This is where high-performance and special-effect pigments make their mark. Focused R&D has generated new products that allow paint formulators to create new finishes that can satisfy OEMs' insatiable appetites for paint finishes that are both pretty and tough.
For the most demanding applications, high-performance pigments (HPPs) deliver the attributes paint formulators require: durability, high chroma, high strength, etc. Suppliers are constantly enhancing the performance of their HPPs in an effort to meet what is a continually rising standard. And as a result, their use in coatings continues to expand.
"With the continual advances in the technology and manufacture of HPPs, their presence in the coatings market continues to grow," said Bob Schweitzer, vice president and general manager, coatings business unit, Sun Chemical.
HPP usage continues to rise even as raw material prices and other costs track higher. With the current market situation, suppliers say coatings formulators are more concerned about value than ever before when it comes to HPPs, which command higher prices than conventional pigments.
"Customers are demanding more durable coatings for automotive and architectural applications, and high performance pigments offer both excellent performance properties and good value-in-use," added Schweitzer.
"Demanding applications, consistent quality and supply, regulatory compliance and cost effectiveness are the major concerns for our customers. Formulators today are attempting to enhance properties of the coating while at the same time reduce cost wherever possible," said Don McBride, COO, Heucotech Ltd.
While it is imperative that suppliers work with customers to minimize the impact of rising costs through strategic vendor programs and technology, looking for new ways to reduce overall costs is even more critical. "We have focused on economical cost-in-use alternatives by utilizing high-performance pigments in unique ratios to achieve these unique color spaces previously occupied by traditional HPPs," McBride said.
According to many in the market, the outstanding performance properties of HPPs-durability, color characteristics, viscosity, high chroma and high strength-make their use, even at higher costs, a good value.
"The rising cost of raw materials clearly has a strong impact on HPP pricing in the market place. It is very difficult to achieve HPP-like performance without using high-performance pigments. Therefore, formulators consistently try to reduce cost in their formulations through other methods such as reducing film thickness," said William Zonin, technical manager at Clariant.
A focus on thinner films was also noted by Chris Whiston of Toyo. "We see low rheology and Newtonian rheology as key factors in the need for higher throughput in dispersion and high loading in thinner paint films for lower costs," he said.
According to Roland J. Valin, manager, sales and technical marketing of color pigments with Engelhard, value means finding the right pigment properties for a specific application, rather than using something that is "over-engineered."
"Customers want value without sacrificing performance; therefore, they look for the essential properties needed for each application. It sounds simple, but for years pigment manufacturers have developed pigments that would meet as many properties and applications as possible," Valin said.
Suppliers continue to expand their HPP roster. Sun Chemical, for example, is developing a new violet pigment that will fill a void in the current color space, as well as a non-flop, transparent blue, which will be available in the coming year. Toyo is launching two new, low-rheology products–PR19 (gamma) Catulia Red L2B and PB60 Lionogen Blue 6510. Clariant, which has developed new chromophores such as Benzimida-zolone dioxazine (PB 80) and Bisacetoacetarylide (PY 219) over the past few years, is now producing diketo-pyrrolo-pyrrole pigments to complete its range of high-performance reds. Heucotech reports that it is finishing the development of an indanthrone blue, Monolite Blue 3RX, with stronger color development and improved rheological properties for water-based applications. The company has also recently added a new yellow 53 (Heucodur Plus Yellow 150), which enables the formulator to achieve more opacity and gloss while experiencing less abrasion than conventional titanates.
With high-performance pigments, durability is critical. But when it comes to special-effect pigments, appearance is paramount. Effects from color shifting to sparkle are hot commodities as designers look for new finishes that can help their products-be it a hair dryer or a new automobile-stand out.
"In all coating segments, the competition is trying to figure ways to differentiate themselves from others. Effect pigments, although higher in price, give formulators an opportunity to make special-effect coatings and/or faux finishes," said Lee Young, team leader, technical services at BASF.
Industry estimates place the worldwide market for all metal effect pigments, pearlescent and color shifting pigments (used in coatings as well as inks, plastic and cosmetics) between 52,000-60,000 metric tons-and demand is on the rise, especially in the coatings industry.
It may appear that effect finishes are commonplace, but suppliers continue to push their R&D teams to answer the needs of designers who always want "what's next." As a result, the special-effect pigment market has a greater selection of products with improved appearance and performance.
"Because of industry demands and styling trends, the levels of effect pigment sophistication has increased exponentially," said Russ Ferguson, vice president of global technology at Silberline.
"The technology surrounding effect pigments continues to grow at a fast pace," added Schweitzer of Sun Chemical. "Researchers continue to uncover superior substrates for effect pigments, including aluminum flakes, synthetic fluorphlogopite and calcium aluminum borosilicate. Until a few years ago, most of the effect pigments were made with natural mica flakes. Now, with advances in substrates and increased knowledge of coating thickness, effect pigments demonstrate better color travel, luster, durability and particle smoothness than in previous years."
Major suppliers have added new effect pigments, and some are also developing new technologies that will come to market in the coming year.
Sun Chemical's Performance Pigments recently expanded its line of SunMica pearl pigments to include a series based on synthetic fluorphlogopite. These pigments, which are particularly suited for automotive coatings, offer significant advantages in terms of color clarity and brightness of shade for coatings, according to the company.
BASF reports it is developing four new shades of Variocrom based on Paliocrom Copper.
And call it the "bling-bling"-ing of coatings, but according to pigment experts, sparkling pigments are of big interest.
Along those lines, BASF is developing a new line of sparkling pigments in the Paliocrom range. The first one coming to market will be Paliocrom Sparkling Red L 3505. Additionally, Silberline has added a new family of highly polished, extremely bright lenticular flakes for high-end metallic colors called Sparkle Silver Ultra. The line currently consists of four grades, and Silberline plans to expand the roster, according to company officials.
Even as raw material costs escalate, coatings makers know they can't compromise pigment performance in applications where durability and appearance is crucial.
"Where the durability and fastness of a high-performance pigment is required, no conventional pigment can adequately compare," said Schweitzer of Sun Chemical. "Even with the latest surface modifying treatments, conventional pigments do not exhibit the same properties as high-performance pigments, and any attempt to use other pigments could result in premature fading and compromises in other fastness and applications properties."