Rad-Cure Coatings Market

By Tim Wright | April 2, 2007

The global market for radcure coatings is robust as segments continue to innovate more uses for this technology. In addition to the environmental advantages of radcure coatings, others include the ability to coat heatsensitive materials, better overall quality of finished products, near instantanious cure and space savings.

Today's global radcure market is stimulated by several trends, in particular, its emergence in growing regions around the world. In addition to greater off-shore capacity, growth is also driven by environmental issues such as the EU's environmental stewardship requirement. As company's adjust to these "greener" standards, and industry continues to innovate uses for growing application areas, the radcure market is looking healthy for the future.

Representing 1.8% of all coatings globally, and predicted to increase to a 2.2% share by 2012, the total value of global radcure coatings in 2006 was $1.325 billion, according to The Chemark Consulting Group, a consulting firm focused on the coatings, adhesives and sealants industries based in Southern Pines, NC.

Demand for radcure coatings in North America was strongest at 51,872 tons valued at $485 million. In the EU demand was just behind at 50,000 tons valued at $465 million. Growth rates for the North American and EU markets for 2006 were 4.1% and 3.8% respectively.

Rest of the world (ROW) markets for radcure coatings were valued at $325 million last year. Together the ROW markets are growing at a rate of 7.8% per year, while China alone is growing at a rate of 11.9%.

In 2007, Chemark estimates global radcure coatings will grow at 5.9% to $1.410 billion. Growing at a rate of six percent per year, the radcure coatings market globally will reach $1.790 billion by 2012.

The state of the radcure markets globally is robust as segments are continually looking for more uses for this technology. "The market for UV/EB coatings has been growing at a relatively high rate compared to conventional coatings as it is adopted for broader uses," said Sally Ramsey, chief chemist and co-founder of Akron, OH-based Ecology Coatings. "We expect the rate of growth to accelerate, particularly in China and the PacificRim with the addition of new capacity for OEM coatings.

In addition to China, Phil Phillips, managing partner, The Chemark Consulting Group, said that Eastern Europe is also a fast-growing region for radcure coatings. "Radcure coatings are more robust in these regions such as China and Eastern Europe because there are no barriers of industrial capital getting in the way of new technologies in general," he said.

"In some respects, the UV/EB industry stands exactly where powder coatings stood when they were first introduced, experiencing growth by fits and starts," Ramsey said. "UV/EB cure products will see an even greater growth surge than experienced by powder due to the added emphasis or demand today for energy use reduction and lower solvent and carbon emissions."

Wood is leading the way

Wood applications continue to be the main driving force in the radcure coatings market followed by plastic and electronic applications.

"Wood flooring remains a strong current use segment," said Phillips. "Also, wood cabinetry and post-assembled wood furniture and cabinetry remain significant growth applications. Plastic trim parts requiring clear coats will enjoy a great upside as will certain electronics, especially small hand-held devices."

However, Phillips noted that within the auto OEM and auto refinish sectors, coating major body panels with radcure coatings will not see growth due "primarily to the fixed capital costs associated with the old finishing methods and excess capacity." Only when a new OEM plant is planned and the body parts are configured to complement radcure methods will radcure coatings make inroads in coating major body panels.

Italy-based ICA, whose target market is the wood industry, has seen the market for UV coatings expand over recent years and it said there are clear indications that the pattern of growth is set to continue. "We are particularly focused on the development of waterborne UV coatings because, aside from producing a dry film with all the right characteristics, they are also extremely versatile and can be applied using a variety of techniques," said Fabio Paniccia, R&D laboratory director, ICA Group.

All segments of the radcure coatings market are experiencing growth, except for automotive, according to Tim Tanner, UV product manager, Red Spot Paint and Varnish Co. "The automotive sector is undergoing a struggle. If a company is selling UV coatings to be used for one particular type of part of the automobile, such as headlamp lenses, growth will most likely remain flat and possibly result in a slight loss for that company," he said. "We are combating this trend in the automotive segment by capturing UV business from our competitors and converting other part types on the vehicle to UV."

