It's strange to think that industrial coatings are virtually everywhere, on bridges, roads, pipes, machinery and countless other items, and yet many people never even notice them. Likely, this is because the main purpose of industrial coatings is protection, rather than aesthetic value. Don't be fooled by this perceived indifference by the general public. Industrial coatings are vital to the survival of a number of products and, consequently, to the manufacturers that make them.
Like all market segments, industrial coatings have been affected by the economic slump. A number of factors have contributed to what's been a slower than normal year for suppliers. According to James McCadden, vice president of sales, U.S. Coatings Company, most industrial accounts have deferred maintenance that isn't absolutely necessary and have also scaled back some expansion programs and cancelled others entirely. The chemical process industry is under great pressure to improve profitability, which dramatically impacts the stock price of the company. Reducing the maintenance cost has an immediate effect on the company's operating cost, which leads to improving the bottom line profit of the company.
OEMs are seeing declining sales of their products, meaning plant slowdowns, shift reductions and, in some cases, facility closures. And when customers slow production, industrial coatings suppliers start to feel the heat. "To deny that the economy has had an effect on general business levels would be untrue," he said.
John Nother, president of operations, Liffey Coatings, London, Ontario, agreed. "Anyone in the coatings industry that would tell you they haven't been affected by this last business cycle would be unrealistic," he said. "However, we have taken internal steps to minimize the impact of the last business cycle and look forward to moving forward as the economy begins to rebound."
|The Wynyard Bridge in Durham, UK is protected by coatings from Akzo Nobel.|
David Wolf, director of marketing at Carboline Company, also acknowledged slumping demand for OEM products. However, he said that the slower economy has presented some opportunities for Carboline's business.
"(The economy) has given our OEM customers a chance to look at their internal processes for possible line-speed improvements and areas to increase efficiencies," he said. "In recent years most manufacturers have been running at such a rate that to investigate new coating technologies, even for the purpose of improving efficiencies, has been nearly impossible." The result has been a dramatic pick up in the number of paint line process audits performed by specialists and engineers at Carboline in an attempt to help OEMs gain greater efficiency.
National coatings manufacturers have reduced their sales forces during this slowdown making experienced sales representatives available. U.S. Coatings has taken advantage of this opportunity to bolster its sales force in preparation for the economic recovery, according to Mr. McCadden.
These events have proven that, despite the economy, companies are working to solidify themselves in a market that has become significantly more competitive and condensed, according to Phil Phillips, founder of PGPhillips & Associates, Inc., a consulting firm focusing on the coatings, adhesives and sealants industries. "The driver behind this consolidation has come from the end-user (OEM) through their insistence on an across-the-board improvement in quality, JIT deliveries, no-to-low paint inventories, instant tech service, cost/quality relationship, near and long-term new product developments, and finally, systems supply involvement."
According to Mr. Phillips, this pressure to improve overall coating supplier capabilities caused many companies to realize that they needed to make changes in how they did business to meet OEM's expectations and remain competitive in the marketplace.
Growing and Changing
For some companies, that meant the acquisition of select firms to bolster their product stables. For example, Valspar acquired the coil and packaging coating business of Benjamin Moore and Co. (Technical Coatings), bringing coil, spray applied door and rigid packaging businesses into its own mix.
Another accord has been inked by U.S. Coatings. The company has entered into a special arrangement and affiliation with U.S. Paint Corporation in St. Louis, MO. Through this affiliation, U.S. Coatings' products are manufactured within U.S. Paint's ISO 9001 certified facility to standards set by U.S. Coatings.
"The extensive investment by U.S. Paint in plant equipment and processes allow U.S. Coatings' products to be made quickly on a consistent batch-to-batch basis," he said. "This assures the end customer of consistent product from project to project."
Carboline has also expanded its business, building a new manufacturing facility and adding new distribution centers. Major upgrades to the Lake Charles, LA facility include several 6000, 4000, and 2000 gallon closed vessel tanks to facilitate the manufacturing of OEM products as well as other large volume industrial maintenance materials. Carboline's five new distribution centers, located throughout the U.S., augment its warehouse network, improving its ability to meet or beat customer service expectations and minimize delays even when due to inclement weather, according to Mr. Wolf.
BASF Coatings AG, in an effort to step up its activities in the Russian market for pre-coated steel coil, has opened a new Pevicoat technical service center in Lipetsk, Russia to supply coil coatings to NLMK, the largest Russian steel manufacturer. The installation is the first of its kind in Russia.
