Industry Voices

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ACA and Vincentz Network interviewed coatings industry leaders to bring you their perspective on the state and direction of varied industry sectors. From drivers and trends, including technology, market demands, regulatory restrictions, and R&D, these industry experts share their insight into the challenges facing industry and how their companies are responding. Click on topic area below to read the full interview and see the range of industry acumen.

Key Trends | Powder Coatings | Automotive Coatings| Effect Pigments | Protective Coatings | Additives | Printing Inks | Bio-based Raw Materials |
Functional Coatings | Testing Paint WeatheringAttracting New Talent

Key Trends in the Coatings Industry

Barry Snyder, senior vice president and chief operations and supply chain officer at Axalta Coating Systems, describes industry trends from a coating manufacturer’s perspective.

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Considering technology as well as markets, what are the current trends in the paints and coatings industry?

Barry Snyder: Our entire industry is faced with the ongoing challenge of how to extend the life of any coated surface from the elements, whether that be UV, moisture, or any other natural or man-made physical assault. Axalta is an innovation leader in helping our customers’ products last longer and look terrific. Our experts in polymer synthesis search for new resins that will produce coatings that adhere better, resist scratches and UV degradation, have the correct viscosity, and protect against corrosion.

Axalta’s color technologists evaluate pigments and dispersion properties to create the most efficient coatings. The goal is to provide brilliant visual effects that meet performance standards our customers and consumers demand. Most recently, consumers have shown a connection between the five human senses and their color preference. As such, Axalta named “Sea Glass” as our 2020 Global Automotive Color of the Year. Sea Glass is a calming, yet confident color inspired by nature’s waterways and oceans. It has depth and intense color that glitters in sunlight, making it a color that consumers want, and that will be noticed by motorists around the world. This is the sixth year of Axalta’s Global Automotive Color of the Year and we will continue to look at color trends and what’s driving them. Supporting color trends is a core part of our business.

Another key trend is reducing environmental impact. This is where some of the biggest and most important innovations are happening. During the past several decades, there has been a critical shift from solventborne to waterborne systems. The pace of this transition has good momentum behind it and the benefits for our planet are significant, such as using fewer chemicals and lowering emissions. Axalta led this change and continues to be a leader in making this shift happen. Today all our production facilities have capabilities for waterborne and environmentally friendly coating systems.

Another key trend that is positively impacting the environment is the shift toward lower-hazard materials. This reduces environmental releases, while also making the workplace safer. For example, at Axalta, we’ve made great progress in transitioning from reactive polyurethane to less reactive acrylics, which has helped to drive more sustainable solutions and greater safety for employees.

And finally, there is an ongoing evolution in materials of construction. In the automotive industry, there is an aggressive shift from steel to lighter-weight materials. Whether it’s aluminum or fiber-reinforced plastics, magnesium, or other kinds of composites, this trend is real and is currently happening. The evolution of material science is also occurring across other various end-use markets such as flooring, joinery, and facades, which has led to the development of new coating systems that are compatible with these new materials and can still deliver the same durability and look.

Which materials and processes do you find most promising?

Snyder: An exciting trend in the process area is “precision” or “digital” coating. When we look at the industries that we serve, most are spray coating their products. While spraying has certain advantages, such as good coverage and appearance, it also has disadvantages, mainly material losses, overspray, and the inability to be precise.

We can help our customers do better. During the last several years, Axalta and others in the industry have been working on solutions for digital coating application to help customers apply paint more precisely. By doing so, we could begin to see 100 percent transfer efficiency, meaning there is no waste, no environmental impact from material loss or overspray, and potentially no contamination. This is great for the environment and great for productivity and profitability. A true win-win!

In addition to environmental and business outcomes, digital coating application enables certain design benefits, which are good for consumer preferences. Most significantly, it enables companies like Axalta to design coatings that are no longer confined to monolithic single colors. With these new technologies, we can now offer design patterns and even replace other decorative elements that are applied to coating surfaces. This is an exciting trend, and a potentially terrific new business opportunity for Axalta and the entire coatings industry. There’s been tremendous interest from customers already and the systems and technologies are emerging.

