VOL. 21 January ISSUE YEAR 2020
in Vol. 21 - January Issue - Year 2020
A technology, ISO certified!
Claudiu Ionescu Phd - Stelux Manager & Customer Solutions Engineer at Winoa
Stainless Steel Grit - Stelux CG macrostructure
WA Clean kit
Cleanliness measurement mode
Cleanliness quality control on aluminum cast part
MFN was able to get an interview with Claudiu Ionescu Phd - Stelux Manager & Customer Solutions Engineer at Winoa.
(?) MFN: Mr. Ionescu, thank you for taking time to do this interview with us. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
(!) C. I.: Thank you for taking the time to interview me. My name is Claudiu Ionescu, and I am product manager at Winoa, have joined the company in 2013. After 3 years spent in the Research and Development department, where I contributed to developing products and technologies dedicated to surface preparation industry, I was appointed as STELUX product manager. Considering my background, I hold a PhD in Materials Science from Ecole Centrale Paris, and since 2016, I have been in charge of STELUX range products development, W Abrasives trademark for stainless–steel abrasive special series. It’s a very interesting and challenging task to handle the synergy between technical and business development.
(?) MFN: What do you rely on when you decide to introduce a new product on the market?
(!) C. I.: It’s simple, when we decide to develop or to build a new product, it’s based on customers’ requirements. It comes to us via our commercial teams who are in the first line with our customers. After that, based on how many requests we potentially may have for a specific type of product, we decide to investigate more and to see what the most efficient solution is that we might propose to them.
As a next step, we go and discuss directly with the customers to better understand their needs, to be sure that the developed product will be suitable for them. Once we receive their validation, we invite them to perform trials in our test centers for a final validation of the quality and efficiency of the newly developed product and to be sure that we eliminate all the eventual risks before the customers will use the product in their blasting machines. In parallel with the technical feasibility, we run a market survey to check the related industrial applications that could be suited to the new product.
(?) MFN: What is the last product that you have introduced on the market?
(!) C. I.: The last product that we introduced is the stainless-steel grit, part of the STELUX special abrasives series mentioned before. It has been developed following specific increasing market requests for real ecological alternative solutions to reduce environmental impact in terms of waste disposal and dust emissions. More and more, the market requires high added-value materials that also necessitate surface preparation. The mechanical surface preparation treatment requires an angular abrasive that fits the working specifications of the customers. For the aluminum products, stainless-steel products or other high-alloyed steel products, there are some key critical factors, such as non-ferrous contamination, and reducing the environmental footprint by reduction of the chemical treatment to be skipped when possible, which will determine the customers thereby using a stainless-steel grit for the surface preparation process. So, we know which are the possible industries that might fit this demand, and we approach the customers based on these criteria.
(?) MFN: Where and how will this new product be manufactured?
(!) C. I.: We have a dedicated plant in Slovenia that produces STELUX, the stainless-steel portfolio products and AMS products, special carbon steel abrasives with very narrow characteristics, mainly used for aerospace peening application. Our Slovenian plant is ISO 9001-, ISO 14001- and BS OHSAS 18001-certified. Its particularity among the 11 plants of the group is the dedicated line for manufacturing the stainless-steel abrasives products without any risk of ferrous contamination. With two atomization pools and a completely separated line from melting until packaging, we don’t have any doubt about the quality of the STELUX products provided to the customers.
(?) MFN: Then, the heart of the activity is to produce and to sell steel abrasives, so what does differentiate W Abrasives in its approach?
(!) C. I.: It’s one of the most frequent questions when I meet our customers, what differentiates us from our competitors. At Winoa we are aware that the quality of the product is crucial, but from our long experience as world leader for steel abrasives, we know that a high-quality product alone is not enough to fulfill customers’ expectations in terms of surface finishing. That’s why we have developed a new approach in order to support the client during the entire blasting process. We accompany each customer with a customized solutions pack, which includes specific products, technologies and services.
