Sulzer Technical Review Issue 3 / 2019

Precise application since 1956

November 27, 2019

New materials and new areas for use call for the development of new application processes and dispensing systems to optimize handling. As early as 1956, the Danish company Kroeger (now Sulzer) launched the first caulking guns for Bostik (a single-component adhesive) on the market. The first dispensing system developed by Sulzer was launched in 1986 and consisted of a dispenser, a cartridge and a static mixer. The establishment of the Applicator Systems division in 2016 shows how important this innovative business has become for Sulzer.

Two operators with historic COX dispenser applying material
Paul Jutzi Sulzer
Co-Author: Paul Jutzi, Haag, Switzerland
The catalyst for developing application systems was the invention of reactive adhesives based on chemical cross-linking mechanisms, such as two-component adhesives and silicone-based adhesives. The English chemist Frederic Stanley Kipping discovered silicone-based adhesives in 1901, but industrial production was not developed until 1940. It became more widely established in the market at the beginning of the 1950s. Silicone elastomers are often used in the construction industry for sealing and insulation purposes.
Author Nadia Qaud
Author: Nadia Qaud, Winterthur, Switzerland

Trailblazing silicone

During these years, several companies developed application systems to achieve a uniform adhesive discharge with little effort. The Danish company Kroeger (now Sulzer) launched the H2 dispenser in 1956, a dispenser for 600 ml tubular bags (Fig. 1). In 1958, a manual dispenser was developed for smaller packaging sizes to provide smaller quantities for DIY enthusiasts.

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Fig. 1 The manual H2 dispenser — a traditional product from MK™ (formerly Kroeger).

In the same year, PC Cox (part of Sulzer since 2016) in Great Britain manufactured the often-copied Wexford skeleton metal frame caulking gun (Fig. 2). It is still on the market today under the name EasiFlow HD.

Two-component materials for one job

More materials and adhesives were developed for the construction industry and for various industrial applications. These could not be applied or dispensed uniformly with high precision without dispensers and suitable cartridge systems. Mixing and application by hand were no longer economical with these systems and, above all, not reliable. To mix materials or adhesives from two different components evenly, industrial users needed two-component (2K) dispensers and mixing systems.

Versatile dispensers from Denmark

After 1956, Kroeger developed manual, pneumatic and battery-powered dispensers with different cartridge sizes for single-component and two-component materials. The first two-component dispenser was launched in 1965. Pneumatically operated dispensers for industrial applications were introduced in 1986 for single-component applications and in 1991 for two-component applications. Battery-powered dispensers have delivered uniform, high dispensing performance without compressed air supply since 2006 for single-component materials and since 2014 for two-component materials (Fig. 3).

Ergonomic industrial standard from Great Britain

PC Cox initially developed manual dispensers for mastic; these dispensers were made from die-cast components and had an automatic relief function. Pneumatic dispensers were launched in the 1960s. Thanks to the relief valve, which was integrated into the pneumatic dispensers in the following years, application quality improved significantly. The dispensers were so successful in Great Britain that PC Cox also boosted exports and, as early as the 1980s, had an export share of 80%. In the 1980s, pneumatic dispensing systems were developed for two-component materials (Fig. 4).

Dental L-syringe system in use at the dentist.
Fig. 5 Sulzer’s L-double syringe system for two-component dental applications.

Process optimization with simultaneous mixing

In 1986, W.A. Keller Prozesstechnik in Risch, Switzerland, combined two process steps into one with its static metal mixers. These allowed mixing and application to take place simultaneously. These mixers were used for various stationary mixing tasks in chemical and industrial applications. The first portable dispensing system for dental and industrial applications was also launched in 1986, followed in 1988 by the C-system for large cartridges.

The company Mixpac took over all of W.A. Keller’s equipment and activities in 1990 and became the market leader for two-component dispensing and mixing systems. Mixpac, in close cooperation with the specialists at Werfo in Haag, Switzerland, took the risk of transferring the mixing technology and manufacturing it with plastic injection molding. This proved to be a breakthrough for portable discharge systems. High mixing quality was maintained, while weight and manufacturing costs were significantly reduced. The complex geometry of the mixing elements was a major challenge in the manufacture of the first injection molds for the mixing elements. Sulzer Mixpac’s strengths include a high level of innovation in toolmaking and optimizing process technology.

Mixpac then went on to develop numerous new dispensing systems and product lines: the S-system for dental applications in 1997, still the most widely used and highly successful two-component dispensing system for dentists; a motor-driven dynamic table mixer (BD system) for dental applications in 2000; the L-double syringe system for dental applications in 2001 (Fig. 5), the F-system with separate outlets for even more reliable application in 2002; and many other product lines for single-component and two-component applications.

The Sulzer Quadro mixer.
Fig. 6 The Quadro mixer was developed by Sulzer in 1986.

