ABOUT WOLF INNOVATION
My name is Udo Wolfgang Bucher and I founded Wolf Innovation in 2009 in Canberra, the capital of Australia. At the time I found myself in a senior Government R&D managerial role but I missed the stimulation of a more dynamic hands-on commercial role focused on real world innovation. My background and experience was mainly in coil coating industry though I had a stint as a lecturer in polymer engineering at Wollongong University. I started in the coil coating industry at the age of 18. Some 36 years later I decided to get back into coil coating, and I wanted to give something back to that industry so I started Wolf Innovation – but what to do?
I started my career in 1973 with a fabulous company called john Lysaght Australia – a company that originated in England in the 1800’s. John Lysaght became BHP Steel who also own New Zealand Steel and SteelScape in the US. Later, BHP Steel had coating lines in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China. Their footprint has since enlarged. My varied roles in coil coating covered all aspects – R&D, production, QC, coated product development, performance evaluation, complaint investigation and warranty administration. The latter roles had nationwide responsibility, and gave me a good insight into what can and what does go wrong with coated product quality from time to time. I got to realise the importance of all aspects of quality and product design; the importance of film build and how so much of performance relates back to just that one thing. Of course the other problem was that good on-line thickness monitoring systems didn’t exist. I recall we purchased a beta backscatter gamma radiation instrument for one million dollars in the ‘70s only to decide that it was an unworkable system due to the need for complex calibration and difficult maintenance – the system was pulled out within the year.
Thinking back, one of the more interesting projects of my career was developing a solvent free coil coating process. The system was installed commercially in Singapore and Sydney in the ‘80s. Unfortunately product performance was so good that it could not be mixed with product off conventional wet paint lines due to differential fading. Since the existing investment in wet paint coil lines was already so high the solid painting technology was shelved.
Enough of reminiscing and back to 2009. A little research on my part quickly revealed that good on-line film thickness instrumentation was still an industry need, so that’s where I pitched the efforts at Wolf Innovation. I also knew the value of an important paint property – paint volume solids; so while I was at it I decided to invent a paint volume solids machine as well.
Early on in Wolf Innovation I realised that using a form of radiation, such as with the beta back-scatter gamma radiation instrument, through a painted layer would require calibration of the reflected radiation travelling through the paint layer, that is calibration of a radiation signal against thickness. The downfall of this approach is that radiation travelling through a paint layer is affected by the chemistry and make-up of the paint layer itself. Different resins, filler, pigments, curing agents, extenders, flatting agents, UV stabilisers, heat stabilisers and so on each affect the calibration. I wanted to develop an easy to used calibration free measurement system. I knew this would require making a very small hole through the paint so that direct detection of the metal substrate surface using a laser would be possible. Now I can already hear your objections; we’ve just applied the paint so the last thing we want to do is remove it and create a defect. Relax – the on line Wolf DFM1 removes so little paint that it is inconsequential – it literally removes a speck of paint that is the size of a speck of dust, and it only does this near the strip edges every 300 to 500 metres. The spot is almost indiscernible to the unaided eye and even after 7 years of making measurements, to the best of our knowledge no end customer has ever seen a measurement spot. In fact if you looked for a spot on a 5 square metre sheet of coil coated steel you most likely would not find the spot within a couple of hours of looking. The spots are so small they have no effect on product life. Cut edges, a feature of all prepainted metal sheet products show 100 times more edge corrosion and these don’t affect the effective service life of the end product be it a roof or a gutter or anything else.
So to avoid making a short story even longer, in summary Wolf Innovation instruments all use a direct measurement principle where the surface of both the paint and its substrate are measured with a high precision sensor to determine the accuracy of paint thickness. The sensor we use in our on line wet film instrument has a resolution of around 20 nanometres – that’s pretty crazy in a good way when you think about it.
Now in 2016, we’ve been in business for 7 years and have sales and service agents around the world. Wolf Innovation has 5 main products – 3 on line film thickness instruments, a lab film thickness instrument and a paint volume solids instrument. All are unique, patent protected, and easy to use. Whilst we have sales in the USA, Germany, Middle East, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Mexico we are still relatively small and at the fledgling stage.
Our goal is to become the coil coating industry standard and we believe that will happen for one simple reason. We know the industry and its needs very well, and we are focused on meeting those needs with the very best leading technology that is possible.
Our philosophy includes the principles of:
• Accuracy and reliability
• Absolute ease of use and full automation wherever possible
• Speed of use and delivery of results
• Rapid payback and consumer value, and
• Continuous real improvement.
On the last point. We don’t and won’t make changes for the sake of change. We won’t build the next software version that’s more complex and needs to be relearnt. Our changes are driven by simplification, user friendliness, delivering needed information, in other words – change for the sake of real improvement.