(?) MFN: Tell us more about these technologies.
(!) C. I.: You asked me previously what we take into consideration when we develop a product, so the best example that I can give you is the WA CLEAN Technology, the most recent technology adopted by W Abrasives clients. It was specially developed based on our customers’ requests. Since the beginning, we have considered this project as a testimony of confidence from our customers in our surface-finishing expertise. I would take the opportunity to thank all the clients and partners involved in the early stages of this project, as without their support, it would have been impossible to achieve today’s results.
Even though the development of this kind of tool wasn’t part of our core business, we have handled this project as a huge opportunity of differentiation. Right now, WINOA has as strategy a synergy between the core business & the development of new technologies in order to better serve our customers.
(?) MFN: Could you please briefly describe the WA CLEAN Technology?
(!) C. I.: The WA CLEAN Technology is an electronic optical device using the analytical colorimetry as working principle to support the visual assessment of the surface preparation grades of uncoated steel substrates as defined in ISO 8501-1 or in SSPC – VIS 1.
(?) MFN: Is it your recommendation for surface preparation’s customers to use WA Clean?
(!) C. I.: It’s not only a recommendation, it’s already a technology that made the proofs in several industrial fields, not only for those customers involved in surface preparation projects. The WA CLEAN device has been developed in order to help our customers better implement the ISO 8501-1 standard. To avoid any misinterpretation, the goal of the device is not to replace the ISO 8501-1, but to support its appropriate implementation. The novel, and at the same time, one of the main customer benefits provided by the WA CLEAN device is that from now on, the validations of the surface-preparation grades (via visual assessment by using the ISO 8501 – 1s reference photographs) are reinforced by figures issued from measurements done with the WA CLEAN device on the initial visually qualified surface preparation grades. The usage of the WA CLEAN device will allow our customers to implement a quality follow-up on their blasting process in terms of cleanliness level of their blasted parts.
(?) MFN: What were the main stages in developing this technology?
(!) C. I.: After our customer solicitations related to the development of an appropriate technology that will help them to better apply the ISO 8501 – 1, we have started a market survey and we have addressed our quality control measurement tools suppliers to see if they are able to propose a tool to us that we might further recommend to our customers. Expeditiously, we figured out that nobody before us thought to develop a customized solution for surface-preparation grades assessment of uncoated steel substrates. Based on that, we decided to take the challenge and find the appropriate technical solution that will fit the customers’ requests.
The next steps were to patent the usage of analytical colorimetry for cleanliness level evaluation of the blasted parts and to develop prototypes to be used by key industrial users. Based on very positive feedback from our customers, we have fine-tuned the prototypes before the industrialization stage, and we built a draft with it that we submitted to the ISO organization for approval, in order to facilitate the adoption of the technology by the end users, considering that all of their working specifications of their daily manufacturing processes are driven by very strict ISO regulations.
(?) MFN: What is the status right now; is WA CLEAN technology ISO certified?
(!) C. I.: In July 2019, the WA CLEAN technology received the official accreditation via ISO/TR 22770 documentation that describes the usage of analytical colorimetry as a support tool for the visual evaluation of the surface preparation grades as described in ISO 8501-1 or in SSPC - VIS 1.
(?) MFN: Congratulations for this achievement! Could you explain to us how you realized this goal?
(!) C. I.: Thank you. As I stated before, we investigated the market in order to find the appropriate technical solution, then we developed a prototype that was tested by our key customers. After their green light, we moved forward, and we submitted a report to the ISO committee for approval. The pillars of the report were the working principle of the analytical colorimetry, the instrument specifications, and a documented example about how it could be used in the analytical colorimetry as a support tool in the assessment of the cleanliness of the steel substrates at the end of the blasting process. This stage was fulfilled with the support of our Technical Test Center located in France. Another key element was the study cases representative of several industrial applications that might be interrelated by the assessment of cleanliness level of the blasted parts.
