On 31st October 2011, the world hit a major milestone: the 7 billionth person was born. Twelve years before, the global population stood at 6 billion, and 100 years before that, it was 1.6 billion. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that we are growing, and growing faster. But what this means for other, underlying trends is not so obvious. One of the most important, and exciting, parts of Interpons’ business is to spot these trends and respond to – or, in some cases, lead them.

As pressure on resources increases, sustainability – whether of raw materials, production processes, energy usage – becomes paramount. Powder is inherently sustainable: no VOCs, no harmful substances, low waste and low energy consumption.

But the trick, as HSE and Sustainability Manager Jaap van den Akker points out, is to ensure the whole production process is sustainable. “It’s more important we produce the right products from the chain point of view. That means looking at our raw materials, our energy resources, our waste, how the product is used, and how it ends its life.”

For example, we’re pioneering research with our resin suppliers to help them move from petrochemicals-based resins to renewable-based. “Our new Felling polymer lab is already looking at ways of making more sustainable polymers – think of a future with polymers made from vegetable oils,” says Russell Deane, Global Market Manager Architecture.

At the other end, we are recycling our manufacturing waste. Fines Compactors, fitted to our production lines, collect waste powder produced during milling, to re-process it. With any waste that can’t be re-used, we look to form local partnerships – for example, with brick or cement manufacturers – to avoid sending the waste to landfills.

With our products, as well as working on low-bake powders and thinner film technologies, we are developing powders with energy-saving characteristics. Our architectural Interpon Cool Coatings, for example, incorporate pigments that reflect heat. “They react to infra-red radiation,” explains Deane, “deflecting the rays so the building remains cool and reduces the need for air conditioning.” They also reduce the urban ‘heat island’ effect in cities.

Alongside population growth, societies are becoming more sophisticated, more technically advanced – and more demanding. Facebook, Twitter, the internet, high-speed travel, instant communications, smartphone apps … have led to a culture where the consumer is king. We want things now, we want super-efficiency, we want more choice.

As a result, we work together with customers to develop coatings and colors that fit their specific needs and the needs of their customers. “In the world of IT, it’s the industrial designers, for companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and Apple, who decide what the colors are going to be. So we produce a Trend range of colors, such as 2012’s new Anodic range, specifically for the IT sector,” says Tim Heseltine, Global IT Marketing Manager.

The big growth area is laptops and notebooks where, until now, powder was mainly used to coat the magnesium alloy casing. The latest development, however, says Heseltine with characteristic enthusiasm, “will blow the lid off the market place!” Focusing on the keyboard section, the 2012 Trend range offers both highly colored – think zingy-yellow and metallic pink – and tactile coatings. “Designers are wanting to make keyboards sexier and edgier. This range gives both ‘soft-touch’ options and the possibility to create patterns like a colored grid. It’s a totally new way of bringing the keyboard to life.”

Similarly, in the domestic appliance market, we work with manufacturers to produce custom-made colors. “Customers try to differentiate themselves from each other; technology is one way, but colors and finishes is another,” explains Andrea Codecasa, Global Market Manager Appliance. Currently, a team of marketing and technical people from our Como plant is working with Whirlpool’s designers to develop a matt black and matt white finish for refrigerators. The matt look is a fashion trend amongst luxury cars such as Porsche, explains Codecasa, so this is a way for people to have a ‘luxury’ item in their homes.

We are also working with Whirlpool to develop a stainless steel-effect coating, a cheaper, more durable but equally sleek alternative to the real thing. But having the right – or even the best – products is not, in itself, good enough today. To meet the needs of our increasingly ‘I want it-and-I want it-now’ society, we’ve changed our manufacturing strategy.

We are continuing to be innovative in how we can best utilize our production services. Some of our plants focus on producing bulk powders – high tonnage for big-order customers – while others cater for customers with smaller orders needed ultra-quick.

In Australia for instance where manufacturing is continuing to adapt and change its service and product offering, it’s all about how we differentiate ourselves. What separates us is that our products are tailor made for the local market to suit our own unique conditions and environmental needs.

Interpon is customising its services by producing products in different colors and textures with a fast turnaround. To be able to offer this service, we invested in capital equipment upgrades so that we can be more flexible in terms of order size and turnaround time. Interpon MiniB™ and Interpon MiniB™ Micro are unique, small batch, rapid delivery services exclusive to us. These services provide custom made products to an order size as small as 20kgs, in almost any color and finish, with a selection of technologies.

Click here more information on Interpon MiniB™ and Interpon MiniB™ Micro.