Powder Coating: A Growing Niche

Dan Simovic, co-CEO, Tiger Coatings North America, addresses the latest trends in powder coatings. Even though powder still represents a smaller portion of the coatings industry, Simovic says that there is further potential to grow as demand is increasing for these systems.

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What are the current trends in powder coatings?

Dan Simovic: The following are three common trends:

  • For the longest time powder coating applicators and end users have been looking for ways to replace metallic liquid coatings. While advancements in manufacturing technologies allowed for incremental advancements in the achievement of the new and innovative metallic finishes, the depth in the appearance remained a challenge for the powder coating formulators. Recently, metallic powder coatings with liquid-like coatings appearance have become practical reality. Pioneering steps in re-creation of visual 3D looks in metallic powder coating finishes resulted in a new array of special effects in the market.
  • Environmental responsibility is a continuing trend and has resulted in expansion of TGIC-free powder coating formulations. Driven both by regional environmental legislation and globalization of the markets, HAA (TGIC-free) is quickly becoming an alternative to the traditional TGIC polyester formulations. While relatively new in the North American market, TGIC-free powders represent a majority of the outdoor durable powder coatings used in the EU for the last 20 years. Ease of application, due to the inherent properties of the formulation of these powders, is quickly making them the choice for many environmentally and cost conscious end users and applicators.
  • Customization is a megatrend that is becoming more dominant in the powder coatings market, resulting in increased requests for customized products in smaller lot sizes. Custom color matches are common request for customers to get the exact look they want. At the same time, custom jobs usually mean smaller size runs, and applicators are looking for ways to cater to those requests. This puts pressure on powder coating manufacturers to hone their capacities and ensure flexibility to cater to variety of order/lot sizes.

Powder coatings are an eco-friendly alternative. Why are these systems still niche?

Simovic: Powder coatings represent a growing niche. There will typically be some sales volume restrictions associated with the requirement for powder coating applications in manufacturing environments (versus field applications); however, the market for powder coatings continues to increase in addressable markets. For manufacturers, using powder coating products offers efficiency (less waste), durability and environmental advantages. All this is creating increased demand.

Where do you see further potential for powder coatings?

Simovic: Increasing globalization of the market for powder coatings creates increased demand for global solutions, as customers seek consistent product quality and features across different markets. One of the examples is increased demand for more durable coatings/finishes in architectural specifications since we see expansion of Qualicoat requirements into North America. This is usually driven by global projects, with manufacturers and coaters in one region and actual end user/project installation in completely different region.

Additionally, while with limited success so far, we believe that powder coatings still have significant long-term potential in non-metal substrate applications, as new technologies come to market.

Sean McKeon

Evolving Automotive Coatings Market Creates New Coatings Demands

The automotive industry is changing. Autonomous driving vehicles and shared driving will have an impact on vehicle manufactures and their suppliers. BASF’s coatings division’s Sean McKeon, vice president of global key account management (pictured far left), and David Cranfill, technical director for OEMs, share their views on how the latest trends will affect automotive coatings systems.

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What are the current trends in automotive coatings?

Sean McKeon: The automotive coatings market is continually evolving. We have to innovate our design, application, and performance to stay ahead of the curve. BASF is moving beyond paint to the entire spectrum of surface solutions. We treat various types of surfaces that require specific properties: we color them, we protect them, and we make them functional. Functional coatings will be an important enabler as the industry adopts driver-assist and autonomous driving technologies.

For color and design, BASF expects automakers to ask for more deeply saturated colors – like rich blues – to help them claim their place in the market. Additionally, coatings will need to resist corrosion more than ever, while reducing overall waste and cost. We’re going to continue to see more of a mixed substrate system: more aluminum, carbon fiber, etc. As automakers change their products, coatings will have to adapt.                                                   

How will the latest societal developments, i.e. autonomous driving, shared driving, etc., influence automotive coatings?

