Polymer Processing – Technical Engineer
- Contract type
- Closing date
- Competitive salary + pension scheme
How FlexSea was born
FlexSea is a VC-backed post-seed stage UK-based start-up created by two friends who grew up with the ambition to have a sustainable impact on the Planet. With complementary backgrounds in business management & entrepreneurship on one side, and materials science & engineering on the other, they have since worked on developing fully home-compostable seaweed-based bioplastic formulations to replace petroleum-based Single Used Plastics (SUPs) and other problematic plastic wastes.
Our ambition is to develop a material that is capable of degrading in the natural environment. Most Single Use Plastics (SUPs) are disposed of in landfills or leaked into the environment. Our goal is to build a solution to this ‘worst case scenario’. As our material is derived from natural seaweed extracts and food additives (EFSA-FDA approved), it is intrinsically edible and friendly to the ecosystem if ever leaked in nature.
The patented formulations and processes provide solutions for sustainable packaging in specific sectors with respect to material properties. As the seaweed extracts are intrinsically hydrophilic, we have adapted our product by targeting market segments such as dry item packaging. Firstly, non-foods such as anhydrous cosmetics, hardware, secondary packaging, windows, fashion, and then dry foods or fast-consumption food items (Fast Moving Consumer Goods - FMCG).
From two founders, we have grown to 12 full time employees (FTE) and are supported by a handful of interns in various verticals.
Together we have raised £2.2mln in equity, and won over £1mln in UKRI and international grant projects involving biomaterials R&D. Our team has worked hard to gain traction from large groups in numerous segments and as a result, we are now leading testing and improvement of the film properties. There is more work ahead, to conduct trials on industrial machinery and prepare for the process scale-up.
Advisors from the packaging industry, renowned seaweed experts/phycologists and institutions such as Imperial College London (ICL), Warwick University and University of Bath to quote a few are helping us achieve our goals.
What brings us together?
We share curiosity and passion for sustainability.
Do you wish to channel your knowledge and help us develop a robust solution for plastic waste? Do you share our contempt for greenwashing?
Then join us!
The Role: Polymer Processing – Technical Engineer
With the breadth of responsibilities to endorse in such a small team, we are looking for someone with magic hands, who can speak to machines and show the beauty of their craft as a Technical Engineer. Running equipment and tailoring processes to tune the beautiful music of biomaterials will be your mission.
The ideal candidate will have experience in developing sustainable biodegradable/biobased compounds for extrusion, film casting, injection moulding and film blowing. Preferably, this experience is related to the packaging industry. The candidate will have compelling evidence of complex technical problem-solving, trouble-shoot processing issues on polymer processing – testing equipment, as well as experience with biomaterials and non-conventional resins, sensible to water, shear, and heat, if possible, good knowledge of chemistry.
Additionally, a good amount of experience in materials characterization (at least mechanical) would be a huge plus. Your skills will be honed through experience, but they will also be complete from the introduction of raw material in the machines, to their characterisation.
In this position, the candidate will be able to act as a technical reference in the department, leading small to large scale projects ranging from initial proof of concept projects lasting only a few days to multi-year projects/programs. You will have the opportunity to work at the interface of academia and industry, with many projects, partners, technologies, and market sectors. This variety will give you the opportunity to work on fundamental science/R&D as well as product development and commercialisation.
Speaking of scale, our ambition is here to be shared and we expect you to be versatile between lab (20-40mm) and pilot/production equipment because we plan on growing big!
The responsibilities will include:
- Set up, plan, and execute experimental / pilot scale runs, characterize and report findings to the rest of the team.
- Operation of twin-screw extrusion, single screw extrusion, injection moulding and extrusion cast lines (and maybe more in the future) – including troubleshooting, maintenance, and setup of all the associated ancillary equipment (dryers, chillers, compressed air, etc.)
- Maintain consistent and documented compliance with all relevant Health, Safety, Quality and Environmental (HSQE), and best practice requirements.
- Checking the quality of the products (a willingness to learn about ISO quality standards)
- Conducting R&D work relating to materials or instrumentation, including design of experiments, characterisation, data analysis, reporting and troubleshooting
- Process development work with the manufacturing scale-up team
- Be ready to get your hands dirty for a clean material!
