New sheen next-gen automotive

New sheen for next-gen automotive

7:44 AM, 22nd June 2018
New sheen for next-gen automotive. © Toyota Motor Corporation
The role of coatings is expanding from just giving colour and gloss to an automotive exterior. © Toyota Motor Corporation

Fast paced developments in the automotive industry demands a new outlook for pigments and coatings market.

By Debarati Das

Its not just the speed and the throttle that determines the X-factor of a car, but also the sheen, the shine and the gloss that ups the oomph of these automobiles. And hence, the right pigment for that perfect coating determines the market success of the whole package.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global automotive coatings market is expected to reach $36.31 billion by 2025 owing to the increasing vehicle production. The right coating not just enhances the appearance and durability of automobiles but also provides protection from harsh environmental conditions including acid rain, extreme temperature, UV radiations and dust particles.

Reports suggest that while Europe is expected to witness steady growth, the major demand for this market is expected to arise from the emerging countries including China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, and South Africa which is becoming the next big automotive market due to population growth and rising income levels in this region. Many companies are taking this opportunity to expand and strengthen their hold in these regions.

Axalta Coating Systems expanded their activities in China and India lately by installing additional capacity in India to supply OEMs and expanding their waterborne facility in China to meet customers’ requirements for reduced VOC emissions.

“These facilities and the significant investments made in the past couple of years are in sync with Axalta’s strong commitment to this region to deliver innovative and comprehensive coating solutions to our customers in every sector of the automotive market and in other industry sectors,” said Charlie Shaver, chairman and CEO, Axalta.

Last year, PPG Industries Inc also completed an electrocoat blending facility in Zhangjiagang, China and plastics coatings (bumper coatings) dispense operation in Tianjin, China. The year before, the company completed investments in Sumare, Sao Paulo, Brazil and San Juan del Rio, Mexico to meet increased demand for automotive coatings in those regions. The company also opened a new waterborne and high solids solvent-borne expansion in Wuhu, China and plans to build a new automotive resin facility in India. “We expect to see steady growth in EMEA and Asia with modest growth in North America,” said Tim Knavish, senior vice president, Automotive Coatings, PPG.

Apart from meeting coating demands for new vehicle production, a huge demand for high end pigments and coating arise from the refurbishing activities due to a growing demand for second hand cars.

Trends in automotive pigments

The dynamics of a vehicle is changing, and so is the industry. This has had an enormous impact on the functionalities of pigments. On one hand, environmental concerns have led to stringent rules and regulations to keep a check on the emissions of hazardous air pollutants, such as toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene and methyl ethyl ketone, making way for more environment friendly and non-VOC pigments in automotive coatings. On the other hand, the industry is experimenting with lightweight materials which are replacing traditional metals bodies of automobiles. Coatings too need to keep up with the changing facades and come up with pigments which will give the same gloss and shine.

Adding to this, the new age pigments for automotive coatings also need to address new demands of being lightweight, corrosion resistant, cost effective, recyclable while giving greater durability.

Here are some of the trends that are picking up in this industry lately:

High-performance Pigments: The high-performance pigments market is one of the fastest growing segments in this market. According to a report by Smithers Rapra, HPP held a global volume market worth $4.76 billion in 2016 and is poised to grow at a CAGR of 3 percent to become a $5.49 billion market by 2021. This growth will mainly be shouldered by the high demand for HPPs from the automobile segment.

However, going forward, with stringent environmental regulations, there will be a demand for more sustainable HPPs and performance pigments with low emissions of VOCs. Most pigment end users and consumers are also showing keen interest towards less environmentally damaging pigment technologies without compromising on the colour quality. Some of the best sellers in HPP market are:

Organic pigments: Inorganic high-performance pigments held a demand share of over 60% of the global market in 2014. However, organic high-performance pigments and bio-based pigments are expected to rule the roost in the future with changing customer buying patterns and favourable regulatory scenario. The trend to go organic is a ubiquitous phenomenon and automotive pigments are no different. The demand for organic pigments has been continuously rising over the last couple of years due to its superior properties of nontoxicity, better colour strength, and cost effectiveness.

Smart coating: The role of coatings is expanding from just giving colour and gloss to an automotive exterior. Coatings today also come with additional performance characteristics like self-healing, self-cleaning, dirt repelling and solar-reflective functionalities. Among these, cooling pigments is a fast-developing segment. These mixed-metal oxide pigments have the capacity to reflect near infrared (IR) radiation while adding colour. They are environmentally sustainable as reflection of heat lessens heat transfer into the interior and saves on air conditioning costs. BASF recently launched a new functional paint technology which utilizes a basecoat which is transparent to high-energy near infrared (NIR) radiation, and an NIR reflecting filler. This reduces the vehicle surface temperature by up to 20° C controlling the temperature in the car. “Factors such as A/C regulation have a major impact on the range of a vehicle, particularly in the field of electromobility. Our technology reduces energy consumption and thus optimizes the vehicle’s efficiency,” said Stephan Schwarte, head of pigments, dispersions & innovative Colors, EMEA, BASF.

However, with these added characteristics, the new age pigment solutions need to address challenges of retaining quality on vehicles.

Powder coatings: Among various types of coatings, there is a growing demand for powder coatings mainly because of its environment friendly nature. It is a solvent free method for layering surfaces and these coatings do not release volatile organic compounds (VOC) making them. The demand for this coating will witness an additional boost with the rising demand for electric and hybrid vehicles in the market. According to reports, powder coatings are projected to witness a volume growth at a CAGR of 6.1 percent between 2016 and 2025 due to its environment friendliness and high-quality finishes. Additionally, these coatings also provide high resistance to corrosion, chipping and abrasion along with protection from chemicals, moisture and heat, making it one of the most sought after automotive coating technology available in the market.

Compact paint process: Painting, by far is the most cost- and energy-intensive process in automobile manufacturing. Hence, most coatings and application equipment manufacturers are focusing on simplifying the painting process without compromising the quality. Lately, various players including PPG Industries, BASF and Axalta Coating Systems have developed compact paint processes to reduce time and cost of the whole process. It is fast picking up in the industry. The compact paint process eliminates the primer surface layer, thus bringing down the overall coating consumption on a car, thereby cutting down the time of application, cost of the painting process and also aiding in lowering the weight of the car as well. According to the Irfab Global Industrial Coatings Markets study, the compact process is expected to grow by almost 12 percent CAGR between 2016 and 2021.

Pigments for new age materials: The automotive industry is experimenting with lightweight material alternatives in lieu of traditional metals in an attempt to meet the need for fuel efficiency by reducing the overall weight of the vehicle. In many instances, the industry is taking a multi-material approach to weight reduction-from aluminium, ultra-high strength steel (UHSS), magnesium to carbon fibre reinforced polymers, and high-strength plastics. However, coating multi-metal substrates comes with its own set of challenges to both coating formulators and applicators. To begin with, increasing the content of plastics on vehicles requires low-temperature cure coating systems. The industry is moving rapidly towards an 80°C cure process, and the entyre paint process is being modified to ensure that all coating layers are fully cured at this temperature. Several car manufacturers are experimenting with new coating technologies. Along with low temperature curing, the industry is also demands for faster drying technologies with high gloss effects.

The demand for technically innovative pigments is imperative for the coatings industry to keep up with the constantly changing automotive industry.

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