Nowadays metallic pigments can be found on just about everything from kitchen appliances to clothing. Metallics long standing popularity can be attributed to its widespread consumer appeal and ability to give a product a high-tech look that stands out.
"Generally speaking, manufacturers of all products are constantly seeking ways to differentiate their products and to more effectively attract consumer attention and demand," said Jay de Sibour, president, Color Marketing Group, a not-for-profit, international association of color designers involved in the use of colors as it applies to the marketing of goods and service. "Hence, we are seeing a major movement in the inclusion of special effects in the application of color in everything from automobiles to apparel."
Mr. de Sibour also noted that the post-9/11 economic climate, fueled by the desire for a renewed sense of hopefulness, will drive the demand for metallics. "The improving economy and the desire of people to restore their sense of optimism will generate a brightening and cleansing to the overall palette, and will support continued use of special effects (like metallics) in colors," said Mr. de Sibour. "As Color Marketing Group says, 'color sells, and the right color sells better.'"
As the popularity of silver, gold and metallics streaks through various consumer markets, coatings suppliers have been challenged to come up with a variety of increasingly complex effects such as brushed metal, liquid and holographic for the consumer goods market. It comes as no surprise that gold and silver top the list as the most sought after metallics. These colors consistently rank as top consumer choices for automobiles. "Our customers are looking for a highly reflective metallic appearance, both in silver and gold shades," said Frank Jischke, director, marketing and sales, Eckart America. "This request, which started in the automotive sector, has now expanded to several consumer goods such as the furniture market, consumer electronics and architectural coatings."
"Current styling trends in the automotive and consumer goods markets demand the flash and eye-catching appeal of brushed metallic and liquid metal effects," said Steven Gingras, director of marketing, Silberline Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Metallic pigments are being developed with many improvements including optical effects and ease of use. "Advances in technology are enabling manufacturers to incorporate a wide variety of effects into colorants, pigments and finishes," said Mr. de Sibour. These include metallics, pearlescents, holograms and fluorescents.
"There is a very high degree of interest in applying the appearance of translucency and transparency into products," said Mr. de Sibour. "The effect desired is to give more depth and dimension to color and to take advantage of the element of light."
One of the main challenges facing formulators of metallic pigments is developing a quality pigment that can be used in waterborne systems. "One issue is the formulation stability of metallic pigments in waterborne coating systems," said Mr. Jischke. "Eckart has focused a majority of its R&D efforts over the last 20 years on the development of metallic products for the waterborne coatings market. Based on this effort, Eckart has developed more than six different passivation technologies ranging from the initial development of utilizing a coating's technique of particle encapsulation," said Mr. Jischke. "Based on these types of products, the ability to utilize metallic pigments in waterborne systems is no longer a desire, but a reality," he said.
Pigment suppliers have been working hard to develop the most effective metallics for their customers. Eckart's newest developments are in Metalure PVD pigments. "Eckart is offering Metalure aluminum dispersions which are brighter and smoother, with a highly reflective chrome-like appearance," said Mr. Jischke. To complement its line of conventional Metalure dispersions, Eckart has also developed a new water stable product series called Metalure Hydro for water-based coatings. Metalure Hydro products are passivated for use in a variety of waterborne coating systems, providing excellent gassing stability while retaining the chrome-like, highly reflective appearance of Metalure, according to the company.
Eckart has also released SDF 6 series, a new non-leafing aluminum pigment for industrial applications which offers a clean, bright and brilliant appearance. The products range from coarse pigments for sparkle effects, to very fine pigments for a smooth satin-like silver or polychromatic appearance.
The popularity of gold and silver coatings has led EM Industries to develop two new products. Afflair 307/937 Star Gold gives a gold effect to powder coatings, paint dispersions, plastic coatings as well as industrial paints. The pure gold-like color and excellent stability provide exciting opportunities for novel gold and bronze applications, according to the company. EM's Xirallic crystal silver pigment is a very bright, extremely pure white effect pigment. It combines a diamond-like sparkle with a silver color. It is also available with a SW chrome-free exterior durable treatment.
MD-Both's Powdal series (outside North America, Powdal products are available through Schlenk Metallpulver) of non-leafing aluminum powders are specially treated and silica encapsulated, and are available in average particle size distributions ranging from approximately 81 microns to 12 microns. MD-Both also offers regular leafing powders from the Powdal series, silica encapsulated powders from the Constant series and regular bronze powders from the MD series.
MD-Both's Aquamet series of non-leafing aluminum pastes are pasted in water for outstanding metallic finishes in waterborne systems. The pastes are VOC- and dust-free and easy to disperse for paint and coating applications, according to the company.
Schlenk Metallpulver GmbH. of Germany released Powdal (in North America, Powdal products are available through MD-Both Industries), a silica-coated series developed for the powder coatings industry that features excellent brilliance and is suitable for bonding processes.
Silberline manufactures a broad range of aluminum pastes for all applications including conventionally milled pastes, vacuum metallized pigments and various special effect products for unique applications.
The most recent addition to the Silberline metallic product line is StarBrite, a broad family of vacuum metallized pigments sold in a variety of carriers to facilitate compatibility with the coatings formulators' systems.
Silberline has also created Aquasil BP grades for aqueous architectural and industrial maintenance coatings. This family offers a cost-effective alternative for achieving stability and system compatibility with a broad range of coating vehicles.
Engelhard Industries now offers Vegetable Black Olive, a black mica-based effect pigment. It can be used to shade neutral colors, help make gun metals and silvers and add a bright face to dark-shade metallic coatings, according to Engelhard. "Vegetable Black Olive was developed specifically to meet the need for a mock black, one that has a slight color shift," said Sunny Maffeo, creative director, appearance and performance technologies, Engelhard.
Engelhard also offers Lumina Colors featuring increased chromaticity at the reflection angle as well as higher color purity and clarity than traditional interference colors, according to the company. They are available in gold, red, turquoise, aqua-blue and red-blue.
U.S. Aluminum/Bronze Powders, Inc. offers Metana aluminum flakes, very thin flakes allowing excellent orientation and increased coverage with high brilliance, and Aquafoil BX granules, free-floating, dust-free powders that contain no VOCs. The latter is available in a variety of shades with an average particle size of 3.5 to 35 micron and is compatible in water and solvents.
As demand continues to grow for metallic pigments, companies have expanded their facilities with a focus on R&D and technical service. At the end of 2001, Silberline started production of the StarBrite manufacturing process at the Ernest Scheller III Center, a facility in Tamaqua, PA .
"Due to the positive market response on our overall activities, expansions in all areas including production capacity, technical service, product development, marketing and sales and customer service are continuing to take place throughout the world," said Mr. Jischke of Eckart.