While expectations for the metallic pigments market were positive for 2013, especially for the U.S. market, companies Coatings World spoke with reported it has been somewhat of a slow start.
“Frankly speaking, we expected a much better start in North America,” said Joerg Krames, global business line manager coatings and plastics, Eckart GmbH. “However, especially for the U.S. market, we remain positive, for the rest of the year as well as for 2014.”
Krames also said that while South America will experience a positive stimulation of the economy due to global sports events, and Germany has recovered a bit and will experience some upsides for 2014, the outlook for Europe is very poor due to the weakness in France, Italy and Spain, particularly in automotive.
Aaron Hollman, global product manager effect pigments, performance pigments, Sun Chemical, echoed this sentiment saying that although Sun Chemical has seen positive growth in the first quarter of 2013, they are facing lower metallic pigment demand in Europe due to the economic downturn. Likewise they are seeing stronger demand in the U.S, Latin America and Asia.
“Last year, we acquired Benda-Lutz Werke GmbH, a leading manufacturer of metallic effect pigments,” said Hollman. ”This acquisition has greatly expanded our metallic effect offerings designed for coatings, plastics, inks and specialties markets. With the acquisition, Sun Chemical has added production facilities in Austria, Poland, Russia and the U.S. to accompany its aluminum manufacturing sites in China.”
Sun Chemical remains confident and optimistic that they will overcome any global economic challenges and continue to see growth in the market. A particular challenge that they have noticed in the market is the high costs of raw materials.
“Sun Chemical anticipates that raw material prices will remain at their current high levels,” said Hollman. “However, we are certainly aware of the high degree of volatility in the global economy. Therefore, we will continue to monitor the key raw material indexes and focus our manufacturing team on process and raw material productivity.”
Frank J. Maile, director BU Coatings & Colorants, Schlenk, agreed that raw materials remain a challenge for the market.
“Schlenk Metallic Pigments has seen solid growth over the past two years and we expect growth over this year, although raw material costs continue to remain a key challenge,” Maile said. “We will continue to invest in new metallic pigment technologies and process capabilities to deliver quality, service and innovation to our customers.”
Krames said that cost saving is important to Eckhart as well, and that raw material costs continue to play an important role in metallic pigments, especially in terms of copper-based products. “We can see that customers are looking for cheaper solutions, even with a much lower hiding power and other disadvantages,” he said.
Maile explained the rising of costs is due to expectations regarding quality, performance and environmental standards.
“New paint and application technologies are being developed with sustainability in mind,” said Maile. “Metallic pigments have to be compatible with new coating systems. Globalization will further intensify competition. Our customers, especially from the automotive sector, expect us to deliver the same quality all over the world at a reasonable price. Challenges, including monetary influences, cost factors and REACH have to be mentioned as well. In this respect, higher operating rates, energy and raw material costs will lead to price increases. Controlling the parameters like flake morphology, particle thickness, particle size distribution and flawlessness of the particle surface are a real challenge for every metallic pigment manufacturer. Complexity of metallic pigments manufacturing will increase in order to meet customer expectations for optical quality, material consistency and cleanliness.”
Maria Giannobile, marketing manager, pigments and colorants, BASF , explained that the global pigments market remains tightly aligned with key global economic indicators. This presents a persisting challenge, as the global market including metallic effects is prone to economic contraction. Giannobile also explained that raw material and conversion costs for pigments remain a concern for BASF.
“BASF continues to search for innovative ways to improve manufacturing processes, better utilize our assets and global infrastructure, and minimize the impact of raw material price increases while continuing to deliver high value products to the industry,“ she said.
A major trend in the metallic market for 2013 has certainly been the development of more environmentally friendly systems and sustainability.
“Our customers are certainly interested in developing metallic finishes using more environmentally-friendly aqueous systems,” said Hollman. “Sun Chemical has a wide range of VOC-free aluminum dispersions and encapsulated aluminum effects that provide an unlimited array of metallic finishes for waterborne. We will continue to focus our research and development efforts on expanding our product offerings and technologies geared towards sustainability.”
BASF also explained they have felt the effects of environmental regulations.
“As environmental regulations go into effect, this will exude greater influence and importance as a key driver towards a common definition of what sustainability will play within the industry and the choices customers will make in the marketplace. Further, we see that the growing use of effect pigments into coatings formulation that can deliver more impactful visual aesthetics,” said Giannobile
Along with trends of environmentally friendly and sustainable finishes, the demand for industrial and automotive coatings is increasing.
BASF noted that traditional markets such as automotive and the industrial segment will continue to be primary consumers of special effect pigments.
“Used in a wide range of end market applications from automobiles, house exteriors to electronics and many more, special effect pigments address the demands for brand and product differentiation as the range of aesthetic color values continues to expand,” said Giannobile.
According to Sun Chemical, industrial and automotive coating applications show the strongest demand for metallic pigments. Emerging areas are architectural paint, building materials, electronic materials and securities.
Eckart also noticed that the overall automotive sector with exterior, interior, parts, and wheel rims and refinish business is still the most dominant field for metallic effect pigments.
“Due to the current color trend towards black and white regarding smart phones and tablets we can see a strong decrease in the 3C business for metallic effect pigments,” said Krames. “Emerging areas will be functional coatings solutions for the consumer like energy saving of protective coatings and functionalized solutions for our customers.”
New Technologies and Products
BASF explained that for the future, the company would continue to focus on high performance and effect pigment solutions.
“We will continue to focus on sustainable coating solutions that provide environmental functional benefits based on sound chemical technologies as well as high performance and aesthetic value that customers expect from BASF,” said Giannobile.
BASF’s newest products launched are Firemist Crystal Touch, a tactile effect pigment with bright sparkle appearance; Glacier Crystal White and Glacier Silk White, white pearlescent effect pigments based on synthetic mica flakes coated with titanium dioxide; and Lumina Royal Aqua, Lumina Royal Indigo, Lumina Royal Copper, highly chromaticity effect pigments.
Eckart has produced many functional products as well as a variety of products with improved optical effects.
“Our Hydro Series for water-based coatings solutions will quite soon be expanded by the new family member hydromic, besides our flagship product hydrolan,” said Krames. “With this most recent hydromic innovation, we will present an interesting alternative, which offers lower total costs, making it especially attractive for those customers who are currently using self-passivation systems.”
Eckart also developed a new metallic pigment, PCS 900 that fulfills the powder parkets demand for extremely fine pigments.
The latest addition to the Sun Chemical product portfolio consists of premium aluminum, bronze and zinc pigments in multiple product forms (powders, pastes, pellets or customized dispersions) is Benda-Lutz Metallic Effects
Schlenk offers an array of new products including AluMotion, SilverCoil, Decomet MirrorCoil, Powdat the next generation, Decomet 5000, Decomet 2057/10, Metaprint LithoGloss UV, Metaprint FlexoGloss UV, Decomet Slurry, Multiprint Bronze and Offset 64xx Series.