Sulzer gets involved with mixing

Sulzer’s Chemtech division launched static mixers for chemical applications in 1972. In 1996, Chemtech used the knowledge it had acquired to develop the Quadro™ mixer (Fig. 6) and associated cartridges for mixing two-component materials for industrial applications and the construction industry. The Quadro mixer was — and still is — the ideal solution for difficult mixing tasks and, due to its short design, the measure of all things in static mixing.

The family of T-mixers.
Fig. 7 The T-mixers launched in 2013 — reduced material loss with equivalent or greater mixing capacity.

Following the acquisition of Mixpac and Werfo in 2006, all product development activities were merged, and Sulzer’s mixer and dispenser systems were offered from a single source.

Sulzer’s innovative strength led to numerous innovations, such as the spray system for protective coatings in 2012 and the T-mixer with a 30% shorter mixer length in 2013 (Fig. 7), which reduced material loss accordingly.

In 2015, small single-use spray dispensers were developed for local anesthesia in the throat area. These led Mixpac to win an internationally renowned prize for innovative pharmaceutical packaging.

Sulzer integrated the know-how of other established companies from the world of adhesive application into its business activities. It acquired the Danish firm Kroeger in 2013 and the British firm PC Cox in 2016. Today, Sulzer is a leading global supplier of industrial application solutions for the construction, electronics, marine, automotive and aircraft industries. Sulzer also offers custom-tailored solutions for customers in these fields. Many of Sulzer’s products are also available in hardware stores and are valued by end users.

To reduce plastic waste, Sulzer recently developed the new ecopaCC™ cartridge (Fig. 8). It can be folded and consists of a multilayer high-tech film that is suitable for storing various chemicals. This provides customers with advantages in transport, storage and disposal, and also improves the shelf life of the two-component material.

ecopaCC  in collapsed and in original form
Fig. 8 The ecopaCC cartridge with collapsible packaging to reduce plastic waste.
Disposable syringe and matching cannula attachment (painless steel).
Fig. 9 Disposable syringe and matching cannula attachment (Painless Steel®) from Transcodent.

Clean room production for health and dental solutions

Certified manufacturing plants with controlled environmental conditions ensure the production of clean (and, if necessary, sterile and aseptic) mixing and application systems for health and dental solutions. Sulzer is a leader in this field.

One of the first manufacturers of disposable syringes was the German company Transcoject. After its market launch in 1972, this line of business became so successful that, just three years later, there were 34 factories in ten countries producing disposable syringes. In 2008, Transcoject’s dental division was spun off and Transcodent was founded. Transcodent has been part of Sulzer’s dental business since 2017. The product range includes application systems for multiple and single applications, as well as high-quality dental needles (Fig. 9).

Medmix Systems AG was founded in 2007 and has been part of the Sulzer corporation since 2018. The product range includes applicators for tissue adhesives and bone cements as well as for oral surgery and drug delivery systems in the health care market.

Applicators for beauty applications by Geka and face of woman.
Fig. 10 Applicators for beauty applications by Geka.

Decades of innovation for beauty

Innovative manufacturing processes for applicators and sophisticated application techniques distinguish the beauty products made by Geka in Bechhofen, Germany. Geka was founded in 1925 as a brush factory. In the 19th century, mascara in the form of a black block was invented by the Frenchman Eugène Rimmel (1820–1887). A small brush was moistened in order to remove the color from the block and to apply it to the eyelashes. In 1957, Helena Rubinstein (1872–1965) developed the first viscous mascara, which was packed in a small tube along with a brush. Today all mascaras are sold in this form. Geka quickly recognized the new trend, and in the 1960s the company began to focus on cosmetic brushes and mascara brushes.

As a pioneer in plastics processing for cosmetic applicators, Geka positioned itself as the market leader for mascara brushes. In the 1980s, Geka expanded its range and has since offered complete packaging solutions for liquid cosmetics such as mascara, lip gloss, eyeliner and nail polish (Fig. 10). Sulzer acquired Geka in 2016.

Geka used new manufacturing processes to produce plastic mascara applicators that set new standards. The soft brushes, which are manufactured using a two-component or Moltrusion® process, were launched in 2005 and have been contributing significantly to the sales success of numerous cosmetic brands since that time. Geka is also a leader in twisted wire brushes and is constantly developing new geometries and fiber materials. Sulzer’s sophisticated applicators make it easier to apply cosmetics.

Innovative application technology

Innovative application technology is closely linked to development in numerous other areas: discharge material, plastic material, injection molding technology, alternative 3D manufacturing processes, fluid dynamics and mixing technology, to name but a few. The combination of this knowledge from all of the Sulzer companies listed here (Fig. 11) leads to remarkable synergies in product development in Sulzer’s Applicator Systems division. Future-oriented and innovative — that’s Sulzer.

Fig. 11 (Video) History of the Sulzer Applicator Systems division and its integrated companies.

Sulzer Technical Review