Issue: Jul 2017


Going beneath the surface of paint technology



by Clinton Wright

Innovations in paint technology have helped OEMs to reduce paint shop solid waste generation by 90% and cut the energy used to paint a car by 30%.

 These are some of the breakthroughs introduced by US-based PPG, a US$ 14.8 billion a year company which invests 3% of sales in R&D to develop new coatings, paints and materials in order to make the painting of automobiles more eco-friendly. In addition, PPG structural adhesives allow OEMs to cut costs and weight by reducing welds in the vehicle body while helping to comply with crash regulations and roof crush tests. These products also increase Uni-body and Body on Frame construction rigidity to reduce vehicle vibration, resulting in a more comfortable ride.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Roald Johannsen, General Manager Automotive Coatings for PPG EMEA, how important the 'greening' of the paint shop is to automotive manufacturers.

 Johannsen: Going green and reducing the carbon footprint of a car, from the manufacturing process to its operational efficiency, is the biggest challenge the industry is facing, with pressure coming from both governments and consumers. We're working closely with car manufacturers to develop new products which address this issue.

One way we're making cars greener is by reducing their production cycle time, such as our B1:B2 system which reduces the energy consumption of painting a car by 30%. Removing heavy metals is another area we're focusing on. We've already made key improvements in this space, such as our electrocoat process, Enviro-Prime EPIC, which uses an organic catalyst system that enables the e-coat to cure without tin-based compounds. This innovation also uses 10% less coating than traditional technologies, resulting in significant cost savings for both car manufacturers and consumers as the car's fuel efficiency is improved through lightweighting.

AI: How much can automotive OEMs save by using your B1:B2 system?

Johannsen: Our B1:B2 system significantly improves the cost, production and environmental efficiency of manufacturing a car by allowing the color coat to be applied directly over the base coat in the same paint booth, eliminating the intervening bake process and inspection steps which are traditionally carried out. By simplifying the number of steps necessary to paint a car, we've reduced the total energy consumption of painting a vehicle by 30% while also lowering emissions, water use and cycle time per car. This results in significant cost savings per vehicle at no sacrifice in the quality of the final finish. It also allows car manufacturers to save tens of millions of dollars in capital expenditure by requiring a smaller paint shop. It's a real game changer.

AI: Tell us about the new PPG automotive coating technologies that were highlighted at the 2017 FOCUS coatings conference.

Johannsen: We presented innovations in powder coatings used on light vehicle bodies which improve the operational efficiency and chip resistance of the car while also resulting in near-zero volatile organic compound (VOC) emission. We also presented Project LEAPP (Low Energy Automotive Paint Process), an extension of our B1:B2 compact paint system. The technology is funded, in part, by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), U.S. Department of Energy. Our vision is to develop spray-applied coating layers to enable low-temperature curing in industrial applications.

AI: What are the future trends in automotive paint color?

Johannsen: According to our research, 60% of consumers identify color as a major factor in their car buying decisions, so it's a major factor for us and our customers. Consumers want vehicle colors that express their individuality, while car manufacturers want colors that match the brand. To make sure we're hitting the perfect balance between vehicle branding and consumer tastes we tap into our global network of color experts across sectors, including automotive, consumer electronics, industrial applications, aerospace, and architectural to identify the latest global color trends. Once our color experts are on-trend, we work closely with our customers to align the trends with their own brand identity.

Currently consumers are opting for neutral colors such as white, black silver and grey, which are the top four across most of the world. Red and blue make up fifth and sixth spot. However, blue has been growing in popularity as a color choice for consumers around the world and that's because it works well with new innovations we're developing to bring out more vibrant color. By adding hue, chroma and flake we're bringing the colors to life in a new way.

AI then asked William Brunat, Technical Director Automotive Coatings PPG EMEA, to expand on some of the latest trends in automotive paints and coatings.

Brunat: It's an exciting time to be working in automotive as the industry is rapidly changing. Paints and coatings can play an important role in improving the efficiency of driverless cars and electric vehicles, and our R&D team is developing new technologies to address some of the biggest issues with both technologies. Safety concerns of driverless cars, for example, are a vital problem car manufacturers need to tackle, and we're developing smart coatings which absorb less of the infrared light used by the sensors to enhance the detection and ranging between autonomous vehicles to make them safer. We're also developing easy to clean coatings for sensors and camera lenses which allow better detection capabilities in adverse weather conditions. For electric vehicles, one of the biggest issues car manufacturers face is around the car’s battery life and the accessibility to charging points, and we want to develop paints with solar micro panels which collect solar energy to charge the car.

AI: What role has PPG played in bringing new technologies to OEMs?

Brunat: We have a unique heritage in automotive. We've been working in the industry for over 80 years and in that time we've brought innovations to the market which have had a significant impact on the sector, both for car manufacturers and consumers. Car rust has been eliminated due to innovations from PPG and we were also first to introduce scratch-resistant clearcoats to the sector.

AI: How effective have technologies such as self-cleaning paints been?

Brunat: A technology we're currently working on which will have a significant impact on car manufacturers and consumer is our easy-to-clean non-stick clearcoat surfaces which dramatically reduce the need for car washing. This technology already exists in other industries such as consumer electronics, but self-cleaning paints aren't available for cars yet. We've set ourselves the challenge of bringing this to the automotive market, and we're the only ones making noise in this space currently. To test the effectiveness of our technology, we've been working with Daimler. Currently, the coating's non-stick characteristics last 12 months and we want to push that to a minimum of two years before commercializing it.



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