You will be reporting directly to the Chief Technical Officer.
FlexSea is an early-stage start-up, and we work independently. If you are ready to have a flexible schedule and able to adapt to changes, then you are the right person for us!
Your technical capabilities will allow you to conduct the following duties:
- Prepare polymer equipment and materials for processing. For example, complete tool changes, set machine parameters.
- Run and monitor polymer processes, adjusting parameters such as speed, temperature, pressure, and time – and ensuring the process is reliable in scale-up.
- Complete quality control processes. For example, conduct grade parameter checks (size, colour, weight). Take samples for laboratory testing. Perform material testing (rheology, moisture, tensile etc).
- Resolve process, quality and operating environment issues when operating out of normal parameters. For example, out of specification parameter.
- Assist in providing information to partners and clients who will use our material – i.e. SOP, processing suggestion, injection guidelines, etc.
- Complete process documentation. For example, process and production records, traceability records, quality assurance records.
- Maintain the work area (housekeeping) following safety, environmental and risk management systems. Ensure waste is separated, segregated, and handled in accordance with environmental standards.
- Establish a process involving new or modified equipment, tooling or material and report on the outcomes. Carry out process trials and capability studies.
- Conduct first line routine maintenance (daily and preventative), minor repairs, and testing of polymer processing equipment. For example, checking guarding, lubrication, cleaning of tooling, safety checks, and inspection for wear and tear.
- Prepare polymer process equipment for maintenance and overhaul. You will be autonomous in changing screw profiles, dies, feeders and operating other ancillary equipment before, during and after the polymer processing runs.
- Participate in risk assessment activities.
- Participate in root cause investigations for quality related issues and implement the corrective action to ensure that failures are non-repeatable, and production is ongoing.
- Participate in initial material characterization, mainly mechanical testing (tensile test, tear test, dart drop) and report findings.
Other non-technical skills:
- Ability to work under own initiative, manage multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment.
- Results-oriented self-starter capable of setting goals, planning, and executing complex research projects with effective oversight of future technician level employees.
- Participate in continuous improvement activities working with lean manufacturing principles.
- Fluency, both spoken and written, in English language is required.
- Right to work in the UK without the need for a Visa.
- UK valid driving license (international even better).
Nice to have:
- Technical, engineering or science degree, BTEC or equivalent accepted with high industrial experience.
- Experience working with compounding complex or unconventional systems is desirable.
- Experience with other characterisation techniques, such as thermal (rheology, MFI, HDT/Vicat), and barrier properties (OTR, WVTR, WCA). You will be brought to collaborate with other team members on this characterisation phase.
- Experience in blow moulding, thermoforming, rotational moulding, internal mixing, and calendaring.
- Good understanding of polymer chemistry and interactions. - You have designed formulations to performance specifications based on a fundamental understanding of polymer structure/property relationships.
- Knowledge in/experience with polysaccharides, biomass, and other natural polymer materials; their properties, formulation techniques, processing, and characterisation.
- Experience working in a start-up environment.
- Experience with 3D printing techniques (SLS, FDM).
- Knowledge in 3D CAD modelling.
- Experience developing and commercializing new products.
Desirable personal attributes:
- Strong problem-solving capabilities. A team player. Hands on, not afraid to get hands dirty. An aptitude for working on mechanical equipment (maybe a DIY car/bike maintenance enthusiast). Excellent timekeeping. Enthusiastic approach to the work. A desire to continue to develop skills and knowledge. Clean driving licence and willingness to take occasional travel.
- Curiosity and passion for sustainability.
- A genuine despise for GREENWASHING!
What we offer you
- A competitive salary and pension scheme
- Ride-to-work scheme, Free parking.
- Time to recharge your batteries with 28 days paid holiday during each holiday year, including public holidays en England and Wales, and Bonus Day-off for your Birthday (or nearest day if it falls in the above)
- It is a full-time position with flexible working hours and the purpose of creating a positive impact on the Planet.
- You will work in the Wolverhampton area in a fully kitted-out state-of-the-art processing lab
Start Date: March 2024
Interested? Apply by reaching out to [email protected]