After founding Stafford Engineering in Hamilton 32 years ago, Roger Evans never imagined he would be building a customised machine that turns collagen from hoki skins into a luxury skincare product to be sold internationally.
Stafford has worked extensively in the dairy industry as well as attracting local and international clients from the food processing and packaging industry that need customised machines to meet their individual needs.
Most recently, Stafford built an electrospinning machine nicknamed The Iguana to manufacture activLayr, a skincare product made by West Auckland nanofibre producer Revolution Fibres. It found a niche in supplying bespoke machines like The Iguana – making one-off, complex machines both locally and internationally.
actiVLayr uses collagen extracted from fish skins as a base ingredient which is then combined with elements such as fruit extracts and hyaluronic acid to make a 100 per cent natural and sustainably sourced product. The Iguana transforms the collagen and other extracts into a sheet of nanofibre, which when exposed to wet skin dissolves rapidly and releases the bioactives deep into the skin.
Mr Evans, Stafford co-founder, says skincare and beauty is an industry he never expected he would work in.
"When we started working with Revolution Fibres three years ago we knew nothing about electrospinning technology. We built a small 'pilot' machine two years ago for Revolution Fibres that gave us sufficient knowledge on how an electrospinning machine works, but the Iguana is on another level, I never thought we would be building a machine for an international beauty product but here we are, helping make a face mask that reduces wrinkles."
The Iguana will enable Revolution Fibres to quadruple its existing production output, with capacity to increase scale in the future. The company has large orders for actiVLayr in Asia, and an increased demand for nanofibre products from a diverse range of sectors, including Formula One racing teams and the aerospace industry.
With more than 9000 components, and at 7m long, The Iguana is one of the largest machines of its kind in the world. Revolution Fibres operations manager Brent Tucker says while the company has been producing nanofibre for almost a decade, The Iguana enables a greatly increased production capacity.
"The Iguana is a fantastic collaboration between the best Kiwi minds from the science and engineering worlds," he says.
Stafford Engineering co-founder Roger Evans says most of its clients know what they want to produce but don't have the expertise to build it themselves.
"For us a machine is a machine and in the case of Revolution Fibres, they had a very good idea of what they wanted," he says.
The nanofibre manufacturing process starts with fishing company Sanford supplying hoki skins, from which pure collagen is extracted. Using the process of electrospinning The Iguana transforms the collagen into nanofibre.
During the process natural ingredients such as kiwifruit and grapeseed are infused.
Nanofibres — measuring between 100-500 nanometres in width (a human hair is 50,000 nm wide) — can create vast changes in mechanical strength, reactivity, and, in the case of skin care, absorbency.