Issue date: 05 December 2013
A link-up between UWE Bristol's Centre for Fine Print Research and contamination control flooring manufacturer Dycem has been chosen as one of the best Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) by the UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.
The KTP transformed Dycem's product range and was announced as one of the top nine projects, out of around 850 completed in 2012, at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London.
Before this KTP, Dycem's non-slip products and polymer flooring systems and mats – which completely remove foot and wheel-borne contamination in clean room environments such as pharmaceutical and data centres, hospitals and laboratories – were only available in plain colours. Most previous attempts to use print techniques resulted in bleeding or leaching of the colours and designs after the anti-bacterial coating was added.
KTP associate Lee Hamilton, backed up knowledge from UWE's print researchers, set up a digital design and print room at Dycem, which included wide-format printing equipment. They soon made an important breakthrough, developing innovative substrate materials that enable the printing of customer logos, patterns, images and even safety information. Dycem can now offer design-led products incorporating crisp printed images while their contamination control properties remain intact.
The KTP was so successful that Dycem has been able to expand its product range, entering new markets and extending its global reach. Profits in its contamination control product sector are up by £250,000 as a direct result. There are also improved sales for Dycem's non-slip products which are used in the home or in industrial sectors such as leisure, marine, automotive and catering.
CFPR director Professor Stephen Hoskins said, “We are delighted that the success of this KTP has been recognised as one of the UK Best KTP Partnerships.
“This KTP has benefited the CFPR too, by enabling it to develop its knowledge of digital print techniques, including wide-format printing, and a new range of substrates and processes. It is a clear demonstration of how its expertise can add real value in an industrial situation.”
Lee has now been employed full-time by Dycem as Product Technical Specialist (Europe). He said, “Being selected is a real testament to the strength of the team from UWE and Dycem.
“Thanks to support from Steve, academic supervisor Dr Paul Laidler and Dycem's production manager Andy Jones, I was able to introduce a totally new direction for Dycem. The embedding of a culture of design-led product development within the company has led to a full on-demand design and print service to customers.”
Dr Laidler said, “This project came up with an exciting unexpected discovery – our early investigations led to the development of new substrate materials coupled with different adhesive solutions, that could be used across the whole range of Dycem's flooring products.
“It has led to CFPR being the only creative exhibitor at a national manufacturing summit and to further research alliances with major technology and print equipment companies, as well as established and emerging artists.”
Mark Dalziel, Managing Director of Dycem said, “Over and above the anticipated achievements, the new printable substrates provide a cheaper and more effective solution across Dycem's entire flooring range.
“This unexpected outcome has transformed the contamination control flooring side of our business, creating new products that have been launched in the UK, Europe and the US. These caused great excitement within the pharmaceutical industry, where the ability to print installation details and dates on mats dramatically simplified compliance with regulations.
“US sales went up by 64% and the project has been so successful that Dycem is in the process of applying for a second KTP with UWE.”