Quantum Chemical Modeling Solves Design Challenge at Chemical Coating Plant
Isaac Maw posted on December 14, 2017 |
Reformulating a product that’s worked since 1956 can be a big challenge.

What makes a good product? The adjustable wrench, sometimes known as a Crescent wrench, dates back as far as 1842, invented by English engineer Richard Clyburn. While there have been improvements over the years, the essential form of the tool has not changed significantly from the original patent, which is now over 150 years old. Sometimes, an engineering solution just works, and little can be done to improve upon it.

It's not very often that a product has a story like that of the adjustable wrench. Nycote 7-11, a liquid barrier coating, is one such product. In a market such as aerospace, with stringent regulations to be certified, having a long history is a definite advantage.

The Invention of Nycote 7-11: Anti-Corrosion Coating

In the early 1950s, two veteran Douglas Aircraft chemists developed a clear liquid nylon-epoxy copolymer as an anti-corrosion coating for metals. The product was a success, finding applications in aerospace as a barrier against corrosion, friction and conductivity. Due to the success of this liquid nylon formulation, the coating began to be sold under the Nycote trademark in 1954 and known as Nycote 7-11.

7-11 is still in use today, the formula unchanged from the one developed more than fifty years ago. Over the years, designers, engineers and manufacturers have found new, innovative uses.

Nycote 7-11 Dark Blue in use on Electrical Connectors. (Image Courtesy of Nycote.)

Nycote 7-11 Dark Blue in use on Electrical Connectors. (Image Courtesy of Nycote.)

7-11 is used to create a barrier on multiple surfaces, from metals to fabrics, plastics and composites. The coating forms a mechanical bond with any lightly abraded surface. In particular, manufacturers found that the coating performed exceptionally well in creating a pinhole free, impervious barrier that prevented leaks, improved fluid dynamics over surfaces and reduced friction and wear.

Time to Adapt: Can a Chemical Coating be Green?

However, despite the good design of Clyburn’s adjustable wrench, changes in the market can eventually creep up on any established product. For example, later American patents permitted better jaw and angle adjustment, and new materials such as chromium-vanadium steel have made the tool even better. Invariably, the same happens to all successful product designs.

For Nycote, even though the 7-11 formula continues to sell well and find new applications, new solvents entered the market which were more user-friendly than the components of the original formula. Nycote wanted to take advantage of these new, eco-friendlier ingredients. However, to reformulate the legacy product would cause problems throughout the supply chains.

In order to keep existing 7-11 users supplied while keeping up-to-date in terms of environmental acceptability, the company decided to split their nylon polymer coating into two products: the legacy 7-11, and a new eco-friendly option. To do this, they had to accomplish what their competitors had fallen short of for decades: create a completely new formula for a clear, nylon-epoxy copolymer with all the characteristics of 7-11, and more.

Reinventing Nycote 7-11

Not wanting a New Coke scenario on their hands, Nycote had to approach the challenge carefully. For this reformulation project, there were a few key challenges.

The original 7-11 formula is so widely used that to design a new formula specifically for one sector or application would risk losing that versatility advantage. Additionally, the cost of developing a new formula in the lab, using experimental chemistry, would be prohibitive.

Another challenge was the strict aerospace materials regulations and certification process a new formula would have to pass. To improve the coating, Nycote’s team of chemists needed to leverage technology that didn’t exist twenty years ago, let alone back in 1956: advanced computer simulation.  

Quantum Chemical Modeling for Product Design

Nycote Laboratories’ lead chemist, Dr. Farone, used Quantum Chemical modeling to determine the correct mix of chemicals that led to the development of the new formulation. The software simulates chemical reactivity to make sure that the proposed formula can actually be made. This effectively speeds the time to market of a new chemical formula by eliminating the time-consuming process of formulating and testing thousands of compounds by hand.

Nycote’s challenge was to upgrade the product while maintaining the broad versatility of the original formula. Rather than single out one application, such as its use as an insulating sealer in airplane wiring harness or as a corrosion barrier on brake rotors, they focused on developing a formula that improved the specifications of the original across the board—widening the temperature range, increasing shelf life, adhesion, pencil hardness and containing lower VOC’s than the original Nycote 7-11.

The new formula is called Nycote 99 Ecoshield.

Certification of Nycote 99 Ecoshield by Aerospace OEMs

The new anti-corrosion coating formula, Nycote 99 Ecoshield, is ready to take on the aerospace and automotive market, as well as any other manufacturing applications such as Nycote 7-11’s use in emergency evacuation systems in the railway sector.

Fortunately for consumer safety, major OEMs have strict bureaucratic testing and approval processes. Unfortunately for suppliers, these processes make or break a product’s success in the market. Nycote 7-11 was approved by Boeing in the 1970’s, Airbus in the 80’s and Embraer in 2001. Ideally, the company’s long relationship with these OEMs will speed the process of approval of the new product. According to Marcie Simpson, President and Chief Operations Officer of Nycote Laboratories Corporation, the company does not anticipate any problems, but the approval process is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a lengthily process that can take up to three years or more.

Fortunately, for those who aren’t in the aircraft business, Nycote 99 Ecoshield will be available in January 2018, initially in sample quantities of pints and quarts. After the sample phase, it will be available in the usual quantities of half-pints, pints, quarts and gallons, as well as in the 10ml Nycotek pen applicator.

Applications of Flexible Nylon Anti-Corrosion Coatings

While Nycote’s bread-and-butter is the aerospace industry, other industries could well find that a flexible, tough nylon coating can solve their engineering challenges.

“That’s what’s so interesting about Nycote 7-11,” said Simpson. “It’s been ‘spec’d’ in the aerospace industry for over 50 years, so when people learn this they automatically know it must be reliable and they’re more willing to test it for use in other industries.”

 Nycote 7-11 Dark Blue in use on Hydraulic Grounding Connections. (Image Courtesy of Nycote.)
Nycote 7-11 Dark Blue in use on Hydraulic Grounding Connections. (Image Courtesy of Nycote.)

In aerospace applications, anti-corrosion coatings must stand up to intense weather, ice and dramatic temperature gradients, as well as a battery of substances such as jet fuel, hydraulic fluid, salt water and lubricants. These conditions are largely mirrored by the operating environment of an automobile. For example, in airframes, Nycote 7-11 is used as a thin-film lubricant on flap tracks. The coating replaces grease, and does not need to be reapplied for up to ten years.

“I see rust near the wheel of my car, and I wonder, ‘why hasn’t Nycote been used to protect those parts?’” said Simpson. Nycote 99 Ecoshield is sprayable, making it easier to apply than many of the existing sealants or waxes in the market. “We keep finding more applications for the product, that’s what’s so great about it.”

Innovative Nycote coatings have provided engineering solutions for more than fifty years, and they can help solve your challenges too. Click here to find out more about Nycote products.

Nycote has sponsored this post.  All opinions are mine.  –Isaac Maw

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