Lab Focus: Investing for the Future

By Kerry Pianoforte | August 16, 2005

With emerging markets offering high growth potential, leading paint makers recognize the need to invest in R&D facilities.

To successfully keep up with the ever-changing demands of the coatings industry, it is critical that coatings manufacturers invest substantially in the latest tools and equipment for their R&D labs. Although costly, the results they yieldinnovative technologies, environmentally compliant products and more efficient processesare well worth the initial investment.

Leading players in the global market, especially in emerging markets, continue to invest in research and development, as well as in creating new, more efficient processes.

"The R&D process itself is very costly, so BASF is aggressively streamlining its operations, reducing the costs of development while continuing to meet the needs of customers," said Tim D. Salatin director of global technology, BASF Automotive OEM Coatings.

"It is difficult to say how often we invest in new technology, but we consistently strive to optimize our investment in new technologies based on industry and economic conditions," said Sudha Dantiki, Akzo Nobel's managing director of the Car Refinishes International Research Center in Bangalore, India. "We also invest in new technologies for regulatory compliance in different regions of the world."

According to Dantiki, Akzo Nobel Car Refinishes is committed to bringing products with novel technologies to benefit its customers. "We invest in both basic and applied research in car refinishes including color science, waterborne technology, high-solids technology and UV cure chemistry," he added.

Research Focused on Value-Added Products

Not only are R&D efforts focused on developing novel value-added products, but scientists need to focus on creating products that will allow users to keep ahead of increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

"We invest the most money in R&D projects which provide value-added products and services to our customers around the world," said Dantiki. "In addition, we also invest in meeting governmental regulations, OEM specifications and keep our edge as a technology leader. At our Bangalore site, we are investing mostly in international product development and color formulations development."

BASF is focusing its R&D efforts on a number of areas including UV-cured automotive OEM, refinish and industrial coatings; dual-cured coatings that use heat and UV light to cure; "cool roof" high reflectivity coatings for the metal construction industry. In addition, the company is setting its sights on further reduction of VOCs and HAPs across the board in automotive and industrial coatings and more efficient application processes.

"There is significant interest in BASF's Integrated Processes by many of our global automotive OEM customers as a way of reducing their paint spray-line footprint and operating costs," said Salatin. "The BASF Applications Research Center in Southfield, MI, therefore, plays a major role in developing both solventborne and waterborne technologies that are production-ready."

Salatin said another key methodology is "Design for Six Sigma," which is used by BASF's R&D team to ensure timely coatings product developments that meet the needs of its customers.

Another area garnering increased interest, particularly in the automotive coatings industry, is nanotechnology as it can play a role in enhancing appearance over time, with improved scratch resistance, better protection against stone-chipping and corrosion. "Nano coatings that represent a new dimension of property profiles regarding surface toughness and elasticity are still in the research stage," said Salatin. "While many current OEM coatings do include small nano-sized particles, they do not open up fundamentally new property profiles. Our coatings research network is an integral part of BASF's broad technology platforms for both material sciences and nanotech. In addition, our close partnerships with OEMs provide a good basis for joint progress in this and other areas."

Increased R&D Efforts in Asia

A shift in OEM manufacturing to the Asia-Pacific region has naturally led to an increase in R&D activity in these regions. Coatings companies are investing heavily in these high growth areas, equipping their facilities with the latest in laboratory equipment and technology, in an effort to boost their performance.

"Our researchers in India use state-of-the-art lab equipment consisting of spectroscopy, chromatography, spray equipment, color measurements and paint testing for physical, mechanical and chemical properties," said Dantiki of Akzo Nobel. "Our researchers use well equipped computers and excellent software programs which enable them to communication with our colleagues in European and American laboratories. Overall, however, we still consider our employees as the most important asset. We invest significantly in developing and training our researchers, as well as providing the right tools for them to deliver highest quality products."

Dantiki said Akzo plans to invest in additional lab equipment there, such as processing equipment for waterborne and solventborne paints, corrosion testing, spray robots, color measurement and also communicate tools including video conferencing and personal computers.

DuPont, which has more than 75 R&D facilities worldwide, has recently completed construction of a $15 million corporate research center at the Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in Shanghai, China. The Shanghai R&D center is the third major research facility for DuPont outside the U.S. (others are in Switzerland and Japan).

The new center can accommodate up to 200 scientists and includes laboratories, offices and high-ceiling process bays for product application and development. The facility is expected to be fully operational by this fall.

"The Asia Pacific region, especially China, provides unique growth opportunities for DuPont," said D.S. Kim, vice president and president of DuPont Asia Pacific, at the groundbreaking ceremony. "The new research and development center has been specifically designed to meet the increasing demand of emerging DuPont technologies and products in the region. The Shanghai center will serve as a haven for developing new technology solutions through application development, knowledge transfer, technical collaboration and new products development-all contributing to growth of DuPont in China and across the Asia Pacific region."

