By Gary Shawhan and John Yundt Contributing Editors, The CHEMARK Consulting Group
Entrepreneurial companies who bring novel coating technology to market and then succeed are increasingly rare. One company that has certainly achieved this goal is Nycote Laboratories of North Hollywood, CA.
Coatings World had the opportunity to interview Pennie Burnham, Vice President of North America for Nycote Laboratories, to learn more about their technology and how the company has continued to grow and flourish for over 60 years.
Coatings World: Pennie, to start can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have been working with Nycote labs for 6 years. My role in the company involves wearing several hats. Perhaps my most important role in the company is adding vision and contributing to the future direction of the business.
I also work with our incredible team providing a support bridge between product development, research, and our business development efforts.
My background is eclectic which has proven to be a benefit. It includes private banking and finance, retail marketing and even running my own motion picture camera rental company for over 18 years. These experiences have added a level of creativity and imagination to how I approach our business development activities.
Coatings World: How has Nycote Laboratories evolved as a company from its inception until today?
Nycote Labs is a family-owned business. Founded in the 1960’s by Lloyd Washburn, today it is owned jointly by Marce Simpson (president & CEO) and her parents Jane and Robert Washburn. Robert, as the 2nd generation owner, has successfully grown the business building excellent collaborative relationships with our OEM customers and key engineering contacts.
At its inception, the company identified an unmet need for a superior protective coating in aircraft. Specifically, corrosion of metal parts caused by chemicals like Skydrol® phosphate ester hydraulic fluids, JP fuels, and specialty greases was creating safety and reliability concerns that had to be addressed. Currently available protective coatings were not able to meet the high standards required for protecting such critical components.
Lloyd Washburn saw this as an opportunity to bring a novel coating technology he had identified to market. Lloyd felt it could provide a solution to this problem and at a level of performance that would ensure long-term component reliability. The was the birth of Nycote® and Nycote Laboratories.
Coatings World: Pennie, tell us a little about the Nycote® coatings and what makes it unique.
As the company name suggests, Nycote® is a liquid nylon polymer, epoxy hybrid coating technology. It is a unique, high-performance, protective coating that has many distinctive features (Table 1).
Table 1: Features of the Nycote® Technology
- Clear coatings
- Applied via brush, dip, or by conventional spray application.
- Applied at an extremely thin coating (0.4 to 0.6 mils)
- Self-leveling and pin-hole free. Suitable for hi-reliability applications
- Corrosion resistant and barrier protective properties
- Very-long, in-service life.
- Excellent chemical resistance. includes very harsh chemicals exp.
- High temperature, heat resistant. Low temperature tolerance
- Excellent adhesive to many substrates
- Excellent UV resistance
- Good lubricity, wear resistant.
Coatings World: Can you tell us how do you go to market?
Nycote® is marketed as a family of high-performance, value-added protective coatings. Our focus is on finding those applications where the technology can bring a combination of features and benefits that set it apart from alterative coatings and make it the right choice in the eyes of the customer. Nycote® fits best in applications where compromise in coatings performance is not an acceptable option.
For a smaller, specialty coatings manufacturer such as ours, establishing and retaining “brand value” is difficult to achieve. Brand value is, however, something that our company has achieved and been able to build-upon over time. The Nycote® brand and reputation is something we are proud of.
Markets and applications where safety and the importance of assured long-term reliability of key components or equipment are essential, represent the focal point for our business. When liability issues are present and safety issues exist, the value proposition for selecting Nycote® technology to protect critical parts and systems is strongest.
Coatings World: Pennie, are there other adjacent market applications in Aerospace, beyond exterior aircraft parts and components where your technology has made in-roads?
Space is one application area which offers a unique fit for Nycote®. The hardest part about protecting advanced materials in space is the degradative effects of radiation, atomic oxygen, and other extremely harsh conditions spacecraft (and their component parts) are exposed to over an extended periods-of-time.
Our coatings were proven on the Space Shuttle many years ago because they did not add significant weight but provided the needed protection from the extreme temperatures, conditions and the environment found in space. Furthermore, several of our products were tested and met outgassing requirements for space applications.
