CHEMEON Surface Technology is celebrating its 10th anniversary of successfully serving the finishing and coating industry with chemistry, products, and services that protect manufactured parts and equipment.
CHEMEON has been at the forefront of developing safer MIL-DTL-qualified alternatives to the known carcinogen hexavalent chrome for the last decade.
We spoke with co-owners Madylon Meiling, PhD. C.E.O. and Dean Meiling, CFO, as well as Chemeon President and COO Ted Ventresca, on the 10-year milestone and about the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility through the research and development of its products.
Tell us a little about your background and how that may have played a part in your vision for CHEMEON becoming an inventor and collaborator on environmental solutions for corrosion protection.
Madylon Meiling, Ph.D., CEO and Owner: I can truly say that I have had an exciting career path that has led to CHEMEON. Working with senior executives and their teams as a corporate consultant and executive coach enabled me to transform CHEMEON from insolvency and ineffective management to profitability and success in the global race to replace hexavalent chrome, a widely used carcinogen. We have expanded upon our existing and environmentally friendly MIL SPEC-qualified suite of hex-chrome replacements under our CHEMEON TCP-HF brand to now include a next-generation conversion coating, our patented and MIL-DTL-approved CHEMEON eTCP with improved corrosion protection, adhesion, and a visible color to insure complete application and protection of the part.
Dean Meiling, Chief Financial Officer and Owner: Two things come to mind. One, I have always remembered a quote attributed to, as I recall, J.P. Morgan, the famous banker: “The first man gets the oyster, and the second man gets the shell.” It proclaims the benefit of innovating and being first and reaping greater rewards than “me too” or “copycat” products or services. CHEMEON devotes a large share of its budget to R&D focused on chemistry for improved corrosion protection that is environmentally friendly. Through this R&D, we have greatly expanded our suite of these chemistries and developed new techniques for applying them. Two, most of my career involved working in a tremendously successful business because the key players worked collaboratively within the firm and with clients. None of the key people could have been nearly as successful individually. And listening to clients gave us the confidence to expand into new markets. A start-up in the 1970s became a world leader in just 25 years and did so without the capital of many seasoned competitors.
What challenges did you need to overcome to put CHEMEON on a path to becoming an industry leader in replacing hexavalent chrome Cr(VI) as a conversion coating?
Ted Ventresca CHEMEON President and Chief Operating Officer: There were a few key factors to overcome. For 80+ years, legacy parts (systems) on aircraft and vehicles specified the distinctive yellow-gold colored hexavalent chrome, a known carcinogen. Cr(VI), sometimes still referred to by one of its original brand names, Alodine, was widely used by the military. It is still found in legacy parts and in industry, from paints to decorative chrome, and even still used in tanning leather. Many military parts coated with hex chrome are considered mission-critical, which means corrosion to that part could result in catastrophic failure of the vehicle or asset. That alone validates the DoD and OEM's reluctance to allow alternative coatings on those parts. This is where the core expertise of CHEMEON’s business development and science team comes in. Understanding the end user's needs and providing a solution is the main reason we have become known as a valuable and collaborative partner to prime contractors, OEMs, and the DoD as they look to test, validate, and ultimately specify CHEMEON conversions coatings and anodic seal solutions as the safer alternative to legacy coating systems like hex chrome (CrVI) for use on various metals and alloys including aluminum, cadmium, magnesium, and galvanized steel. We also saw a specific need to help the industry achieve consistent trivalent corrosion protection and adhesion performance on 2024 aluminum, which has a higher copper content than other aluminum alloys. 2024 is the preferred aluminum for plate and sheet metals in high-pressure and stress environments due to its strength-to-weight ratio. 2024 Al also provides greater fatigue resistance and is used as the paneling or “skin” of aircraft, military, and commercial vehicle frames, parts, and structural design. This led us to focus development on our patented and Qualified Product List (QPL) approved eTCP. Not only does it meet MIL-DTL 81706B and MIL-DTL 5541F standards, but it also provides a visual color indicator that parts are coated and protected. Both of these attributes are key differentiators from traditional TCP coatings. Our development of eTCP has allowed CHEMEON to collaborate with our global network of OEM partners, industry, and distributors in taking a deeper dive into new market penetration for the technology.
Early on, CHEMEON brought on individuals who helped the company work with their industry counterparts and customers to help build the CHEMEON name, such as Byron Estes, Ted Ventresca, and Dr Sjon Westre. How did that help in bringing awareness to the CHEMEON products and services?
Madylon Meiling: We assembled the best people to collaborate and elevate CHEMEON as a global solutions provider. Our leadership team began with Byron Estes, a legendary leader in the metal finishing industry; it was because of the U.S. Navy’s regard and relationship with Byron that CHEMEON holds the license to TCP.