David Cranfill: As companies explore connected autonomous vehicles and new alternative powertrains, coatings need to adapt. BASF’s surface solutions will give those vehicle surfaces new functions. Coatings will have to reflect LiDAR and RADAR and interact seamlessly with various autonomous sensors, adding to the reliability of the entire transportation eco-system. The shift toward alternative electric powertrains and away from fossil fuels puts the focus on new technology, the environment, and sustainability. Sustainability is a value that BASF shares with its business partners. Coatings will have to handle the heat management requirements around batteries and electric motors. At the same time, external coatings with infrared-reflective pigments will keep the cabin cooler to reduce the need for extra energy to power air conditioning. That lets the car go farther on a single charge.

Effect Pigments: Can Provide More than Aesthetics Properties

Steven Jones, senior team leader for effect materials research at BASF Corporation, addresses trends in effect pigments for paints and coatings.

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What are the trends in effect pigments for paints and coatings?  

Steven Jones: Trends in effect pigments are based on performance. Automotive designers continue to use effect pigments to boost chroma and provide unique flop behaviors to achieve new color spaces. Neutral color travel is also a growing trend. North America traditionally embraced higher sparkle and flop stylings, while Europe embraced smoother appearances; but these trends are converging.  With expanded effect pigment diversity, stylists can now blend effect particle sizes to tune the desired level of visual texture, sparkle, and flop behavior. For industrial coatings, there is increasing demand for metallic effect shades such as gold, brass, copper, and bronze with high sparkle.

What properties can effect pigments add to paints and coatings, apart from aesthetics?

Jones: In addition to the aesthetic properties, effect pigments can have several functional properties.  Being inorganic pigments, they have superior weather stability and tremendous heat stability, allowing for higher temperature processing. Hiding is another property of effect pigments and can be tailored to the requirements of the application. For example, a titanium dioxide coated mica effect pigment is used when transparency is desired, while iron oxide is used to provide more hiding. For applications that need higher hiding, aluminum-based effects provide a tremendous boost. Effect pigments based on perlite will provide an interesting haptic effect. 

Which application fields for effect pigments do you consider the most exciting at the moment, and why?  

Jones: While the demand in automotive for novel high-performance effects will continue as appearance remains a critical buying factor, it is new applications for effect pigments that are the most exciting. These new applications are in the industrial and architectural markets where a more diverse chromatic pallet along with higher film builds allow brand owners to select from a wide range of effects with a preference for socially and environmentally responsible suppliers. For example, effect pigments are being utilized at lower loading levels to create attractive and economical stylings for high-end industrial applications.

Steven Jones
David Vanaken

Protective Coatings: Current Trends

Hexion’s Daniel J. Weinmann, market development manager, Epoxy (pictured near left), and David Vanaken, Epoxy global technical and marketing director, Versatics, address current trends in protective coatings.

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Where is raw materials R&D for protective coatings focused at the moment?

Daniel J. Weinmann: For R&D groups in the raw materials portion of the protective coatings value chain, product development chemists are focused on several aspects, one being the development of new products that will help coatings formulator reduce solvent emissions (i.e. lower VOCs). Plus, reviewing the individual components of current commercial products to improve their sustainability and developing product technologies that increase service life (e.g., better corrosion resistance or improved flexibility), or that help to reduce application costs (e.g., reduce the total number of coatings layers) are also key. Another focus is on raw materials enabling coatings that have a more favorable environmental footprint beyond VOC reduction (isocyanate reduction, bio-based etc.).

How prevalent are waterborne systems in the protective coatings sector?

David Vanaken: In this sector, waterborne systems are continuing to grow in importance. The protective coatings market can be segmented into light-, medium- and heavy-duty applications. Water-borne epoxy systems are well established in the light- to medium- duty protection of concrete and masonry.

As regulations across the United States are reduced to levels of 100 g/L, or 50 g/L maximum VOC, waterborne epoxy systems will continue to grow. For light- to medium-duty industrial maintenance applications, 2K and self-crosslinking acrylic emulsion polymers are being used in applications such as direct-to-metal (DTM). For heavy-duty applications where corrosion- and chemical- resistance are critical, market-leading companies are commercializing water-borne epoxy systems for metal protection — but these are higher value, smaller volume coatings at this time.