In response to growing demand for antimicrobial coated products across several markets, AK Steel, a leading integrated steel company and new player in the coil coatings market, has launched AK Coatings. The new company specializes in antimicrobial coatings for steel, and will supply coatings with AgION antimicrobial compound to shop coaters, paint formulators and coil coaters. AgION, a silver ion-based antimicrobial compound, suppresses the growth of a broad range of destructive microbes, including bacteria, molds and fungi, and enhances stain, corrosion and odor resistance.
In addition to expanding facilities and launching new divisions, some companies are turning to joint ventures in an attempt to better serve their customers.
Liffey Coatings has established a powder manufacturing division called Link-Syn Technologies to meet increasing speed, cost pressures and demands. This venture has allowed Link-Syn Technologies Inc. and Liffey Coatings Inc. to develop and file patents for its new high efficiency powders, thin film powders and post forming.
Potential Growth In Coil Coatings
One of the major segments to the industrial coatings market is coil coatings. Coil coated metals are used in such applications as white goods, automotive and roofing materials. While growth for coil coatings has been sluggish recently, potential new areas are being discovered, such as automotive and other manufacturing applications, according to some industry sources Coatings World spoke with.
"Appliance opportunities for coil coating use have been exhausted," said Mr. Phillips of PGPhillips. "There remains another estimated 25-30% of the appliance square footage yet to be converted away from liquid and powder coatings and into coil." In addition, coil coatings are fighting a price war with wood and other materials to gain market share in appliance applications, according to Mr. Phillips.
|This high temperature stack is protected by U.S. Coatings' HeatGrip 4200 high temperature silicone aluminum. The coating protects up to 1200F.|
"However, we feel that a major viable alternative to traditional construction in roofing offers coil coated metal a significant upside. Also, automakers are considering coil coated exteriors more than ever before for accent contrast panels as well as some closure panel applications matching body colors in the process," he said. Mr. Phillips also sees electrical containers and boxes as prime targets for coil coated stock advancement.
Mr. Nother, like Mr. Phillips, believes that growth areas for coil coatings can be found in areas such as automotive and construction. "We feel there is a large trend to move in this direction since coil coatings reduce cost significantly in all market segments," said Mr. Nother. "Increased opportunities include not only automotive but all aspects of consumer and industrial products."
Per-Erik Aura of Tikkurila sees a similar trend. "Future areas of possible growth are the automotive industry and roofing," he said.
BASF also believes that the roofing industry also offers opportunities for coatings. The company has recently introduced Ultra-Cool, a premium coating for metal substrates. According to the company, Ultra-Cool dramatically increases the reflectivity of medium to darker colors, thereby reducing heat levels.
"We are looking to expand the market by creating more demand for metal roof coatings," said Jim Kendall, vice president, industrial coatings, BASF. "We hope not only to take market share with this product, but also make the market itself bigger."
Liffey Coatings believes that in addition to exploring new markets for coil coatings, it is also important to continue development of existing technology to maintain current areas of demand.
"We feel that the current powder technology hasn't kept up with these demands in this market segment," said Mr. Nother.
Liffey Coatings and Link-Syn Technologies have focused R&D efforts on high efficiency powders to help applicators reduce material costs. Mr. Nother said thin film powders (films as low as .5 mil) will open new markets to allow powder coaters to meet tolerances on holes and pins, at the same time reducing material costs.
"These thin films will not only have a significant impact on current powder technology but will improve the quality of UV- and low-bake technologies, which have had quality issues," he said.
Some of the quality issues that have plagued the coil coatings market, said Mr. Nother, are cracking and film tolerance. Liffey and Link-Syn's new products will "allow coil coatings the ability to post form without powder cracking and provide uniformed thickness," he said.
Special Considerations For Pipe Coatings
Another area of industrial coatings with unique problems that need the attention of suppliers is pipe coatings.
"Pipe customers have a variety of requirements and it can be very challenging to meet their needs," said Dwayne Meyer, director of technical services, Carboline.
"When customers are evaluating different coating systems for pipe they are looking at many of the same things as someone that is going to coat structural steel," he said. Among these are corrosion prevention, long service life and a reasonable cost. In addition, the coating process should be simple to avoid potential bottlenecking in the manufacturing process.
"The coating must provide chemical protection and facilitate the movement of the commodity through the pipe," Mr. Meyer added.
Choosing the right coatings for a particular pipe depends on many factors.
"The best coating for a job really depends on the exact environment into which the pipe will be put," said Marc Michelsen, group communications manager, coatings, Akzo Nobel.
