as passionate people with a unique technology and pragmatic go-to-market approach,” says Menno van der Zalm, Director of Innovation at AkzoNobel. “We already see that our resources in terms of our coating knowledge and market access are contributing to their credibility and traction in the market. It’s turning out to be a great match for us both!”
As a first step in our collaboration, we established a spray booth in the advanced manufacturing research center of Delft’s University of Technology, located in the Netherlands. Qlayers is using that spray booth to conduct tests using AkzoNobel products. Coming up in early 2020, we’ll be conducting an industry-first pilot for the automated coating of industrial storage tanks.
It sounds like there’s much more to come in this story! Stay tuned for updates as Qlayers and the other winning startups develop their technologies with us.