Taking laboratory analysis into the cloud
Solvay’s business unit Coatis has developed a testing tool to let its customers conduct solubility simulations entirely online. Time and money will be saved by all – and the whole project was run collaboratively.
Coatis’ customers are companies or institutions that need to perform solubility and evaporation simulations to identify the most suitable solvent systems for their paint and varnish formulations. So far, that meant conducting actual lab experiments on their own, or relying on a Coatis expert. These experts would use the in-house Solsys solvent solubilization system to conduct virtual simulations.
Quick & easy
By using computer modeling, Solvay was already helping its customers save money and solve technical problems. But as of early 2019, thanks to the launch of the new online version of Solsys, the whole process will become even more cost-effective – and quick. “We are innovating by putting in the cloud a technology that was developed offline in the 1990s,” explains Caio Molinari, researcher for Application Development at Coatis. “So far, customers wanting a solubilization study had to wait for the availability of one of our specialists with Solsys installed in their system. Now they will be able to conduct the simulations online themselves.”
Solsys Lite was designed to be user-friendly and intuitive. Users won’t need the assistance of experts or to take training courses to conduct their simulations. What’s more, it will work on any type of electronic device, and will be available in English, Portuguese and Spanish. The offline version had been steadily improved over the years, for example with the introduction of Solsys VR, a virtual reality system for the validation of solubilization systems that works with Oculus Rift, Facebook’s VR headset. Nevertheless, it all remained offline, and the teams at Coatis wanted to create an online version to make the software available to their customers.
We are innovating by putting in the cloud a technology that was developed offline in the 1990s.
Agility and prototyping
Solsys Lite is the result of a collaborative process that Coatis conducted hand in hand with its customers, in order to be aligned with their needs and expectations. “We involved our customers in the process of creating this new version by promoting a Design Sprint,” says Daniel Franco, director of BU Solvents, referring to Google’s methodology for agile development through prototyping and testing ideas with users.
The Solsys Lite Design Sprint brought together Research & Development representatives from major players in the sector, along with students, professors, and Dextra, a software development company. The participants formed a pool of beta testers that shared their expectations regarding the solution and agreed on two main focus points: first, the amount of time to balance solubility, evaporation and cost at the lab could be decreased through simulations, and second, the software should be intuitive and easy to use even for first-time users. Then solutions to meet those demands were proposed and incorporated into a prototype so they could test the tool during collaborative workshops.
Now Solsys Lite is just about ready to be launched, but improvements won’t stop there. “By putting Solsys Lite in the cloud, we aim to attract more users, explains Daniel. “This will enable us to create a database that will serve as the basis for a second wave of development that will incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to better serve our customers”. When chemistry and computers join forces, the sky's the limit.