eyrise®: a startup where technical challenges are tackled
What is it like as a TMC’er to work for a startup? Employeneur Rik Deckers, who has been working at Merck Window Technologies for a year, tells us everything. He was able to implement a quality improvement and change in behavior in the company which makes switchable windows mostly for office buildings both for outdoors and indoor.
Imagine a window that could switch from milky white to clear, or from clear to tinted with the push of a button... It seems magical, but the start-up eyrise® is already putting up the first switchable windows on buildings! Here’s how Rik Deckers from TMC’s Manufacturing Support Cell improves the processes and the product through a project at eyrise®.
A one-pixel window
He’s already worked there for a year, yet the eyes of Rik Deckers still light up when he talks about the proprietary technology of eyrise®, a brand name of Merck Window Technologies. These windows can turn dark when the sun glare makes it difficult to see your screen. They also can have privacy applications with a product that can switch from clear glass to milky white.
“On top of being very useful, the technology is fascinating! Basically, it works as an LCD-screen. Two glass sheets with a special coating are glued together. In the space between the glasses the liquid crystals solution is applied. Our windows are actually an LCD-screen with only one pixel.”
“The crystals in the solution are small charged rods which lay parallel to the surface of the glass, making the window opaque. The rods are, very slightly, charged positively on one side and negatively on the other. By applying a current to the glass, the rods stand up like iron filings to a magnet, letting light pass through, ensuring the window becomes clear,” explains Rik.
From tinted to clear in one second
The technology of eyrise® is especially suited for large office buildings, which use blinds or tinted glass to prevent the sun from glaring on the screens. “One of the issues of tinted glass is that it creates a very dark working environment. With our technology, the windows can be switched individually and only the windows in the sun can be switched to dark. It allows for a much more inviting working space and it’s a space saving solution too since you don’t need blinds anymore. Because we use dye molecules when manufacturing the windows, we can also give them a bespoke tint.”
Most switchable windows available on the market take minutes before they change hues. eyrise®’s windows react faster. “Because we use current and charged rods we can switch almost instantly.” Proudly, Rik adds: “We can switch a window from clear to milky white or dark in a second, without the user noticing where the switching originates from. It’s truly magical.”
One of the secrets of this technical process is the “spacers”: they’re small white spheres applied between the two glass sheets in a special machine. This very important step in the production ensures that the windows are flawlessly turning hazy and opaque for a perfect user experience.
Everything is possible
When Rik started this project the rejection rate of the windows due to errors around the spacers was around 18%. “The control of the process for applying the spacers did not work as intended. Every operator would perform actions in their own ways,” he recounts. By standardizing the process Rik was able to reduce the reject to ±0,9%. “I have evaluated the work instructions, together with the operators, and written down the correct actions. By formalizing the work instructions and through properly training the staff, all the operators now work according to the same procedures. Now, the operators even have an out of control action plan to be able to prematurely adjust the process to avoid rejects.”
Working at a startup is a challenge for Rik, but a great learning opportunity: “The company is very R&D driven: anything is possible! There is lots of diversity in the company. I have colleagues from Italy, China and Germany and we also have a lot of female coworkers.” In September his project was extended for another half year with a new assignment: quality improvement. “I am now working on improving processes and work instructions. You can clearly feel that the company is taking steps in further standardizing.”
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