Specialty products require special solutions

Testing the scratch resistance qualities of flat surfaces which have been coated, such as paint, plastic and printed materials, requires a unique solution. So when we were approached by a global name in specialty chemicals, we were excited to help solve their testing challenges.


The company is a global, technology-focused business, serving customers in over 100 countries whose head offices are in the USA. Their product range includes specialty chemicals used in high performance coatings, which ensure the optimum performance and durability of their customers’ products. For this particular application their need related to the digital printing industry.

The problem

The company used what they acknowledged to be a very subjective, and ultimately an inadequate method, to assess the abrasive quality of specific coatings, which was to perform a scratch test with their fingernails.

Although there is a traditional instrument on the market, they believed that the motion of that instrument, which was to go back and forth in a straight line, totally failed to represent how the product would be handled in real life situations.

The company needed a test method with the ability to grade and assess that was reliable, consistent, objective and representative.

Why choose James Heal?

The company were aware of the experience and expertise of the team at James Heal for providing testing solutions for the assessment of abrasion and scratching on other flat surfaces such as wood. As a result a joint project was started with the objective of finding a solution to accommodate their own products.

Different product, different solution

Obviously the company’s products are extremely different from wooden planks – they are significantly thinner and considerably more delicate to handle when attaching to the instrument. The abrasive material used on wood by James Heal would be too severe on paper or film, therefore a different and modified solution was needed.

Solution #1: Carrier Plate

Firstly a representative selection of the company’s print media products were supplied displaying differing degrees of resistance to scratching in everyday use.

Our team of designers and technicians then addressed the key issue of how the test sample would be accommodated on the instrument, which, as it was primarily designed to test wood and textiles, was not initially suitable for samples with the fragility of the company’s products.

Although the thin sample could be affixed to the conventional textile or wood table of the instrument, which was one of our two-station Martindale, the removal of the sample for assessment would not be possible without damage to the paper.

This was resolved through the use of a ‘carrier plate’, onto which paper is attached. Resultantly it is this carrier plate, with the sample affixed, which is placed upon the instrument, tested and then easily removed for assessment and grading.

If required, photographs can be taken to keep a record the level of durability of each sample. Once grading and assessment is complete the paper sample is removed and can be disposed – the carrier plate is ready for the next sample.


Solution #2: Abrasive

To find a suitable abrasive many different types were assessed, this included testing existing abrasives and sourcing new ones. Tests were undertaken and, together with the customer, an abrasive was selected that gave consistent results using the pre-determined number of rubs. A pass/fail scale of the test samples was established.

Solution #3: Movement

An additional beneficial aspect of the Martindale is the movement, which unlike other instruments in the market, has a multi-directional movement and therefore considered by the customer to be far more representative of the products use in real life situations.

Overall the customer was delighted with our approach and initiative and the instrument was purchased.
Neil Pryke - Innovation Director, James Heal

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