What is Driving Demand for Custom Synthesis Today?
Multiple industries are currently experiencing a rapid demand in new materials as the key enabling technology which will yield improved performance in end-use products. In applications ranging from semiconductor to healthcare, the development of new materials which solve critical problems or enhance final product useage continues to ramp. Both small and large companies are investing in these new materials development and are frequently looking for custom synthesis capabilities external to their own organization for collaborative assistance in the laboratory and/or scale-up development of the materials.
1. Ramping from Lab-scale and Pilot-scale to full scale production
Small and large companies recognize the importance of their own intellectual property for new materials and the end-uses such materials enable. Therefore, many companies initially synthesize the first new materials which are utilized to demonstrate the improvement in performance desired and allow for the filing of key intellectual property protecting the materials and/or application. If the company decides that the material is desired at higher scale as its performance justifies scale, typically, one of two pathways are chosen for the scaled-up synthesis of such materials: in-house/captive production or external production. Often, companies who desire such materials to be scaled-up do not possess internal chemical scaling assets, and will seek external custom synthesis partners to engage. Putting captive in-house synthesis capabilities in place for a single development material is often not cost competitive vs. a collaborative relationship with an external custom synthesis company. Most of these projects are normally still really laboratory procedures which have been focused on developing enough material to test and file IP, not optimized for a full-scale production process. Therefore, when such projects are brought to external partners, a critical decision is in choosing the appropriate external partner for the existing status for the project.
2. Customer collaboration imperative when outsourcing custom synthesis manufacturing
Normally, materials which have been initially developed in a laboratory setting and for which an end-user is now seeking larger volumes of materials are typically prepared at similar scales by the external custom synthesis organization in a collaborative manner with the customer’s in-house chemists to insure repeatability. Next, as the new material is scaled from laboratory to pilot to full (up to multi-ton) quantities, the external custom synthesis/contract manufacturing organization would work collaboratively with the customer to insure that performance continues to be attractive as does the economics of the project vs. the customers’ expectations. In our experience, effective external partners must be able to bridge the initial contract research-like activities with pilot scale-up and full-scale manufacturing capabilities to allow the customer to have a seamless experience as their project scales. Effective communication between the customer and its external custom manufacturing partner is paramount to the success of the projects, such that each partner is able to achieve the economics desired, but also that the project management goals are mutually understood and shared.