Each year, Dow Coating Materials tracks exterior paint performance on more than 40,000 test panels to understand what makes high-quality paint. Dow has 20 exposure sites worldwide, but the exposure station in Spring House, Pennsylvania, hosting about 80 domestic and international customer visits a year, is by far the largest in the network. The 6.5 acre exposure station (with 2 additional acres for preparing weathered panels) has over 30,000 three-foot testing panels, the oldest having been on exposure for more than 60 years.
“At Spring House our paint and coatings experience all four seasons, and the conditions that come with it,” remarked John Calderaio, exposure station manager. “Our field testing provides customers and Research scientists with critical performance feedback, allowing each to optimize Dow technology and commercial paint and coatings.”
Paint formulations are tested on over 200 substrates at the exposure station. The most common substrates include metal, wood, concrete, vinyl and aluminum siding, stucco, tiles and PVC pipe, while performance properties are monitored over years and in some cases decades. The average life span of a common exposure series is three to five years and is tested with multiple variables, often at several exposure sites worldwide. Panel reader experts, collectively having nearly a half century of experience, observe and analyze each exposure panel for common failures, including blistering, chalking, and mold growth, among other signs of degradation.
Unique to the Spring House testing facility is Dow’s patented eXposure Vision System, which collects images of the paints about every 2-3 months and uses sophisticated computer algorithms to characterize various defects. There is also the eXposure Vision™ Viewer, an online system that allows customers to access test panel images. In addition to tracking their own paints on exposure, customers can also use the system to monitor the performance of new Dow products.
“Testing paint outdoors is a very complex process because of the many variables involved,” said Calderaio. “Customers can benefit from Dow’s research and 60+ years of exterior testing experience to improve their paint products and grow better paint brands.”
Also located at the Spring House site is the Paint Quality Institute (PQI). Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, PQI delivers information on consumer and contractor trends such as color, decorative techniques, and innovative new ways to use paint based on the practical findings generated by the testing facility. “The Paint Quality Institute was founded with the objectives of educating and motivating all involved in the painting process and providing information on quality paints and good painting practices,” said Deb Zimmer, PQI director. “This remains the driving force 25 years later.”