Let me give you some examples:
the steel pipe manufacturing for the oil and gas industry, where the cleanliness level is one requiring parameters to be validated after the blasting process, before stepping to the next stage of process; namely, the epoxy coating application.
aluminum and cast iron automotive parts, to control the quality of the de-sanding operations.
trailer manufacturing, to control the cleanliness level of the blasted parts prior to galvanization.
freight wagons, to control the cleanliness level of the blasted parts prior to coating applications
cold drawn bar producers, to check the optimization of their descaling operations.
All this work previously done with our key customers allows us today to have the ISO /TR 22770 accreditation, and we absolutely will encourage other customers from other sectors to adopt the WA CLEAN Technology.
(?) MFN: How long did it take to obtain this certification?
(!) C. I.: I think that our customers are already aware that it is not an easy task to obtain an ISO certification. It necessitates time, investment, and qualified resources. The key of success is the teamwork and this is a nice example of collaborative work between our customers and our company. I would like to thank all my colleagues involved since the beginning of this project. Due to their support and involvement, the time required to obtain the ISO accreditation was relatively short for this kind of certification. It took us around two-and-a-half years from the moment that we submitted the draft.
(?) MFN: But what’s the average time for obtaining a certification?
(!) C. I.: It depends on the related ISO standards, but usually it’s at least 4 or 5 years.
(?) MFN: So we understand that it’s a high level of expertise for your customers, right?
(!) C. I.: Yes exactly. The WA CLEAN Technology brings added value to the overall blasting process of our customers. It has been developed in order to facilitate the ISO 8501-1 implementation by reinforcing the visual assessment based on reference photographs with objective values generated by the WA CLEAN, regardless of the environmental conditions in which evaluation of the cleanliness of the blasted parts is done.
The WA CLEAN technology allows integration of the evaluation of the surface-preparation grades of steel substrates into the quality management system of the customers by using documented figures that will drastically reduce the actual debate between suppliers and end-users about the quality of the surface aspect at the end of the blasting process.
Beyond the immediate identification of the eventual blasting process deviation with a direct impact on the quality of the cleanliness level, the WA CLEAN technology could be also used in order to optimize the overall blasting cost. It’s well known that the blasting costs are doubled between each blast-cleaning grade. Till now, without a dedicated evaluation tool, a prolongated blasting time was considered as the main option in order to be sure that we reached the required surface preparation grade level. WA CLEAN technology permits setting up the optimum blasting time as a function of the specific characteristics of the blasted parts. The reduction of the extra blasting time will save money and will improve the quality level by fending off the eventual over-blasting phenomenon that might occur and affect other important surface preparation parameters to be achieved after the blasting process, such as the roughness level.
(?) MFN: And how soon can the customers have it?
(!) C. I.: The WA CLEAN is already available for commercialization. For the moment, it’s promoted through our internal commercial networks. Anyone who’s reading this article and who’s interested, is invited to get in touch with our local commercial teams, or directly contact us via our W Abrasives website. We’ll be more than glad to answer your requests. It is already a great success, and with the ISO certification, we’ll assuredly expect an increase of customers’ demands.
(?) MFN: As product manager and technology developer, could you tell us how you imagine the future of the blasting industry?
(!) C. I.: Nowadays, we can see more and more examples about how our industry in general has started to migrate to industry 4.0, meaning a digitalization of tools and instruments used in the manufacturing processes. And it’s what we are looking forward to at Winoa. In 2019, after achieving great success by obtaining the ISO accreditation, we are happy to announce that by the middle of 2020, the WA CLEAN technology will make another step ahead. We have developed a customized analytical colorimetry sensor that will make it functional via smartphone. Our customers will enjoy a more user-friendly interface and one of the main novelties will be the possibility to generate instant quality follow-up reports of their blasting process, everywhere and at any time with the WA Clean 2.0 version.
Stay tuned with the upcoming Winoa developments!
MFN would like to thank Claudiu Ionescu for this interview!