EBLabs–The Best Way to Work with ebeam
A Conversation about EBLabs with Business Development Manager Kaspar Zimmerli
Q How long have you been working at the Comet Group and their subsidiary, ebeam Technologies?
KZ I started last April. And my specific role is the business development manager for the EBLabs product line.
Q What specifically is an EBLab?
KZ And EBLab is a unit that can be used in the R&D departments of companies, universities, and research institutes. It can be used for quality control and quality management in companies where they already use, or would like to use, electron beam technologies. If companies start working with ebeam technologies they often need a unit where they can run trials. For example, if they are trying to understand how ebeam would affect a certain sample, or one of their own products, they could test it directly with an EBLab. Or perhaps they are working with ebeam curing and they need to determine if particular inks work with ebeam or not. Or maybe they need to know if one material crosslinks with another material. An EBLab can provide that kind of capacity. It is a mobile lab unit for quality management and quality control, and testing of all kinds.
Q Do you have a background in this technology?
KZ Not directly. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. I have also worked in medical device industry in several positions, mostly in management. And the last three years I was also a member of the board of a medical device consulting company.
Q So what made you interested in working for ebeam Technologies?
KZ That’s easy—the passion. I met Charles Flükiger (President of ebeam) during a case study during my MBA studies. And I met some of the ebeam team during my former job as well. They told me about ebeam, invited me to see the factory, and showed me the technology. I could feel the passion they had for the technology and its potential. I’m a guy who likes to work with new things, so I decided to quit my other job and applied for a job in the ebeam Technology group.
Q What are the basic specifications of an EBLab?
KZ The most important specification for an engineer is the energy. The energy range of the lamps goes from 80 keV up to 200 keV. The maximum height of material that can be treated in the unit is 5cm, and the maximum size of a sample is the equivalent of an A4 paper sheet. The maximum speed of the conveyor is 30 meters per minute. The EBLab contains a compact ebeam lamp with a window size of 270mm. It’s a fully shielded system. It’s also a plug-and-play; very easy to use. And each one is produced and manufactured according to international regulations in different countries.
An EBLab allows you to test ebeam on materials of your choice and directly see the results. But it’s important to note that you can’t do any in-depth analysis of materials with this unit. Material analysis would require another laboratory.
Q What are those situations where purchasing an EBLab would be advantageous for a customer?
KZ It makes sense to have an EBLab if you want to work with the latest electron beam technologies. For example, if you want to change from UV curing to ebeam curing, then you could use an EBLab to carefully test your ink formulations. Same thing if you are working with crosslinking plastics. Or maybe you are exploring it for sterilization. Basically, it allows you to do important research. And you can do it all in-house.
As I mentioned, some companies are using EBLabs for quality control. For example if you produce a batch of ebeam ink to use with the production line you can run samples in the EBLab and see if the color is up to quality standards. That testing can save you money, because you’re not testing on the production line. You’re testing in the lab unit. We have a couple companies that are using an EBLab exactly this way.
Q Are you suggesting these units can save money for companies, even pay for themselves in certain situations?
KZ Yes, in some cases very quickly.
Q How many units do you have installed around the world?
KZ The numbers are changing fast, but as of halfway through 2015, we had close to 30 units installed globally. I can’t talk about the names of the companies. We have NDAs with many of them. But they are big companies working in the application areas I have mentioned.
Q I can imagine there are competitive pressures. If your business is connected to one of these application areas, like curing, your competitor may already have an EBLab!
KZ Yes, definitely! And if you go to an independent lab for testing, you might not own the IP. And secrecy is more complicated.
Q Who needs an EBLab but doesn’t know it yet?
KZ I would say companies and institutes that work in business areas that will soon be transformed by this technology. There are many such areas, but we are focusing on four particular ebeam applications. We have our business development managers in sterilization, curing, plastics and environmental technologies. They each know their own markets quite well. The other area of focus is to open up new global sales channels. We’re setting up contracts with distributors all over the world to distribute compact ebeam technology and EBLabs.
Q Is there a lot of interest?
KZ The interest in ebeam is fabulous. Lately, we have been doing roadshows with distributors and customers around the world. And if you talk to customers and explain to them the nature of ebeam technology and how we are developing it, they’re always impressed and fascinated. So the feedback has been great.
In general, our customers love EBLabs. They like the ease of use. And they like the training they get when they purchase one. And of course, if they end up using the lamp to the point where they need to replace it, they are easy to exchange.
Q Is the interest in this technology bigger in Europe or Asia or America, or is it all over the globe?
KZ The interest is all over the world. But in the US they’re moving more quickly. This is still a technology for early adopters, and in countries like China the development is behind but they’re catching up fast. Asia, in particular, often takes their technological lead from the US.
Q Are you selling EBLab units to academic laboratories?
KZ Yes, there are a number of academic research institutes around the world who are working with electron beam technology and of course, they make a natural market. But the academic world moves more slowly than the business world. They have to find ways to get such units into their yearly budget. So we’re working with them on ways to finance these units in such a way that is win-win. As you can imagine, it’s important to us that research institutes around the world have access to this technology. So we’re working with them to make it easier financially. That’s great marketing for us. And it’s a good for them to be at the cutting edge of this kind of research. That’s a win-win solution.
Q What are your goals for 2016?
KZ I really want to get the word out about this technology. We see the interest growing, but still, it is a relatively new technology. I’ve been focusing recently on Russia and India, where there is a lot of interest globally. In 2016, I will focus more on opportunities in South America.
Q When you are not selling EBLabs, and traveling around the world talking about ebeam technology, what do you love to do? Any favorite pastimes?
KZ Sports! I love sports. In the winter, back country skiing. In the summer, hiking, and mountain biking. Bern (near the Comet Group’s headquarters) is a fantastic place for mountain biking.