Archipelago Technology: Innovation with Sticking Power

Archipelago Technology: Innovation with Sticking Power

Archipelago Technology, an inkjet technology developer based in Cambridge, UK, is a business that started with the goal of creating the ‘next big thing in inkjet’. How does one go about such an ambitious goal? For Archipelago, it started with simply listening to what customers really wanted.

This strategy led Archipelago to a surprising request: the ability to jet glue. People wanted an effective way to lay down glue and other viscous fluids. That’s where Powerdrop got its start. Archipelago’s four founding partners sat down, armed with their collective inkjet experience, ingenuity, and a blank sheet of paper. “We started with the question, why can’t you use a conventional inkjet head,” explains Archipelago Technology Founder and CEO Guy Newcombe. “First of all, the nozzle is too small, so the solution is to make the nozzle bigger. Secondly, you need a lot more energy, and thirdly, you need to ensure the path for the glue is very short.”

And so Powerdrop was born, an inkjet system that can dispense viscous liquids as droplets with precision and consistency. Customers with the ambitions to jet glue were delighted, and very happy with the resulting solution. Another challenge set by customers was the ability to coat products with paint. Spray painting using traditional methods can create a great deal of waste, something Archipelago’s Powercoat solves through precise coating and reliable deposition. 

The furniture and flooring market is a significant area of focus for Archipelago, working with some of the biggest names in the sector, thanks to the ability of Powerdrop to jet paint as well as glue. “There are a lot of applications for Powerdrop in flooring,” explains Newcombe. “Firstly, you need the flooring to stick to the floor, and then on top of the flooring, you may want it to be tough and hard which can be a challenge, so Powerdrop puts down a tough layer and then a hard layer of coating.”

Conventional coating is an area with a major sustainability issue in terms of the waste created. Newcombe continues: “If you’re painting furniture or flooring or wallpaper on an industrial scale, you may have a single press using two million pounds of paint a year, which can be wasting half of that material. Powerdrop is really helpful because it eliminates waste, and eliminates those greenhouse gases. So we’re talking about saving a million pounds a year in paint, and we’re talking about saving 6,000 tonnes of CO2 on a single line.”

Newcombe continues: “We have calculated that the amount of CO2 produced by the coatings industry that goes into the air unnecessarily is about 30 million tonnes. Because the Powerdrop coating machines are so effective, you don’t need many of them to start making a significant dent in those CO2 emissions. Something like 5,000 Powerdrop coating machines would actually contribute to reducing CO2 emissions worldwide by 30 million tonnes.”

The environmental advantages don’t stop there. As the world continues to move away from plastic packaging, there are certain associated challenges to overcome, such as the fact that plastic is non-porous, while paper alternatives are porous. This is an area Guy Newcombe is interested in as a potential coatings application for Archipelago’s technology. “For food and drink packaging, porous materials are not very helpful at all,” says Newcombe. “You need to coat the paper, and then the issue is that these coatings need to be biodegradable or recyclable, which can be difficult. But Powerdrop is up to the challenge, and we’re seeing a lot of interest there.”

Powercoat Image

One of the most exciting elements of the technology is its surprising applications that couldn’t have been further from the Archipelago team’s imaginations when they started out, the latest being the targeted spraying of fields with herbicides and pesticides. How on earth did that come about? “A happy coincidence,” Newcombe explains. “One of our founders went for a bicycle ride and bumped into a gentleman who was an expert in spraying. They started talking technical, and it became clear that targeted spraying of fields in 2021 is an unsolved problem. So, we had a meeting, and it was clear that it was a problem to which Powerdrop was a solution.”

With a unique value proposition, is Archipelago worried about competitors attempting to emulate their success? “We’d like competitors, competitors liven up the market, and they actually make it easier to sell,” says Newcombe. “If there’s a choice between you and one other company, you more than double the market by doing that. So we would like to see a few more competitors.”

Find out more about Archipelago Technology here.

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