In space, it is very difficult if not impossible to maintain parts and systems while in service. Small LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites, for instance, have a life span of about 5 years. Considering the cost of manufacturing a satellite and then putting it into orbit, insuring reliability in-service easily justifies the use of a high-performance, value-added coating like Nycote®.
Nycote’ unique value is further enhanced by the fact that it is a thin coating which doesn’t add to the overall weight of the satellite as compared to alternative protective coating solutions.
Coatings World: Do you have any other new Nycote products you are introducing that you would like to highlight?
We recently designed and will begin to manufacture “permanent” antiviral, antimicrobial coating solutions that will outlast other solutions that are much more temporary. Most alternative products are sprayed on as a biocide. These coatings are temporary and have to be reapplied every few days. We have named our new products Nygaurd 100 & Nygaurd 110.
Nylon is naturally antimicrobial. Thus, current Nycote products are capable of preventing microbial attachment and proliferation on the coating surface. Our research and development team has now added a safe, effective antiviral additive into our traditional nylon coating technology which provides sustained antiviral properties. Unlike other antiviral coatings on the market, Nygaurd’ efficacy has been tested to SARS-CoV2 virus protocol. Results show that it provides significant Viral protection while still maintaining its superior performance.
During the pandemic, our research team decided to take this concept further and develop a sister product for aircraft interiors- Nycote-AV. This became our Nygaurd 100 and 110 products. These coatings are intended to protect aircraft interiors and other interior aircraft surfaces. Nygaurd’ value proposition includes its ability to deliver sustained antiviral/antimicrobial performance avoiding the need for frequent re-coating or replacement of interior fabrics.
Our coating is both durable and flexible due to its nylon composition. Thus, it is able to withstand the rigors of continual in-service use expected for commercial aircraft interiors. In addition, Nycote® is clear with good UV resistance. As a result, the appearance of the coated fabric is not altered allowing retention of the interior cabin appearance.
Coatings World: Where do you see the growth opportunities and unmet needs for high performance protective coatings outside of aviation?
For Nycote Labs, we are focused on growth in specialty applications within the automotive, medical, and electronic markets. Nycote is currently being tested on new medical device applications where its anti-friction properties along with its protective properties address the corrosion problems which result from for the fluids that these devices are exposed too in-service.
Another important market opportunity for Nycote® is in its use as the resin used in 3D printing. This application not only includes its’ use for proto-typing and small lot manufacturing of 3D parts, but also extends to additive manufacturing part builds.
3D printing and commercial additive manufacturing is a high-growth market area where the unique features of Nycote can bring significant value to the process. This is due, in part, to the range of features and benefits provided by our nylon coatings. It is also due to its ability to help system engineering with materials of construction that hold-up over an extended period-of-time in a production environment.
Coatings World: Pennie, any comments on the key challenges that coating manufacturers face doing business today?
The biggest challenge we see is developing products from green raw materials and chemicals. Industry has to comply with sustainability demands. Two years ago, we began using updated chemicals. We also created a new product, Nycote 99 Ecoshield which has been well received in the aerospace industry. Our Nycote® products will never be waterborne. Our polymer technology is not suited for formulating in a water-based system.
Another challenge is keeping up with the changes occurring in engineered materials used to manufacture next generation equipment. For Nycote the transition to composites as materials of construction including their use in some structural applications is significant. the traditional value propositions we have relied on in the past are now shifting- especially in aerospace. Most aircraft are now 50% carbon-fiber. This transition is critical to reduce the weight of the aircraft which permits greater fuel savings and cuts the carbon footprint significantly.
Coatings World: Any parting insight you want to offer the readership.
My parting message is that our company’s successes are a result of a motivated, well developed team and our ability to be a collaborative partner with our customers to provide unique solutions to their problems.
We have remained nimble as a company. We work quickly to satisfy our customers and give our team members the autonomy required to do their jobs effectively.
At work, I often hear our President, Marcie Simpson, talk about the importance of helping everyone be their “best self” and the importance of paying attention to how your team receives information and learns. She is inspirational and passionate about people and mentoring women considering a career in coatings.