“So are you like Breaking Bad??”
I often have to explain what I do for a living. And yes, essentially I am doing the act of formulating a product but in my case it’s paint and not meth. I try to steer the conversation in a different direction at this point, usually towards pancakes. I love what I do, as much as people love pancakes.
Because I have not met one person on this earth who doesn’t love pancakes or at least had them one time so it makes for a great analogy. My lemon polenta cake, not so much, although equally tasty.
Anyone can slap some flour and water together and call it pancake batter. Throw it on a skillet and there you have it. A pancake that no one will like.
When I make pancakes, it’s a process. I carefully select my ingredients, the order that I mix them together, the equipment I use to cook, and how I cook them.
Baking is a Science.
It’s a fact. You can’t throw a bunch of stuff in a mixer, and then the oven, and expect it to come out great (even though sometimes it does, that’s just luck). You have to know some background before you start whipping things together. It’s the same with formulating paint. You have to do a lot of prep work and researching before you start mixing samples together. So stay with me while I make some analogies…
Your raw materials are your ingredients. Eggs are your resin, they keep the batter together so it doesn’t fall apart during cooking. Your milk/water is your solvent. The flour is the pigment – add too much and you have a caky hard to use batter. The oil/butter is your dispersant, this helps keep the flour in solution ( I actually don’t know if that is true but you get the gist). This is the base formulation. But how do you make a product that people rave about and want to come back for more?
It’s All in the Additives
If you put together the base formulation, you have a good enough recipe to eat. I mean it’s a pancake, were not winning any awards on this one.
Once you have a base formulation, you can configure the rest to your liking. From the base formula, I add vanilla extract, salt to balance the flavors, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, buttermilk and sometimes even a mashed banana. It’s good, trust me.
I look at formulating the exact same. I have my base paint formulation, now what does my customer want it to do? Anti-bacterial? Anti-graffiti? I have an additive for that.
Process Makes Perfect
Alrighty you got your formula, now the next thing to figure out is what addition these raw materials go in. This is just as important in paint as it is in baking.
Adding your dispersant in the end is not as effective as incorporating it while your pigment is mixing. Giving it a chance to really latch onto that pigment surface and keep it from clumping and flocculating back together.
When baking, it is best to mix your dry ingredients separate from your wet ingredients before combining the two. Sometimes I even separate the egg whites, whip those up, then fold it into the mix. This makes everything that much fluffier.
Cooking and Curing
These pancakes are best when cooked in a cast iron that has been seasoned for years. Which also matters for certain coatings. Some coatings cure best when in humid conditions versus dry conditions. It all depends on the chemistry.
Nothing is worse than spending so much time formulating a pancake or paint for it to fall apart during the application.
I get what we do in the coatings industry isn’t exactly considered “attractive” but it is essential to our every day life. From the paint on our walls, cars, t-shirts, etc…paints and coatings are important. They protect and color our world. What we do at ChemCove is make it more relatable, either in the form of our pancake analogy or developing a product that your customers are going to rave about. Like I said, it’s all in the chemistry.
Niki Milanovic Lowry
Founder of ChemCove