Carboline's expertise in epoxy technology stems from the fact that the majority of pipe coating work revolves around epoxies, according to Mr. Meyer. "Most of the coatings that Carboline provides to the pipe industry are high-build coatings that can normally be applied in one coat, which enhances the throughput time at a fabrication facility," he said.
According to Mr. Meyer, the pipe business is similar to other businesses in that the coating must work within the time constraints the fabricator allows. "As such, we have developed 100% solids coatings, fast and low temperature cure, and one-coat systems to replace the old multi-coat systems," he said. "These products range from using standard spray equipment to using more sophisticated plural component spray equipment."
|A structure coated with Carboline's Carbozinc protection system. Owners want to avoid costly maintenance by painting with durable coatings that will last the life of the structure, according to the company.|
One of the more recent products developed by Carboline is Thermaline 450, an epoxy with a temperature resistance to 450ŢF, used as a one coat system on insulated pipe.
Akzo Nobel supplies the global steel pipeline market with a range of fusion bonded epoxy (FBE) powder coatings products, sold under the Resicoat brand. "Powder coatings, alone or in combination with other materials such as thermoplastics are generally recognized as a 'high performance' option," said Mr. Michelsen. "Resicoat is a major brand in this market."
In some instances, existing products don't fit the needs of a customer and formulators must modify their coatings to meet those specific requirements. "Most modifications consist of modifying the film build or adjusting the cure rate, which can be done in a short period of time," said Mr. Meyer.
"Development is an ongoing process," said Mr. Michelsen. "As the world's resources get more and more difficult to extract, in more and more remote and inhospitable environments, the application and service conditions for pipe coatings has to be correspondingly tailored to provide the necessary application characteristics and in-service protection."
Powder: The Coating Of Choice
In the OEM coatings market, the major focus of suppliers is to provide cost-effective methods and products for customers. Powder coatings have been the coating of choice for many years because of environmental and quality benefits. "Patented innovations in powder technology are helping OEMs to cut their finishing costs without losing any of the traditional quality benefits," said Mr. Michelsen.
This is good news for manufacturers, because "one of the chief challenges for the OEM coatings industry in the last few years has been the need to dramatically cut the costs of industrial finishing," Mr. Michelsen added. Margins for OEMs are being forced ever closer by the poor economy and by competition from other suppliers. As a result, OEMs are asking coatings suppliers for innovation that helps reduce their costs.
In an effort to help customers reduce costs, Akzo Nobel has introduced Interpon Extra, which uses a patented "particle management" technology to deliver cost savings to bulk finishers. Among the Interpon family of products are Interpon XTR, an ultra-thin film that significantly cuts applied coating weights; Interpon AF, an advanced fluidity powder that gives more even and consistent coating performance and lower production rejects; and Interpon AC powders that penetrate recesses more easily, providing coating solutions for complex-shaped objects like microwave cavities.
In some cases, coatings suppliers need detective skills to better serve the market. Knowing how to help a customer find what they need is important because often the customer doesn't know what they need.
"It seems that some OEMs occasionally request functional performances without understanding why they are asking for it," said Mr. Nother. "By the same token, many customers are not asking for the true or genuine expectations that they fully understand or really require."
Bridge coatings are an area often overlooked, but are extremely critical. Most drivers, as they cross a bridge, take for granted that the structure is in good physical condition. Suppliers know that bridge coating involves some of the most important and critical testing, application and manufacturing techniques of all industrial coatings.
The effectiveness of a bridge coating is no easy task. "Rigorous testing is necessary," said Mr. McCadden of U.S. Coatings. Performance verification, for such qualities as salt fog, corrosion resistance, UV exposure, weatherability and adhesion, are all necessary.
|These trailers are coated with U.S. Coatings' Uregrip 3100 direct to metal polyurethane. This high build, high gloss, VOC compliant product provides outstanding performance and weathering characteristics, according to the company.|
Mr. McCadden stressed that surface preparation and application are also vital components in formulating a bridge coating. Surface preparation is the foundation upon which the entire coating system is built on, and because a bridge cannot be taken apart once it's assembled, coatings must be able to withstand harsh conditions during application, some of which come into play before the coating is cured.
"Due to the nature of field painting bridge structures, products must be formulated to take into account less than perfect surface preparation and ever changing environmental conditions," said Mr. McCadden. "Unfortunately, bridge painting is controlled by the environment more than having the environment controlled by the applicator."