What trends do you think will dominate the market for corrosion protection coatings in the coming years?

Weinmann: In general, a shift toward solutions that allow for cost reduction and coatings that have a lower impact on the environment. Isocyanate-free, lower VOC coatings with acceptable cost and performance similar to current established chemistries remain a hot topic.

Further trends for corrosion-resistant epoxy coatings are the development of hybrid resin systems that provide increased flexibility and improved weathering resistance and reduce the cost of coatings formulation by selecting amine curing agents with lower use levels (PHR), or by selecting epoxy systems with lower mix viscosity. This lower mix viscosity enables higher-filler loadings to reduce costs.

By incorporating lower-yellowing resin systems that use non-isocyanate, crosslinking chemistries, formulators can increase worker safety and potentially reduce the number of coating layers. Another focus is on reducing application costs by formulating wet-on-wet coating systems, faster dry and faster cure systems, or developing coatings with improved surface tolerance.

Additives Must Help Formulators Solve Multiple Demands

There seems to be an infinite number of additives and even more functionalities a coating is expected to provide. Rosanna Telesca, leader of Market Center Coatings at Songwon explains what demands coatings can serve and how they can help reduce complexity.

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Do you see developments in the additive sector that could decrease complexity for paint formulators?

Rosanna Telesca: Additives can definitely help reduce complexity for paint formulators. We see three main developments today. Firstly, additives with improved classification and labeling can have a direct impact on the labeling and classification of the final formulation; secondly, new, more efficient additives will help to ensure faster processing and more dependable results; and thirdly, additives that are easier to incorporate as a result of their physical form or their high solubility or miscibility, for example, with water-based systems, will also simplify and accelerate paint formulation.

What technical trends do you see for light stabilizers?

Telesca: Technical developments are very much geared to the demand for maximum cost efficiency combined with greater environmental compatibility. Higher efficiency in processing and better toxicological profiles are two of the main trends.

What other trends will influence the coating additives market in the near future?

Telesca: The availability of raw materials and the drive for greater sustainability will have an impact on the development of coating additives in future, as well as on trends in UV curing and powder coatings. Waterborne technologies will continue to be a prime focus.

There will be strong emphasis on finding additives that combine highly efficient primary properties with flexibility and excellent compatibility in terms of secondary properties. Coating additives will also be required to meet the demand for ever-greater durability, i.e., they will need to make coatings longer-lasting and thus, help prolong the life of the coated end products.


Rosanna Telesca-Songwon
Raymond Verderber

Printing Inks: Drivers and Challenges

Ray Verderber, technical manager, Metallic Pigments and Powders, at Eckart America Corporation, notes the constant updating/changing of rules and requirements from regulatory authorities and non-governmental organizations. He addresses how raw material suppliers to the printing inks industry are rising to these challenges.


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What do you consider a driver of trends in raw materials for printing inks?

Ray Verderber: Raw material suppliers today face various challenges from the market; most notably is the constant updating/changing of rules and requirements from regulatory authorities and non-governmental organizations. As a result, one of the trends has been the market shift in UV-curable formulations, going from commonly used, economical photoinitiators to polymeric ones. While this shift has limited the overall selection of available raw materials to choose from for the formulator, it also creates opportunities for those on top of the trends to meet the latest market needs. 

Looking specifically at metallic inks for printing, are there any new applications?

Verderber: Printing inks formulated with vacuum metallized pigments have been used for many years in order to create decorative effects that simulate the appearance of metallized substrates. There has been a resurgence in the demand for these types of printing inks, especially in the folding carton segment. Metallized board poses a challenge in the waste/recycling process, whereas removal of printing inks containing metallic pigment is already well established. Printed metallic effects help to provide an advantage to brand owners looking to offer more sustainable packaging solutions.

What new pigment products for the printing industry are you currently working on?

