“Although powder coatings, as with many products, have not had quite the level of expansion that anyone would love to see, with the economy still in a slow growth mode, the growth in powder has been faster than that of the economy,” said Ron McMahon, marketing director powder coatings, Sherwin-Williams. “It continues to gain acceptance as a viable technology among finishers and their customers.”
“Powder coatings markets performed in a similar fashion to other paint and coatings markets and were impacted by the overall economic slowdown in the past,” said John Wolff, AkzoNobel’s general manager for Powder Coatings. “We are very pleased to now see the European market stabilizing, with some remaining volatility. We also see North America on a recovery path and China is coming back, as well. As a global market leader in powder coatings we believe that we are best positioned to benefit from the positive dynamics in these markets. At the same time, we are making very good progress in improving our operational efficiency in Europe and some of the other mature markets.”
Stricter environmental regulations in the paint and coatings industry have certainly given powder coatings a boost as there are several advantages to the powder coating process, the main one being that it does not require solvents, and only minor amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released during the cure.
“VOC and solvent-free technologies like powder are advancing and benefiting from stricter environmental legislation,” said Wolff. “It is, for example, easier for an applicator to get a license for powder due to its lower impact on the environment. This applies to the entire supply chain. We have and will continue to invest in powder coatings as we see it as a more sustainable alternative to liquids. As well as being free from solvents, powder coatings are easy to use – straight from the box. They are also recyclable and easy and safe to dispose of. This is in line with AkzoNobel’s ambitious sustainability targets.”
According to McMahon, although environmental regulations were the primary driver for many years and remain a key driver, there other factors contributing to powder’s growth. “Although regulations remain a consideration, powder coating usage over the past several years has really been driven by the overall advantages powder offers to finishers and the benefits powder can provide customers, he said. “These include the fact that powder can be applied as a primer-less finish (direct to metal); powder is efficient in that 95-98 percent of the coating can be used with a properly designed and maintained reclamation system; powder is easy to apply and powder produces a durable, high quality finish.
Powder coatings have seen growth in a number of regions. As expected Asia continues to be a growth engine, however, McMahon said that Sherwin-Williams is seeing growth beyond China in places such as Thailand, Indonesia and India. “Eastern Europe is also growing, especially Poland,” he added. “We have seen significant growth in places such as Brazil and Turkey.”
AkzoNobel has recently invested in new powder coatings factories in Chengdu in Western China and in Dubai in the Middle East to support the growing demand in these regions. “While we invest in high growth markets; we continue to consolidate our manufacturing footprint in mature markets to improve our efficiency and to adapt our production to the regional demand,” Wolff added.
In September, AkzoNobel announced plans to expand its powder coatings manufacturing facility in Chengdu, China. This production site is scheduled to be operational in late 2014. Located in the Chengdu Economic and Technology Development Zone, the site occupies an area of 18,000 square meters and has more than 10,000 ton capacity per annum.
In November, AkzoNobel announced plans to invest more than €1million in the UK, to build a new Powder Coatings Pilot Plant at its Felling site in the UK. The function of this pilot line is to replicate the company’s manufacturing system, enabling new powder coatings to be produced in a way that fully mimics full-scale production.
Sherwin-Williams continues to offer OEMs and finishers a variety of powder coatings. The company is constantly working to improve durability and lower cure temperature. “Sherwin-Williams continues to push the envelope as a leader in powder coatings,” McMahon said. “We have a broad offering of powder technologies, as well as unique service offerings like our two-day RAL program launched across most of the U.S. and Canada that guarantees delivery within two days after an order is placed for the top RAL colors. Low cure temperature coatings are desirable, and we also have introduced products that take advantage of low cure chemistry.”
AkzoNobel has launched several new products. They include a new heat-reflective range of powder coatings – Interpon D2525 Eternity. The collection is designed to reduce the heat within buildings and to reduce the urban heat island effect.
AkzoNobel has added a new generation of its Interpon Collection Anodic Range featuring matt and metallic powder coating finishes in popular anodizing shades. The collection offers a sustainable and aesthetic alternative to anodized aluminum, due to its environmental credentials and smooth metallic finish. The Anodic collection differs from traditional anodizing in its improved color consistency and versatility, according to the company.
AkzoNobel also recently launched a new Interpon F 2014 trend range, designed for the furniture market, which offers protective, durable and design driven powder coatings. Created with the tough performance requirements and aesthetic qualities demanded specifically by the furniture industry, the Interpon F range offers a sustainable, quality coating alternative – with increased scratch resistance and hardness as standard for the interior and exterior furniture markets.
Lastly, AkzoNobel launched collection Futura 2014 - 2017, featuring 55 special effect coatings. According to the company, it is a durable range of powder coatings intended for use on architectural aluminum and galvanized steel. It delivers long-term performance, superior gloss retention, maximum film integrity and resistance to color change. The result is a long life high durability surface that retains its appearance and requires minimal maintenance for many years.
AkzoNobel Powder Coatings has ambitious plans for the future. “Further to offering productivity and efficiency increases through lower cure temperatures, we are constantly working on improving the eco-efficiency of our products to the benefit of our customers,” said Wolff. “Our products offer our customers sometimes the opportunity to replace precious materials in their buildings and applications, due to the sophisticated look our powder products create, thereby creating substantial cost savings and contributing further to the sustainability agenda of our customers.”
As part of AkzoNobel’s sustainability agenda, the company is working on a further reduction of cure temperatures for powder coatings. This will also have significant benefits for customers, as lower temperatures will ultimately result in lower energy usage and this higher and more cost efficient productivity.
“We will shortly be launching our new Interpon Align powder coatings system,” Wolff said. “Utilizing dry-on-dry coating technology, Interpon Align delivers superior edge coverage and corrosion performance, while eliminating one full cure cycle. The result is improved productivity, lower energy consumption, shortened coating cycle time, and reduced capital investment. Furthermore, we are constantly looking into new colors and effects for the furniture and architectural market.”
Additionally, powder coating performance remains a key target for AkzoNobel. “We have launched a series of products under the Steelplex brand in Australia looking at a combination of corrosion resistance and UV resistance,” Wolff said. “We are working on products to improve corrosion resistance in the alloy wheel market while focusing on emerging markets we are looking at high performance products that can be applied over ‘poorer’ surface treatments.”