5. Going back to basics, what are your definition and your expert approach to corrosion?
The best thing to do against corrosion is to avoid it. This also applies to the shipping and storage of corrosion-sensitive goods. Not only in this area but also when designing parts or equipment, corrosion risks should be considered and planned for from the very beginning. Corrosion protection measures must be considered in the corresponding packaging budget. Unfortunately, one still experiences the case that a shipping packaging has been completely designed, and only then it is noticed that the corrosion protection has not been considered sufficiently. The implementation of a corrosion protection concept in an existing packaging design is particularly ugly if the planned budget has already been used up.
Point 1: Corrosion protection must be part of the packaging design. You want as much corrosion protection as necessary and no more. The packaging planner must plan for the maximum expected corrosive load and duration and design the concept accordingly. We can support the user with experience and knowledge. Standardized stress tests in our climate chambers help to find the optimum concept in the tension ratio of costs against the protective effect. Some of our customers take this very much heed and have new packaging concepts and sometimes also the packaged goods approved by us before the final use. Our services are then part of the packaging qualification. If corrosion occurs despite clean preparation and a good packaging concept, the cause must be identified.
Point 2: What was the cause of corrosion? Does the cause lie in the packaging design? Was there damage? What are the effects of established pre-processes or changes to them, for example when new media are used for cleaning or changes are made in the production process? Can such corrosive contaminations have come onto the surface, which then triggered the corrosion damage? Corrosion always results from the interaction of material and properties of the workpiece surface with its environment. Separate consideration of the individual parameters is useless. Our team can help to find the cause and make recommendations for improvement.
And then we reach point 3: Measures to improve the corrosion protection effect.
How can packaging and corrosion protection measures be improved? What really helps? Is there an equivalent or better approach that can be implemented more cost-effectively? We want to help on the basis of facts, not assumptions or half-knowledge. Therefore, we work together with the customer and on the basis of facts to solve problems that arise. We can also verify improvements by stress testing packaging with standardized climates.
6. It is a very special and rare institute in Europe. Can you tell us the story of this project and its development?
There are several institutes and companies that deal with corrosion. Other service providers take care of the mechanical and physical aspects of packaging. We are indeed quite unique in our special segment from VCI research and production to packaging design and testing of the packaging under corrosive conditions and after-sales service for customers in case of problems.
When EXCOR in Germany, as part of the ZERUST EXCOR joint venture, started with corrosion protection according to the VCI method in 1991, the knowledge of this method was low among customers and also among sales staff. Especially the interaction of production influences, shipping route, and packaging was often only insufficiently considered. Obviously, it was not possible to simply sell what the customer needed, as the customer did not even know what he needed.
Our managing director Gerhard Hahn quickly realized that VCI products needed more professional advice than other products of the Knüppel Group and sought and found support in the person of Prof. Georg Reinhard. The professor of chemistry was a chair of physical chemistry at the Technical University of Dresden and could be won as a consultant. In 1996, EXCOR Korrosionsforschung was founded from his part-time work as a consultant, with himself to its head. Only 1 year after the foundation, the first own products were available on the market. Three employees quickly grew into more and the scope of tasks increased and continues to increase. In 2010 I took over as head of EXCOR Korrosionsforschung and we are continuing along this path.
The success proves ZERUST EXCOR right. Only with the necessary technical background can users be supported with regard to corrosion protection. This is why ZERUST EXCOR "afford" EXCOR Korrosionsforschung.
7. In terms of innovation, what can be expected in the future?
Difficult question...some things are still top secret, others shortly before the sales launch. Perhaps so much: ZERUST EXCOR will shortly be presenting a new VCI dispenser. In 2022 - as already mentioned at the beginning - there will be an "intelligent ZERUST EXCOR film" on the market. Internally we are working on better corrosion protection tests for ferrous and non-ferrous metals. One of ZERUST EXCOR's fundamental goals is the reduction of plastic components in corrosion protection packaging and the responsible use of resources, which puts a "reuse" idea at the center of attention wherever possible. We are also working diligently on these points.
There are other projects that I cannot talk about here. Although I would like to do so.
8. The other particularity of this institute is in its operational and methodological approach. With on-site sampling, laboratory inspection, and worldwide application via the Zerust Excor group. How do these 3 supports fit together and work together?
As already noted, one of the difficulties of corrosion, including shipping, is the interaction between material, cleanliness, environmental conditions, and protective measures. The protective measures against corrosion are at the end of the entire manufacturing chain. Errors that were made before can only be counteracted there to a limited extent and sometimes with greater effort. And sometimes not at all. We, therefore, offer our customers to check the preconditions for corrosion protection in their process chain on-site and to implement improvements, thus minimizing the following corrosion risks.
Of course, not only the customer but also ZERUST EXCOR must do its homework and master and control its own processes which are necessary for the supply of reliably functioning VCI protection against corrosion. We, therefore, check every intermediate step and every VCI end product for its quality in accordance with the defined specifications and thus ensure that VCI products that do not meet ZERUST EXCOR's requirements are not delivered but blocked. For this purpose, samples are taken during each production campaign, sent to us, and tested at our premises. For a VCI film up to 15 specified parameters are tested individually. If a single one of these specifications is not achieved, the film is blocked. No delivery to the customer will be made without approval from the laboratory.
9. What work and research are you focusing on? Only on VCI?
Research and development on new VCI approaches and formulations and applications are certainly the main R&D fields. But we also work on better and new corrosion protection tests, analytical laboratory procedures and the optimization of established ZERUST EXCOR VCI applications. We also observe the competition.
10. Do you think corrosion is inevitable, no matter what you do?
In perfect VCI packaging, the corrosion protection for sufficiently clean surfaces would last forever. The packaging would have to be hermetically sealed forever against VCI loss and the entry of moist, VCI-free air from the environment. Unfortunately, real packaging cannot do this. If it is necessary and where one does not shy away from the greater expense, ZERUST EXCOR can introduce VCI packaging together with the customer for the end-of-life stocking of parts for a period of up to 30 years.
But in principle, no one can prevent corrosion on utility metals or glass or even plastic in the broader sense "forever". Only the speed of the corrosion can be influenced.
You cannot prevent corrosion, only the corrosion damage.