Verderber: Brand owners and graphic designers are always looking for new effects in order to differentiate their products on store shelves. One of our latest product developments has been a stunning, metallic rainbow-colored effect, as an alternative to holographic foil. This effect had been previously available only in solvent-borne products, but recent advancements in pigment technology have allowed us now to offer this in UV-curable printing inks. Further research is ongoing to determine whether we can expand this technology into water-borne formulations, as well.

Growth of Bio-based Raw Materials

The shift toward more sustainable coatings will involve the use of more bio-based raw materials. Marc Chan, North America marketing manager at Clariant for Industrial and Consumer Specialties explains that there are already some bio-based materials available and even more on the way.

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How do you see the current state of raw materials for bio-based alternatives in the coatings industry?

Marc Chan: As one of the world’s leaders in industrial chemistry, and providers of specialty chemicals and application solutions for consumer care and industrial markets, we not only regard sustainability as paramount but, also closely follow sourcing and bio-based trends in our market. The increasing availability of bio-based raw materials, to provide alternatives for fossil fuel-based intermediates, shows potential for a future shift in supply. As the demands of improved performance and functionality are equally as critical, our R&D is continually advancing efforts to address all aspects of consumer expectations. 

Do you have projects or products that are based on plant-based raw materials?

Chan: Clariant focuses on progress and innovation based on the sustainable use of renewable resources because we see sustainability – social, economic and ecological – as all-embracing. Specifically, we have several commercial products, as well as multiple projects, in our innovation pipeline that are bio-based focused. A particular one to note would be a bio-based amine that functions to drastically reduce the amount of thickeners used in rheology modification while additionally adjusting alkalinity of the coating itself. These R&D efforts, and the cutting-edge products we are developing are part of our goal to broaden our customers’ “toolbox” in order to meet new market demands.

What are the main obstacles for the coatings industry to use more bio-based materials?

Chan: Currently, 95 percent of all industrially manufactured goods depend on the availability of oil. Yet, the world faces environmental challenges, politicians worldwide have set high environment and climate protection targets, and fossil resources are becoming scarcer with prices rising. We just need to get on with the job of developing sustainable solutions based on renewable resources but, at the same time, we acknowledge that there are bottlenecks to implementing bio-based replacements. We see a key issue in meeting, and exceeding, industry standard criteria while exhibiting multi-functional properties. It is a welcome challenge for our material scientists to be motivated by a global responsibility, and a drive to innovate to the next level.

Marc Chan
Arno Schut

Functional Coatings: Potential for all Industry Sectors

According to Arno Schut, innovation manager at Axcentive, there is great interest in functional coatings from all types of coatings sectors.

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What is R&D focusing on in raw materials for functional coatings?

Arno Schut: It is all about nanomaterials. The idea is to take the functional element of a substance and emphasize its special property. With traditional chemistry, the practice is to include significant quantities of a specific substance to get enhanced properties, which perhaps improved weatherability, mechanical resistance or hydrophobicity. However, using nanotechnology, the “ideal” particle or resin is created by synthesis. In sol-gel-technology, for example, molecular building blocks are used to develop properties to the maximum possible. This enables us to create nanostructures where part of the structure is designed for maximum adhesion to the substrate, while the “top-facing side” provides the required functionalization, such as, superhydrophobicity or oleophobicity. The molecular design makes it possible to use functional chemistry extremely efficiently.

The same model can be used to come to covalently bound anti-corrosion primers, super-hard topcoats, or self-cleaning surfaces.

What is the current market for functional coatings?

Schut: There is a lot of interest coming from industry. We really see OEMs, parts and equipment manufacturers look for esteemed, differentiated products with, for example, easy-to-clean, superhydrophobic or superhydrophilic properties. They come to us because we offer such technology.

Axcentive is often working closely with formulators to adapt solutions to specific end markets. The interest is great and what we offer is, in many cases, new to our customer base. With nano sol-gel technology, the raw material resources required are minimal; whereas many easy-to-clean and self-clean applications offer lower maintenance, less water and energy consumption for our clients or end-users. With this strategy of doing more with less, we join both the green mega-trend, lowering the carbon footprint, and also match the demand for more convenience.

