Performance Matters

By Christine Canning Esposito | August 10, 2006

Faced with greater performance pressures, coatings manufacturers need to recognize the key attributes high-performance pigments can deliver to their formulations—and ultimately their customers.

Answering ever-increasing customer needs for durability, regulatory compliance and color are absolute essentials for any coatings manufacturer, and high-performance pigments (HPP) can deliver on all fronts. But admittedly, they do so at a higher cost. According to SRI Consulting, classic organic pigment prices range from $7.50-$20/kg compared to $25-58+/kg for organic HPPs.

The range and capacity of HPP products continues to expand, stirring exploration of the benefits more expensive HPPs can offer in a variety of coatings end markets. In applications ranging from industrial to automotive to architectural, HPPs can be a smart solution.

According to industry sources, the global market for HPPs is estimated to be in the area of 20,000-25,000 tons. Some suppliers say the market is set to grow as end customers demand more from their finished coatings, and subsequently, paint makers seek out HPP technologies to answer those requests.

 "The HPP market for paint and coatings continues to grow," said Brian E. Leen, corporate vice-president and general manager, Performance Pigments – Sun Chemical Corp. "The demand for more unique appearance effects along with improved durability continues to provide significant opportunities for innovation."

Demand will also be fueled by manufacturers opting to swap traditional pigments for HPPs. "This replacement is mainly driven by the ongoing trend to pigments with higher quality, particularly in tinting systems for industrial and decorative coatings," said Falko Orlowski, marketing manager for automotive and industrial coatings at Clariant.

While HPPs have always held a dominant position in the automotive market, suppliers are looking to other growth areas including architectural and industrial paint, as coatings makers recognize that HPPs offer the best combination of environmental compliance, color, chroma and durability.  

"Formulators in architectural coatings are looking for improved performance and durability and better value in use. Cleaner pigments with higher chroma offer access to a broader color gamut. Pigments with improved resistance to specific environmental conditions also are of interest," said Leen, who noted that both areas offer opportunities for innovation and are areas Sun Chemicals' Performance Pigments unit is actively pursuing.

Orlowski of Clariant also pointed to the increased interest in HPPs within architectural and industrial coatings sectors. "The introduction of new high quality tinting systems based on HPP offers a wide variety of applications with improved performance," he said. "This expands the life cycle of newly developed tinting systems and reflects the growing demand for better quality paints."

"Historically, high performance pigments brought durability and color," said Doug Swank, technical manager for transportation coatings, Ciba Specialty Chemicals. "New coloristic effects and lower film build potential via more opaque pigments are some recent areas of focus.  Here, formulators are able to reach new levels of colors and save money with lower paint usage," he added.

The durable color HPPs can deliver in demanding environments is helping carve out an avenue for future  growth in products geared to boost energy efficiency. "We are seeing HPP usage in roofing coatings; companies are getting away from white and boring," said Ray Will, a senior consultant with SRI, which later this year will publish a more extensive update on specialty pigments in its specialty chemicals update program.  HPPs can allow companies to create more colorful coatings that offer infrared (IR) reflectance and meet cool roof performance levels, delivering energy efficiency and cost savings to building owners.

Supply and Demand Expansion

Makers of HPPs are focused on delivering better products and are also making moves to become stronger suppliers in an increasingly competitive and global HPP marketplace. Some contend new sources of HPPs may contribute to a flat market and questionable quality supply.  

"Many non-traditional suppliers are entering the market with products produced in India, China and Korea," said Swank.  "[We don't] see any supply or demand issues, but a shift toward Asian suppliers could result in quality and supply issues in the future," noted Swank.

With increased global competition, HPP suppliers are ramping up their production and R&D efforts. Late last year, BASF increased its production capacity for quinophthalone pigments at its Ludwigshafen site to 1,400 metric tons per year, based on what it calls "growing worldwide demand" for the high-grade yellow pigment which it sells under the Paliotol banner. More recently, in June, BASF acquired privately-held Engelhard Corp., which boosts its stature in the pigments marketplace. Engelhard's portfolio incudes products such as Mearlite UWQ bismuth oxychloride pigment for interior water-based coatings, which meets more stringent requirements against VOCs, while delivering excellent aesthetics and performance.

Clariant reported that in addition to new chromophors, pigments with improved dispersibility and products focused on environmental concerns, it is also offering new HPPs including Hostaperm Yellow H5G (PY 213) and Hostaperm Yellow H7G (PY 219). Both offer high opacity, excellent weather fastness and are suitable for both water-based and solvent-based systems. Clariant's stable also includes Hostaperm Yellow H7G-a very green shade, highly chromatic pigment that is an ideal partner to be combined with the firm's bismuth vanadate-as well as Hostaperm Red D2G 70 (PR 254) and Hostaperm Red D3G 70 (PR 254). The latter two diketo-pyrrolo-pyrrole (DPP) pigments expand its range of high quality opaque red pigments.

UK-based company Thomas Swan Performance Products is touting Pigment Red 264, which it bills as "one of the most challenging colors to produce." The pigment, marketed under the Casacolour brand, is a DPP and has been developed for durability in automotive and transport applications as well as industrial and architectural coatings. Two grades are available, including a transparent version for use in combination with effect pigments such as pearls and metallics for automotive and industrial paint.

For Sun Chemical, critical areas in its HPP R&D efforts include customer specific collaborations that it says are resulting in unique, tailor made solutions as well as general product development projects aimed at achieving either a color space or a performance characteristic not previously available.

 In addition, Sun Chemical has recently introduced Fastogen Super Red 254 for use in automotive systems as well as SunShine Synthetic Mica, a unique range of special effect micas.  And there's more to come, as Leen reported that the company is planning several new product introductions to come late this year and into the first half of 2007.

According to Swank, Ciba's new products include more opaque pigments for reduced paint usage, liquid metal and chrome effects with color, transparent reds and oranges for effect shades and unique effects with organic HPPs alone. Among its newest offerings is Irgazin DPP Cosmoray Orange, an orange pigment, which the firm was promoting at the Asia Pacific Coatings Show. According to Ciba, it  offers a sophisticated, visually appealing orange shade and infinite styling opportunities and improves the production efficiency due to its good dispersibility and high thermostability.

In the direction the market is headed, suppliers of HPPs are right to build their business and expand their offerings to take advantage of increased global interest in HPPs in a variety of end markets. According to sources, HPP consumption is estimated to be in the four to five percent range over the next several years.

"With the non-traditional market recognizing the value in use of HPPs, we foresee significant growth ahead," concluded Orlowski.


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