The Coating Process Fundamentals Program (CPFP) began in the early 1980’s when Prof. Skip Scriven, encouraged by engineers in 3M, Polaroid, Eastman Kodak, and Fuji Photo Film, launched thesis researches on the fundamentals of slot, slide, and curtain coating flows used in precision multilayer coating. Prof. Chris Macosko soon joined him on roll coating and rheological aspects. A dedicated engineer, Wieslaw Suszynski, was hired to build and oversee a state-of-the-art lab facility. This initial effort, focused mainly on liquid coating flows, was one of the founding research programs of the Center for Interfacial Engineering (CIE), a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Engineering Research Center.
The NSF-CIE was in operation from 1988 to 1999, the maximum allowed under NSF policy. Research into liquid coating flows systematically tackled the challenges of laying down a controlled thickness liquid layer quickly with a powerful combination of theory-based computer modeling and flow visualization. During this time, industrial participation in and support for coatings research grew as more companies joined the CIE. Industrial input catalyzed the start of research on drying, curing, shrinkage stresses, and microstructure changes that can accompany solidification of a coating. Prof. Ted Davis, Prof. Lorraine Francis, and Prof. Alon McCormick got involved. Later, Alon co-supervised theses on research topics including uv-light-induced curing and stress measurement. Lorraine and Alon teamed up to launch measurement of stress as it develops. Meanwhile, Prof. Bill Gerberich applied nanoindentation characterization to polymeric coatings. And, CPFP research began to employ cryogenic scanning electron microscopy to unravel the mysteries of how coating microstructures develop during drying. A comprehensive program developed during these years. All the scientific and engineering challenges of liquid applied coatings, from the rheology of the coating liquid to its application onto a substrate and solidification into a solid coating, were in one program.
After the expiration of the NSF support, IPRIME (Industrial Partnership for Research in Interfacial and Materials Engineering) began in 1999. IPRIME carries on the tradition of fundamental research with strong industrial participation and is the current means for industrial partnership in CPFP. More recent additions include the following. Prof. Satish Kumar leads research in gravure coating and lithographic printing, and is also pursuing broader aspects of coating and printing flows. Close collaboration in coating flows has grown with Prof. Marcio Carvalho of PUC-Rio de Janeiro’s eminent Mechanical Engineering Department. On the solidification topics, Prof. Michael Tsapatsis has pioneered research in assembled zeolite platelet coatings for membranes. In 2007, Prof. Scriven passed away. He left behind a legacy of excellent research and a model for collaboration among faculty, students, and industrial engineers and scientists. The program is currently co-led by Lorraine Francis, who co-led the program with Prof. Scriven from 2004-07, and Satish Kumar, who became co-leader in 2011.