Articles

Color chemistry – Tikkurila’s RDI teams create a colorful tomorrow

19.04.2017 13:43

The planning and development of paint and surface treatment products is carried out by young, promising researchers who create products that are a more responsible choice every day.

Petra Almeflo RDI

Before consumers can dip their brushes in a paint can, the product has gone through several years of testing and development by chemists, laboratory assistants, and engineers with a Master’s degree in technology. There are more than 190 people working in Tikkurila’s RDI teams at the Group level.

Ville Talasniemi and Petra Almeflo work as researchers in Tikkurila’s largest RDI teams, Talasniemi in Finland and Almeflo in Sweden. They are the creators of a more colorful future; young experts who create sustainable surface treatment products.

Ville Talasniemi RDI

Petra Almeflo RDI

Talasniemi is a polymer chemist who works in the research group of paints for wood in Tikkurila’s Finnish RDI team for exterior products. Talasniemi already became interested in chemistry in upper secondary school. He saw chemistry as the field of the future, with plenty of employment opportunities. Talasniemi wrote his thesis for Tikkurila, so he was familiar with the company when he entered working life.

– The best thing about my work is the feeling of success you get, when after intensive testing, you’ve created a paint formulation that doesn’t just fulfil the customer’s hopes and expectations for the product and its technical function, it exceeds them.

Almeflo is a mechanical engineer who started working at Tikkurila right after graduation, just like Talasniemi.

In the daily work of Almeflo and Talasniemi, the importance of not just curiosity, but also safety and responsibility, is highlighted. The treatment of raw materials, work at the laboratory, and testing are governed by safety regulations that will not be compromised.

Working days consist of theory and chemical reactions

Almeflo’s working days are a mix of theory and practice. She plans new projects and meets raw material suppliers, and tests their new raw materials at the laboratory. When choosing raw materials, their responsibility aspects, environmental impact, and safety are taken into account.

– Making a paint is like baking. You test different ingredients and spices to find the perfect formula. In addition to the choice of raw materials, the order and speed at which you add them to the mixture, and factors like the temperature, all affect the end result, Almeflo says.

Talasniemi works in cooperation with laboratory assistants. An essential part of the cooperation is constant, daily discussion about the current product development projects. Good cooperation between the researcher and the laboratory assistant makes it possible to get the best results and ensures that the work is efficient.

– I’m in almost daily contact with production, and I review production issues with the production chemist. I also discuss common development projects with raw material suppliers.

Like Almeflo, Talasniemi sometimes spends his day at the laboratory, where the shelves have plenty of jars for test batches of paint. Talasniemi’s team is focused on developing exterior products, and its laboratory has equipment for testing and assessing the physical properties of paints and carrying out accelerated weathering tests.

Ville Talasniemi RDI

– In Vantaa, we also have an analytical laboratory, where we can study the chemical composition of substances in depth. In our own microbiological laboratory, we can study the growth of molds, blue stain fungi, and algae on painted surfaces.

Before a product reaches weathering tests, a formula must be created for it.

Tests guarantee durable products

At the start of the manufacturing process, a formula is created for the surface treatment product by testing different combinations of raw materials. The development of the formula takes account of the product’s purpose and which raw materials can be used. Talasniemi sees the formula as a puzzle, with the raw materials as the pieces. When the paint formula is ready, test batches are made based on it. The test batches are usually no larger than a few deciliters, or liters at the most.

A finished test batch comes under Almeflo’s sharp eyes and numerous pieces of test equipment

– The analysis data shows why a test batch behaves in a certain way. At the same time, I get hints on how the paint’s properties can be developed so that it is safer and more durable.  

Petra Almeflo RDI

After testing, the process moves on to working areas, where the products’ working properties are tested. Practical tests guarantee that the product is easy to use.

– In the working areas, professional painters test the paint in practice. Where a consumer uses a brush or a roller, people in the industry use spraying and accelerated drying methods, Talasniemi says.

The foundation of Talasniemi’s team is an outdoor field in the yard in Vantaa, where the durability of exterior paints is tested under natural weathering conditions. The outdoor field tests make it possible to assess how a paint product behaves under the stress of natural UV radiation and humidity, for example. The product must withstand stress, and it must also be easy to maintain. A long maintenance painting interval gives buildings long-term protection and reduces the product's carbon footprint.

– Tikkurila operates in a market area with a very wide range of climate conditions. For this reason, it is important to test the products in a variety of conditions. Among other places, the units in Poland and Serbia also have test fields.

A more responsible future

Almeflo and Talasniemi share an interest in new technology. Curiosity and learning new things are constantly present in the work of the RDI team members.

– Personally, I’m interested in the utilization of new technologies and materials that come from renewable sources, says Talasniemi.

Sustainability is important to both Almeflo and Talasniemi personally. When working with chemicals, safety and the importance of using raw materials that are a responsible choice are emphasized.

– We want to make products that are safe for their users, both now and in ten years’ time. We should take the environmental impact of the product throughout its whole lifecycle into account, Talasniemi says.

– I hope that my family and I can all use safe products. The importance of sustainable choices is becoming more and more emphasized, Almeflo notes.

Tikkurila planning and production in numbers
 

Read more:

Tikkurila’s corporate responsibility program “A Colorful Tomorrow”

Return to headlines