Red Spot is also seeking new opportunities outside of the automotive sphere that it hopes will lead to growth opportunities. "What we see in the future is increased demand for added value or properties with radcure products," Tanner said. "Customers are looking for better adhesion to a wider variety of low cost substrates, improved chemical, scratch, abrasion resistance, and increased weathering resistance for outdoor applications."

Radcure formulations are moving quickly to low or no-solvent formulations to take advantage of the efforts to dramatically reduce solvent and HAPs emissions, according to Ramsey. "Ecology Coatings has developed patented formulations that use nanotechnology in proprietary formulations that dramatically improve the utility of UV-cure products for a variety of substrates as well as providing unique features such as coated paper that does not absorb moisture and remains printable," she said. "Nanotechnology is particularly effective in producing improvements in barrier coatings.

"In many cases, UV/EB applications are replacing installed processes, such as powder, and even when the value proposition favors UV-cure, end-users are reluctant to spend money for a new process," Ramsey continued. "Newer curing methods may aid the transition. For small areas SLM electronic curing has lower power and shielding requirements. Banks of lights and more flexible robotics may be helpful for larger parts. Smaller and cheaper EB systems are also available now."

Radcure coatings deliver maximum efficiency

There is a standard list of advantages that apply to radcure coatings. These include short/fast process time, low to no VOC, small system footprint, improved performance, applied by multiple methods, overall cost savings and lastly, they are high to 100% solids formulation. Waterborne and solventborne coatings are not capable of achieving the solids levels that can be achieved by UV/EB.

The most obvious advantages of radcure coatings derive from the increased levels of productivity that are achievable, according to Paniccia. "Moreover, the excellent chemical/physical characteristics of the coated surface constitute another advantage over traditional products," he said.

Over recent years, one of the major trends has been to reduce the environmental impact of coating products. "Driven by these ecological concerns, dedicated research has delivered continual improvements in the characteristics of alternatives to traditional solventborne coatings," said Paniccia. "The environmental advantages lie in the fact that both UV products with 100% dry residue and waterborne UV products allow for drastic reductions in the levels of atmospheric solvent emissions. These types of products give coating specialists a technologically valid alternative that allows them to conform to the legal limits on emissions."

Tanner went into further detail regarding the environmental advantages of UV/EB coatings. "One of the key advantages to UV/EB coatings is its ability to provide 100% solids coatings that are easier to apply, reclaimable and have an extremely fast processing cycle all with superior performance properties compared to other coatings technologies," he said. "As environmental regulations tighten, the demand for UV/EB coatings will continue to increase. Red Spot also sells waterborne and other types of high solids coatings as part of its portfolio of product offerings and we know from first hand experience that the demand for these types of technologies have not been as great as those for UV/EB."

"In addition to environmental advantages, the radcure process requires up to 90% less plant floor space than conventional coatings," said Ramsey. "UV-cure systems also often provide better film properties, such as corrosion resistance, than conventional coatings."

Is cost really an Issue?

When asked if the advantages of environmental-friendliness and faster cure times outweigh the disadvantage of high initial investment costs for those switching to UV systems, Phillips said it depends on the application.

"For applications where turnaround speed is the core driving ingredient to the decision, generally a radcure system's capital costs are outweighed by speed," he said. "Wood flooring is an example since the very valuable space footprint for processing a UV-cured flooring is many time less than that for conventional systems. Additionally, the energy savings and inventory-in-progress costs tend to make the overall entry costs more equal than initially meets the eye."

"The initial cost of investment for the UV/EB equipment is no greater than those for a thermal oven or other coating technologies. The question of cost may arise if the finisher has existing coating equipment that is not UV/EB," said Tanner. "They have to gauge whether or not to re-capitalize to move from thermal to UV. The materials for UV/EB are higher price per gallon but contain twice the amount of solids, which is a direct cost savings to the customer because more solids per gallon means more surface area that can be covered. With a reclaim system, the transfer efficiency is greater than 95% cost savings."

"Although UV-cure coating systems require relatively expensive UV-lamps, the products can be applied with conventional spray units and no thermal processes are required," said Ramsey. "In most cases, the value proposition heavily favors UV-cured systems versus water-based or powder coating systems. The barriers to use are coming down as UV-cure technology addresses solvent and carbon emission reductions and substantially lower energy use."