Ted Ventresca: In 2015, Byron along with Jason Kerver, Vice President of Administration helped me begin to set a standard for the level of personal customer service and provider of solutions that continues to differentiate CHEMEON from competitors. Byron retired as our Global VP of Sales in 2018, but his positive impact continues to resonate throughout the company and the metal finishing industry. During the 2020-2023 period when the pandemic was causing supply chain, delivery issues and delays throughout the industry, it was Jason Kerver’s invaluable expertise in logistics, supply chain management, IT and CRM, that resulted in a consistent stock of raw chemicals, blending and shipping to enable a smooth and seamless global availability of Chemeon’s 200+ products. The Meilings had a vision for innovation at CHEMEON that was well beyond its geographic location in Nevada. That vision fits well with my senior management and revenue generation years for some of the largest international media companies. I appreciate their trust in allowing me to rebrand the company as CHEMEON, retool an antiquated sales model, implement advanced digital marketing and training, and assemble a team that focuses on creating benchmark innovations, customer service, partnerships, and, most recently, expansion across the EU through an exclusive distributorship of eTCP with H.A.I. Horsens of Denmark. I recall a pivotal moment for the company when I shared with Madylon and Dean the opportunity to bring Dr. Sjon Westre home to Nevada and CHEMEON. Dr. Westre was the first scientist to scale the Navy’s TCP technology for MIL-SPEC certification and commercialization as our TCP-HF (Hexavalent Free). Dr. Westre is also the original author and presenter of our TCP, anodizing, and titanium training, which has grown to include online/onsite training and in-house at our technical center and laboratory. Dr. Westre’s recent CHEMEON innovations have resulted in multiple patents, including developing the benchmark chemistry, eTCP.
Madylon Meiling: I am most proud of our team of leaders and innovators focused on customer solutions and exceptional service, particularly now with the Q4 2024 ban of hexavalent chrome in Europe and the critical need OEM and industry express for panel testing, process-related and best practice training classes with CHEMEON TCP. The industry and the right people respect the CHEMEON team we have in place to make eTCP a global solution in the fight against corrosion.
You all helped CHEMEON establish itself with the U.S. Navy Environmental Sustainability Development to Integration (NESDI) program, which resulted in CHEMEON’s eTCP selection as a Best Performing TCP. Tell us about that endeavor and how it has helped the surface finishing industry.
Ted Ventresca: Early on, we knew there was an environmental need to provide a safer alternative solution to hexavalent chrome. Achieving this solution for process shop applicators, soldiers, and the general public was paramount to CHEMEON, the DoD, and the industry. Also, we knew that when conversion coating is applied by staff, in the field at MRO facilities, or by soldiers in theater, some applicators may need more PPE or lab-based precautions that metal finishing experts, scientists, or process engineers may have at their disposal when working with a substance like hexavalent chrome. Mitigating the exposure to, and handling of, hexavalent chrome was another key driver to our development of the safer, next-gen alternative, eTCP. That is why our focus was also on creating a colorized conversion coating that provides consistent MIL-DTL corrosion protection, superior adhesion, and a unique visual color indicator so that the applicator who may be coating the skin of an aircraft or protecting an intricately printed 3D metal part, knew that the entire part was coated and protected. The Navy had long been looking for this solution as well. Thus, a collaboration led by Peter Sheridan of the U.S. Navy Fleet Readiness Center South East (FRCSE) commenced. In 2018, the original NESDI presentation on eTCP, which detailed the testing that included multi-year panel testing for corrosion at the NASA beachfront testing location at Cape Canaveral, CHEMEON and FRCSE lab collaboration, progress and conclusions was released. The eTCP project and study was met with great interest and high regard by the DoD and industry. In the years since, CHEMEON’s patented eTCP has been used, specified, and continues to be tested and validated by the DoD, OEMs, and industry worldwide.
CHEMEON’s Tech Center and Laboratory in Minden is one of the few in North America that teaches hands-on anodizing best practices. How important has that training facility been to building a great relationship with the industry?
Ted Ventresca: CHEMEON’s certification training in anodizing and eTCP/TCP-HF conversion coating has always been a vital resource to OEMs and applicators. When the pandemic occurred, employee headcount was significantly disrupted across all industry sectors. This impacted the Metal Finishing and surface treatment industry’s ability to hire new processors or maintain a consistently qualified workforce. This made the CHEMEON training center programs even more of a value to the industry. Processors, Captive Shops, and OEMs rely on CHEMEON training to bring new employees, engineers, and processors, who may lack the years of learned knowledge of anodizing and conversion coating, up to speed on best practices for parts processing, consistent quality control, and troubleshooting. Being there to help the industry ensure their teams of material process engineers, applicators and management are at the top of their processing game highlights CHEMEON’s strengths in customer support and personalized tech support. This is designed to help customers minimize downtime and meet short lead times for processing orders. CHEMEON is a reliable and committed partner.
CHEMEON has prided itself on taking care of customers and the environment simultaneously. How has that worked so effectively?
Ted Ventresca: Every CHEMEON team member who receives a customer inquiry via email or phone is genuinely interested in helping respond to that customer with the information, answers, and solution they need. I think this is the only technology or chemical company that can and will connect a customer with the inventor of the technology or chemistry they are calling about. We describe eTCP as the “Power of Protection you Can See.” CHEMEON is also the source of responsive and supportive customer service that our clients see and hear when interacting with the company.
What does the future hold for CHEMEON as it continues its innovation programs to assist its surface-finishing customers?
Madylon Meiling: Recently, Dean and I attended the MRO Europe 2023 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam and were pleased with the overwhelming attention and interest in CHEMEON eTCP as the preferred replacement for hexavalent chrome, which is banned in the EU due to its classification as a known and proven carcinogen. California will be the first state to ban toxic chromium 6; we believe other states will follow. CHEMEON is expanding its resources for testing and processing customer panels to support the transition to eTCP.
Dean Meiling: We continue to focus on expanding CHEMEON’s intellectual property related to corrosion protection and environmentally friendly metal finishing chemistries. We also want to expand the global reach of our products and services.