In which application fields do you see the biggest potential for functional coatings?

Schut: With an estimated market size of 5 billion and a growth rate of 10 percent year on year, the outlook for the nano coatings market is very promising. Moreover, this market is looking for innovative products, which makes discussions highly stimulating. The interest is coming from all sectors of the coatings industry, including automotive, construction, marine, protective, aviation, and plastic coatings.

It will be no surprise that our successful anticorrosion chrome replacement technology finds interest from the aviation industry, whereas construction markets are looking for self-cleaning solutions. Automotive and transportation segments ask us about easy-to-clean and anti-graffiti properties to maintain the immaculate appearance of their coatings.

Testing for Paint Weathering and Corrosion

A major challenge in weathering and corrosion testing is the difficulty in developing test protocols that yield results that are well-correlated to outdoor exposures, says Andy Francis, marketing director at Q-Lab Corporation. He offers his outlook on challenges and advancements in this area.

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What are the challenges in testing and measuring paints at the moment?

Andy Francis: A major challenge in weathering and corrosion testing is the difficulty in developing test protocols that yield results that are well-correlated to outdoor exposures, and the time required to actually conduct benchmark outdoor testing. Even small changes in formulation can result in significant changes in outdoor durability, and manufacturers are not going to share their chemistries nor their test results. Although test standards for weathering and corrosion of paints are evolving, it is necessary still to perform long-term, outdoor exposures to take the true measure of their resistance to sunlight, heat, water, salt, and other natural factors.

Which advancements in weathering testing do you consider most promising?

Francis: Modern xenon, UV fluorescent, and metal halide test technologies allow more precise and realistic testing than ever before. It’s positive to see increasing industry recognition that it’s critical to simulate multiple failure modes and weathering stresses to get good correlative testing for coatings. We have been stressing water delivery in accelerated weathering testing in our educational presentations – how one can speed up the process of water existing on surfaces for long periods of time each day, as well as how accelerated testers can reproduce the effects of dew, as well as the erosive character of rain. I think work on this will do a lot for weathering testing of coatings.

How much is the sector influenced by standardization?

Francis: The paint and coatings weathering and corrosion testing sector, including fluorescent UV, xenon arc, and salt corrosion tests, is guided by standards. Most in the industry use long-standing international test standards from ISO, ASTM and major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The majority of testing is quality control-type testing to standards like ASTM G154 and G155; ISO 4892-2 and -3; and ASTM B117, which may not correlate well to outdoor exposure. Test standards like ASTM D7869, developed specifically for transportation coatings, offer improved realism and correlation to outdoor results, and have gained some acceptance in the sector.

Andy Francis
Vijay Mannari

Industry and Academia Must Partner to Attract New Talent

Vijay Mannari, director of the Coatings Research Institute at Eastern Michigan University, believes the creation of a strong industry/university consortium and financial support by the industry for polymers and coatings programs across the country is key to finding new talent for the coatings industry.

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How easy is it to find young talent for the paints and coatings industry?

Vijay Mannari: It is not very easy to find young talent for the paints and coatings industry. There are only a handful of institutions in the United States that have academic programs focused on polymers, paints, and coatings. The paints and coatings industry is expanding and the demand for young talent is growing.

What makes it attractive for young professionals to look for a career in this area?

Mannari: Young professionals are mainly attracted by the career growth opportunities in the paints and coatings field. This field is very diverse and expanding its boundaries in such areas as “smart” materials and coatings and 3D printing materials, to name just a couple, and those fascinating areas are offering many opportunities and attracting young professionals.

What can universities and research institutes do to attract young talent?

Mannari: First and foremost, we must devise a sustainable mechanism to attract, train and retain young talent in the paint and coatings field. Academic institutions are limited by resources and funding. It is very important that a strong industry/university consortium is created and that the industry financially supports polymers and coatings programs across the country. The industry must recognize its obligation to support universities by supporting itself for its future needs for talent and a technical workforce. With industry/university partnerships we will be able to provide quality talent to the industry in a sustainable way.