Like all other coatings systems that get their start in barrels of oil, the radcure coatings market has been impacted by raw material price increases.

"The price increases to which the raw materials for UV coatings have been subject are no different in scale from those to which other types of wood coatings have also been subject," said Paniccia

"The raw material cost for UV/EB coatings has not come down as much as we would like. Our cost to the customer is being reduced at a greater rate than the cost of our raw materials and we're being squeezed in the middle," said Tanner. "We were forced to increase our pricing to our customers the same as everyone in the coating industry so we really did not see any affect on our market. In other words, we still grow our business by an average of 10% during the period raw materials prices were increasing. What we saw first hand were companies moving in the direction of UV/EB technology to receive the cost advantages offerred by this technology."

Developing new applications

To maximize opportunities, companies will continue to focus on developing new applications.

"Electronic touch screen control devices where a clear protective coating over touch activated screens of all kinds will increasingly employ radcure methods," said Phillips. "Applications are varied from televisions to iPODS. However, Chemark sees a combination of radcure technology and nanotechnology present in these application areas."

"New 3-D methods of curing are promoting some growth in wood, but Ecology Coatings sees growth in new niches where new barriers are required that may be addressed by nanotechnology," Ramsey said. "Those growth areas are in plastics, electronics and products from renewable resources.

"In addition, new applications will be found in paper coatings for chemical-resistance, reduced permeability, or greater shelf life, for flexible food packaging and coating adhesion to difficult surfaces where no good alternative is available," Ramsey continued.

PVD is an alternative to chrome plating and there is a huge amount of interest in this technology, according to Tanner. "The reason PVD is viable is due completely to UV curable technology. We have UV basecoats and topcoats for interior and exterior applications that create the durability PVD technology needs to be as an alternative to chrome plating."

"Within the wood industry, wood products such as chairs afford interesting development opportunities," said Paniccia. "The advantages of UV technology would be substantial in relation to these products, not just in terms of increased productivity but also in terms of the marked reductions in solvent emissions. This process, which is already under way, is being driven by the development of innovative coating products and systems in synergy with each other."

Tanner said that more and more companies are crossing over from traditional coatings and "radcure coatings are no longer a 'hard sell' as they once were."

"Customers and the industry as a whole is more educated about UV/EB coatings technologies through organizations such as RadTech International," he said. "As the word spreads and fact generated data continues to be supplied, more and more companies are switching to UV/EB type coatings."

In the years ahead, Phillips concluded, "Wherever there are surface shapes, which are reasonably smooth and uncomplicated, radcure will be considered."

A new report finds the European rad-cure coatings market is reaching saturation

Emerging markets and new applications are key to continued growth in the European radcure coatings market, according to a new report released by Frost & Sullivan titled, "European Market for Radiation Curable Coatings."

Original applications in the European rad-cure coatings market are reaching saturation point, the report said. However, novel applications and new markets will sustain market growth. In particular, rad-cure coatings for plastics and the automotive refinish industry will offer the highest potential for growth, the report concluded.

"New applications must be developed to maintain high growth in the European rad-cure coatings market," said Elizabeth Duplock, research analyst, Frost & Sullivan. "Henceforth, coatings formulators will need to focus on premium applications of rad-cure technology in order to maintain margins."

With some applications of radcure products reaching saturation point, the importance of emerging end-user markets is even more vital. To maximize on opportunities, market participants will need to focus on developing new applications, particularly for areas where penetration of rad-cure products is low, but growth is high. The market for coatings on plastics and the automotive market offer optimum growth prospects through 2012.

However, the development of new products will be difficult. A shift in customer base to cheaper global regions has restrained growth in some markets. Moreover, an increase in raw materials prices implies reduction in margins for coatings formulators. This reduces available capital for R&D. Collaboration along the supply chain is essential for cost-effective development.

"With numerous maturing markets, it is important to strategically focus on products as early in their life cycle as possible to generate maximum revenues prior to market saturation," said Duplock. "For the rad-cure coatings market, superior performance combined with improved productivity is one of the best ways to distinguish products over alternative technologies."

For more information visit www.frost.com.