&rtreturn;Massimo Pierini, employed at Stahl Europe’s Arzignano facility in Italy, is the overall winner of this year’s Stahl Innovation Award. Pierini’s entry, a water-based in-mould coating for foamed polyurethane soles, for the ‘New Product or Formulation’ category. The other categories are ‘Existing Product in a New Application’, ‘New or Modified Manufacturing Process’ and ‘Procedural Innovation’.The scheme attracted twenty three entries from Europe, India, Brazil and Asia.

The overall award of €5000 together with the first prize of €2500 in the New Product category, was made by the judges for an outstanding innovative and commercially viable process that overcomes almost all the technical and environmental problems associated with the manufacture of foamed polyurethane soles, as well as simplifying the process and reducing the associated costs.

With a typical sole unit manufacturer producing between 60,000 and 100,000 pairs of soles every day, daily solvent emission levels are around 1440 Kg, which is unacceptable under the latest legislation. Reductions of up to 70% are called for and this new process will play a major role in achieving this aim.

The second major technical benefit is that in-mould coating helps to overcome the difficulties that have always been present in coating foam polyurethane sole units because of the presence of silicon. In addition it provides a method of coating footwear such as that used in hospitals, at work or in sport or leisure, where the uppers are also created using polyurethane foam coatings. In these instances a classic coating cannot be applied and a technique such as this is essential if the sole and upper are to function together satisfactorily.

Taken together, the reduction of solvent emissions and the technical advantages associated with this process represent a dramatic improvement in methods of producing foam polyurethane soles. But there is one further important advantage. The production process is simplified and this leads to a vital reduction in manufacturing costs.

A second first prize of €2500 was awarded to a team from Stahl International and Stahl Europe based in Waalwijk for an Improved Haptic Poly-Matte. Members of the team were Paul Ostlender, Jan Dekkers, John Hoffman, Rick Pasman, Ad van Dorst, Monique Hallmanns, Neel de Volder, Robert Daamen, Karen Brighouse, Jan van Hulten, Jacks Coomans, Leon Wassink and Wim van der Velden.

In the Existing Product in a New Application category, the first prize of €2500 was won by André Derksen and Rens Hesselmans, also of Stahl International in Waalwijk. Their project was the development of Stahl’s patented carbodiimide crosslinkers.

All three of these awards were presented in Waalwijk by Frank Policky, chief executive officer of Stahl Holdings. Massimo Pierini received his award at a ceremony held on 8 June and the other European-based teams received their awards on 19 June.

The first prize of €2500 in the New or Modified Manufacturing Process category was won by Mario Jimenez, Montse Oliveras and Eva Tejada of Stahl Europe’s plant in Parets, near Barcelona, Spain, for their work on Improvement of Robustness of Solvent-Free Acrylic-Urethane Hybrids, a novel technology which provides VOC- and amine-free coatings. The award was presented by Rogier van Duin, Vice President Research & Technology at a local ceremony on May 11 in Barcelona.

The final award, again for a prize of €2500 was by José Carlos Werle, Luis Antonio Zucco and Eder Kopes from Stahl Brasil for improvements to IT and Purchasing systems in the People or Procedural Class. This award was presented locally by Remy Vial on May 29.

Frank Policky explained that Stahl had been running the awards for several years now. He stated:’the standard of entries has now risen to such a high level that the scheme is providing valuable new technology for the company. Indeed, this year, three projects were judged to be of high strategic importance for the Stahl Group but are too early in their development to assess their full potential and so they have been invited to be resubmitted for the 2006 Awards.’