According to DuPont, the center will support a number of businesses, and focus on customer training and application development. The primary role for the facility will be technical marketing, aimed at the localization of existing products in China and the Asia-Pacific market. The facility will also be the focal point for developing collaborative relationships with leading universities, and scientific academia in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, according to the company.

Lab Focus: Equipment, Tools and New Technology

For more information on the products listed, please contact the company directly.

Brookfield Engineering Laboratories, Inc.
Middleboro, MA
(508) 946-6200
Fax: (508) 946-6262
E-mail: sales@brookfieldengineering.com
Web site: www.brookfieldengineering.com
Lab Product: CAP 2000+ Viscometer
Attributes/comments: The CAP 2000+ viscometer, a flexible R&D instrument with excellent QC performance testing capabilities, covers a viscosity range from 0.2 Poise to 10,000 Poise, shear rates from 10 sec to 13,000 sec and a temperature range from 5C to 235C. The CAP 2000+ also features a simple, user-friendly interface and a space saving footprint. The open access configuration makes sample prep and clean up simple and quick. The CAP 2000+ can operate in stand-alone mode or under PC control. With Brookfield's CapCalc software, the CAP 2000+ viscometer provides detailed sample analysis with data in both tabular and graphical format. The CAP 2000+ is ideal for typical cone and plate applications including paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, polymers and resins.

Mahwah, NJ (201) 847-0600
Fax: (201) 847-0606
E-mail: salesinfo@draiswerke-inc.com
Web site: www.draiswerke-inc.com
Lab Product: Multiple Grinding Zone - Impact / Shear Media Mill
Attributes/Comments: The Mega-Vantis-3 bench-top media mill from Drais is a low-cost, highly versatile mill featuring accurate scale-up, heat removal and reliable data. This double-gap mill with internal grinding media recirculation is designed for both the defined pass operation and a recirculation process. Due to the internal grinding media recirculation with media separation by centrifugal force, extremely high flow rates are realized. Particularly for pigmented dispersions, the MegaVantis-3 has proven to mill down to less than 100 nm in a fraction of the time required by other lab mills. New features include a modified rotor/stator design, with significantly better grinding zones; achieves accurate product flow and improved grinding media turbulence, even with higher product viscosities; a modified double cylinder design resulting in improved residence time distribution; higher flow rates; reduction of grinding cycles, yet maximizing product quality output; and outstanding economic efficiency leads to high net production rates, at lowest energy levels.

Hoover Color Corporation
Hiwassee, VA
(540) 980-7233
Fax:(540) 980-8781
Web site: www.hoovercolor.com
Lab Product: Hoover Automatic Muller
Attributes/comments: Pigment mulling with the Hoover autmomatic muller is easy, accurate and uniform everytime. The muller has become the standard piece of testing equipment for the pigment industry throughout the world. It is recognized in both ASTM and ISO standards as an approved way to prepare samples for color evaluation. The muller is used universally throughout the pigment, ink, coatings, cosmetic, plastic and electronic chemicals industries.

Novaflow Systems Inc.
Ontario, Canada
(613) 925-5926
Fax: (613) 925-5928
E-mail: sales@novaflow.com
Web site: www.novaflow.com
Lab Product: Manual Blending Model: N10S
Attributes/Comments: The N10S is designed as an entry-level approach for those wanting to improve blending specifications. This product line begins with Intelli-blend IMS software, a desktop computer and a weight scale; the software is a full MRP program for in-house batch manufacturing. Designed with flexibility in mind, the N10S smart scale system can be configured with a range of scale sizes and types, to cover most application needs, such as high accuracy small batch lab use, 40lb/20kg bucket/kit manufacture and 400 lb/ 200 kg drum manufacture. A few of the core operating features are acoustic and graphical indication of the weighting progress, automated reformulate on accidental over additions and drivers for a range of small label printers. The smart scale can be upgraded to a fully automated pumping system for hands free batch blending. The hardware can be configured for explosive solvent use and non-hazardous applications.

Q-Panel Lab Products
Cleveland, OH
(440) 835-8700
Fax: (440) 835-8738
E-mail: info@q-panel.com
Web site: www.q-panel.com
Lab Product: QUV Controller with Computerized Data Logging
Attributes/comments: The QUV accelerated weathering tester features a new controller that is designed to be even more functional and easy to use. Now every QUV features:

- Storage of 10 different test cycles. Commonly used ISO and ASTM exposure cycles are already preprogrammed to save time.

- Built-in computerized data logging. Quick and easy connections are now standard for attaching one or more QUVs to a personal computer or to a local area network. The user interface of the new free software allows easy data logging, in either tabular or strip chart format.

- Automatic lab temperature sensing. When any fault occurs, the lab temperature is automatically recorded and displayed to aid in troubleshooting.

The QUV allows scientists to simulate the damage caused by short wave UV. Alternating cycles of UV, moisture and high temperature are used to simulate the effects of sunlight, rain and dew.