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When we briefly covered the news of the R&D area in the last edition of this newsletter, we promised to return to deal with the topic in greater depth, given its highly topical nature. The new department is one of the latest and most important investments at Fenzi, as a large part of future success is staked on it. Inaugurated in September 2004, its basic idea is to encourage synergies, concentrating all the professional experience and instruments required for research in one single structure. The chemistry relating to glass is developed in full in the department given the many products which Fenzi S.p.A. produces for this sector: corrosion-preventing mirror backing paints, sealants for insulating glass and ceramic enamels for decorating glass must ensure features and performances that are specific to the use. In this new facility their ongoing development is guaranteed by the capability of 7 chemistry graduates, led and coordinated by a brilliant young manager, naturally also a chemist: Pietro Ungarelli. We asked him for further details about the new facility.
Mr. Ungarelli, how does the work process within the R&D department start? Which needs form the basis?
We centre each time on a specific need, whether research into a new product, development of an existing one, or the need to fulfil the increasingly pressing demand to comply with ever-changing environmental and ecological parameters.
This is a subject of general interest for the industry. On which aspects have you concentrated most recently?
It is not easy to draw up a list in order of importance, however nowadays great attention is paid and great precautions taken regarding processes that involve the use of chemical products containing heavy metals (cadmium, chrome (VI), lead) and/or organic solvents (VOC emissions). European directives on this topic have become very restrictive and for chemicals companies observance of these directives has become a fundamental objective both for obvious commercial reasons and for those of ethics and image. In this area Fenzi has always shown great sensibility, at times even anticipating those that were then to become compulsory by law.
For which markets are the regulations more restrictive?
The European market without doubt imposes the most stringent restraints, followed by the US with regulations which at times differ between the various states. Finally we have the Asian markets, where awareness is lower but nevertheless growing rapidly.
How is your department involved in the ISO 9001 certification that concerns the company as a whole?
Its involvement is decisive: it is here that the requisites of the product for “making the grade” and hence for being marketed are defined and validated.
How is the research programme organised in the specific individual cases?
We start by defining the research target, the so-called basic requirements which the product to be developed must fulfil. When they change, the work methods and research techniques naturally change too. We begin with laboratory tests, even very sophisticated ones, as reproduction is always necessary of special phenomena linked to the cycle of use of the product and the durability of structures obtained with it (corrosion tests, accelerated exposure to environmental agents etc.).
Having met all the set requirements in this first phase, the so-called industrial tests are carried out - in practice the product obtained in real process conditions is tested again. Finally, not forgetting that all our products must be able to be applied properly to glass using commonly used systems, the customers have the final word. Only when all these phases have been passed successfully is the new product ready for the market.
Who commissions research within the company?
In actual fact research is never commissioned within the company but outside it by the market via normal day-to-day commercial business. The market sends out information or demands for the development of new products or for the research and development of changes to existing ones. It is always the market that indicates to us, possibly in advance if the signs can be read, the relevant new standards. Only in this way can we adhere to the Fenzi philosophy of seeking always to do more and better.
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