Since much of the steel surface has limited access, and coatings are applied by airless or conventional spray as well as by brush or roller, coatings must be formulated for ease of use. "Factors such as excellent sag resistance plus excellent flow and wetting characteristics often make the difference between a poor and excellent coating job," said Mr. McCadden.
Because of the many factors affecting the market, U.S. Coatings is doing a great deal to make recoating of bridges easier and more efficient, as well as extending the life of the coating system. Among the products it offers are 100% solids, thin film penetrating sealers for overcoating existing coatings. "These penetrating sealers/primers allow a department of transportation to overcoat an existing coating system and extend the life of the existing coating system," said Mr. McCadden. By doing this, a DOT can rehab a bridge at a lower cost per square foot when compared to full blast and repaint.
What's in Store
There are few certainties in the world, but it is safe to say that without industrial coatings, many of the structures and appliances we use-and take for granted-everyday would rust and rot away. One would have to draw the conclusion, then, that there will always be a demand for industrial coatings.
Still, the future is impossible to predict and opinions vary. Suppliers and manufacturers alike are hoping that things will get better sooner than later. Yet, there are no surefire indicators as to what the coming year will bring.
Mr. McCadden of U.S. Coatings is slightly optimistic. "We are seeing a slow turn around in both the industrial and OEM markets," he said. "The latter part of this year should see more activity than what we have seen this year to date."
One thing is certain-working to help the customer will remain at the forefront in the industrial coatings market. "Our efforts are partly about making the products better," said Mr. Kendall of BASF. "But what we really want to do is make our customers' operations better."
More New Products
The need for industrial coatings is unquestioned. End-users need these coatings to protect their products from a variety of environments and circumstances. As such, new products are constantly being sought by end-users to ensure long protection with little upkeep.
Devcon has introduced brushable ceramic and sprayable ceramic precision repair epoxies engineered for superior resistance to abrasion and chemicals at service temperatures up to 350°F. Both are easily applied and cure at room temperature, according to the company. They can be used to seal and protect new surfaces or recondition old ones.
Devcon's brushable ceramic is a low-viscosity, alumina-filled epoxy compound that cures to a smooth, long-lasting barrier against wear, abrasion, corrosion, erosion, cavitation and chemical attack, according to the company. It comes in red, blue and white and can be applied with a roller or short bristle brush. The sprayable ceramic can be applied like a high-solids paint. Available in red and blue, it can be built up to 15-30 mils in a single pass using standard airless equipment, according to the company. Applications include pump casings, pump pads, impellers, exhaust stacks, tanks and steel frames.
International Protective Coatings, a division of Akzo Nobel, has introduced two new products to its established Intertherm range of coatings for use on pipes and vessels in high heat environments.
Intertherm 181, designed for new construction, is a multi-purpose coating that can be used on pipes and vessels operating at varying temperature ranges up to 932°F (500°C). Used in conjunction with an Interzinc 22 primer, it is ideal for use during the fabrication of chemical and petrochemical processing plants, doing away with the complex logistics required when a variety of coatings are specified to be used for steelwork subjected to different operating temperatures, with or without thermal insulation, according to the company. International Coatings' Intertherm 228 is designed to protect steelwork in a wide range of corrosive environments at major refurbishment and for general maintenance. It is formulated for insulated pipework subjected to wet and dry cycling, in temperatures up to 446°F and has excellent resistance to 'thermal shock' experienced during rapid changes in temperature, according to the company.
Also new from International Coatings are a range of supplies designed for FPSOs (floating, production, storage and offloading vessels)-crosses between a traditional ship and an oil rig. Intersleek, one of its major new marine product lines, can be used on the hull in conjunction with Interzinc 52HS primer and a premium polysiloxane finish which combines the superb gloss finish of a polyurethane and the tough weather resistance of a traditional epoxy coating.
Suppliers are also working to provide products for specialized segments to the construction market, such as wood coatings. In March Glasurit GmbH, part of BASF Coatings AG, exhibited coating systems for all types of interior and exterior wood surfaces at the "fensterbau frontale" trade fair in Nuremberg, Germany. Among the products on display were an expanded and optimized FensterColor mixing system for tinting transparent window coatings and the new "Eco-Coating system" for balconies, wood panels and pergolas.
Aware of the value of a clean environment and tightening legislation governing the development of new coatings systems for the industrial paint market, Tikkurila Coatings has introduced the Fonte product family, a range of waterborne and high performance paints. These coatings are formulated to be primary coatings for machines, equipment and steel structures. Fonte coatings are environmentally sound and easy to apply and are fully compliant will all legislative requirements set forth by the European Union VOC Directive and UK EPA regulations.