Smith, a Ph.D. student at MIT, founded the company with his mechanical engineering professor, Kripa Varanasi, in 2012. Three years later, the duo began conducting research and development on CleanTanx.
Coatings World: What was the impetus to start LiquiGlide?
Dave Smith: "A core part of our mission is to fundamentally alter interfaces between liquids and solids to eliminate waste. Even though we initially focused almost exclusively on packaging applications, manufacturing has always been an area of interest because viscous products sticking to the inside of tanks leads to huge inefficiencies across industries. These inefficiencies represent a significant pain point for manufacturers.
"For example, in paint manufacturing alone, paint sticking to the inside of mixing and holding tanks costs the industry more than 100 million gallons of lost product and billions of dollars per year in associated waste costs. We see CleanTanx as an opportunity to dramatically reduce waste and usher in a new era of sustainable manufacturing."
CW: Could you please tell us more about CleanTanX?
Smith: "LiquiGlide’s patented CleanTanX technology is based on the science of liquid-impregnated surfaces. Each coating application is custom-engineered for manufacturing specifications and product properties. The technology is retrofitted onsite by LiquiGlide, without having to remove equipment, which minimizes installation costs and operational downtime.
"With respect to development time, while there are concepts that are core to the platform that does not change, but since the technology is custom-engineered, we are always tweaking the technology and looking for ways to enhance performance for specific applications."
CW: How long has LiquiGuide been on the market?
Smith: "We first installed an early prototype of our system in a paint plant in 2016."
CW: What improvements does it have over existing products?
Smith: "There are no other products in the market that allow viscous products to shed from the walls of manufacturing tanks."
CW: What are LiquiGlide's main applications?
Smith: "The most quantifiable values of CleanTanX are the prevention of yield loss and wastewater, as well as reduced cleaning time. We are also finding that reduced threat of bacterial contamination can be a significant value proposition for customers."
CW: What markets is LiquiGlide currently being used in?
Smith: "Our manufacturing tank platform is currently being used in paint plants, and we are currently piloting CleanTanX or in discussions with other manufacturers about applications for a range of products and processes where CleanTanX would serve a similar purpose."
CW: Are there any potential markets this product can make inroads into?
Smith: "Our beachhead market has been painted, but we see the potential for manufacturing of a wide range of viscous products, including adhesives, inks and dyes, personal care products (e.g. lotions and hair dyes), specialty chemicals and liquid agrochemicals.
"We see CleanTanX as the first step to a holistic solution for manufacturing. Our development and commercialization of the CleanTanX platform will be highly synergistic future platforms for pipes and other surfaces where the hang up of viscous products creates inefficiencies similar to those manufacturers experience in tanks.
"CleanTanX is not only a significant revenue opportunity but an opportunity for learning about products, manufacturing processes and customer pain points. We can take these learnings and develop the next generation of coatings that will eliminate other sources of waste and inefficiency in manufacturing."
LiquiGlide is based in Cambridge, Mass. The company is on Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, and Linkedin.
See LiquiGlide in action below:
Photo and video courtesy LiquiGlide