Podcast: It's Not a Commodity
January 17, 2012
R&D chemist Thomas Knight explains the process of developing a new product and how to deal with all of the "failures" along the way.
The following are small excerpts from the third episode of Tribology Talk: The Science of Lubrication. To listen to the full podcast, you can download from iTunes or listen from your mobile device.
Host: Kyle Carter, Communications Director
Guest: Thomas Knight, Development Chemist
What are some of the challenges you face when trying to put together products?
The real challenge is to basically make everything fit. A lot of times you’ll get a dream list of what they’d like to have but many of these chemistries counteract each other. For instance, if they want good rust protection, that’s something we can do and that’s not an issue. But if they want good rust protection and they also need good wear protection, then you get into situations where the additive you put in to protect from rust, it competes with the additive you put in to protect it from wear. So you have a certain amount of surface area that you are trying to cover with these chemistries and if you put two chemistries together they will compete for that surface area.
Once you have a dream list of what they’d like to see in a product, where do you start?
The first thing we do is get the viscosity correct. Once that is set, we use our experience that we’ve used this additive before in a similar situation and gotten positive results. With the almost 30 years now experience of Summit, we have quite a few additives and quite a few base stocks that are already in the factory that we can pull from to make a new product.
How much tougher is it trying to make a food grade product?
It’s many times more difficult to develop a food grade product because you not only have performance specifications that you have to worry about but you have EPA specifications to worry about. You might like to use a product 1 percent but the maximum allowable amount by the FDA is .5 percent, so you end up working with a half percent. You have to get creative and find solutions to under-treating it with one additive.