Rad-Cure Raw Materials Update

By Tim Wright | July 26, 2007

Suppliers continue to develop new innovative offerings to improve and expand the use of UV and EB formulations.

Today UV/EB technology is in use in a wide variety of industrial segments such as graphic arts, packaging, printing, wood furniture, fiber optics, electronics, building panels and automotive parts. As traditional solvent technologies are shifting towards lower VOC technology, the radcure market continues to grow at a rapid pace.

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 trends tend to be towards waterborne UV and traditional UV technologies, and the raw materials seem to be following this trend," said Chris Howard, technical service group leader, Degussa Tego Coating Additives and Specialty Resins. "The biggest areas for use seem to be wood, plastic and electronics. The growth leader seems to be in wood due to the ease of application and curing of UV on wood."

"The radcure raw materials market has experienced significant growth over the last 12 months. The continued trend towards low VOC formulations and high quality requirements as well as raising energy costs have contributed to the increasing penetration of UV technology," said Marcel Gatti, vice president of energy curing, Rahn USA Corp. "On the other hand, competition among raw materials suppliers is fierce, which, together with raising prices in feed stock, leads to pressure on margins. UV/EB coatings are on a long-term growth path, specifically in the fields of automotive refinish, coil coatings and other metal coatings applications."

There are five major trends driving the UV/EB market, according to Jeff Rodrigues, market manager, industrial coatings, Cytec. "Tighter environmental codes and regulations are driving increased adoption of UV/EB technology, continuing advances in UV/EB technology and equipment are closing the gap between energy curing and conventional technologies, continuing migration of UV/EB into newer areas, wider usage at the OEM level, and more collaboration with customers in new product development," he said.

"The challenges include the continuing volatility in raw materials and energy costs, and driving the adoption of UV/EB technology into new markets where you have to deal with entrenched conventional technologies and sunk costs on existing infrastructure," Rodrigues added. "Plastics and electronics are showing the sharpest growth rate because they have a smaller base, and because the advantages of UV/EB technologies are becoming more apparent in these newer markets and applications. In wood markets, flooring has the highest penetration of UV/EB coatings, followed by kitchen cabinets. Auto OEM is up because more parts per car are being energy cured however, auto refinish is lagging for now. Metal coatings, composites and building products are newer application areas showing good promise."

"The major challenge for radcure is to get coating applicators comfortable with the process and technology, and to overcome the initial upfront learning curves and costs on formulating and equipment," said Katie Gaynor, sales and marketing, Alberdingk Boley, Inc. "It is becoming common for coating companies to work along side the UV resin suppliers to meet the applicators exact needs to minimize these obstacles and attitudes."

"To become a mainstream paint/coating technology, UV/EB must penetrate the major paint/coating markets such as those represented by the architectural and automotive industries," said David Harbourne, president, Fusion UV Systems, Inc. "Some progress is being made however, successful commercial adoption is still some years away."

Where is the technology headed?

As the trend towards UV/EB technology moves upwards, raw material suppliers are continually launching new products or upgrading already existing technology to meet the demands of the market.

"Technology is headed towards continued improvements in equipment design, with robotics being used more to cure complex and three-dimensional (3D) products," Rodrigues said. "Improved weatherability, adhesion to a wider variety of substrates, the ability to cure 3D parts/profiles more easily, and the potential of low-energy curable formulations for field-applied coatings are also priorities and the next frontiers."

Cytec has recently launched innovative energy curable resins for industrial metal, plastic and wood applications.

Ebecryl 3213 is designed to provide good adhesion to a broad range of metal substrates for general pipe and tubing applications. UV/EB cured products containing the new resin are characterized by good hardness, durability, corrosion resistance and superior chemical resistance.

Ebecryl 1701-TP20 is an acrylated acrylic copolymer with good flexibility, gloss and weatherability, and provides excellent adhesion to cold rolled steel and aluminum. The new resin has been specially formulated for packaging applications, including can coatings and metal decorating inks, and for clear coatings for general industrial applications.

Other new resins for metal coatings include Ebecryl 885, an economical polyester triacrylate with high flexibility and excellent abrasion resistance, and Ebecryl 3708, a modified Bisphenol-A epoxy diacrylate offering a unique combination of increased flexibility and toughness, and excellent adhesion to most metal substrates.

Raylok 2221 is a new UV/EB performance product which adheres directly to a variety of plastic and metal substrates without the need for any surface pretreatments. The new resin is especially designed for automotive plastics, metal coatings and untreated plastic applications.

Ucecoat 7631 is a waterborne UV curable resin which offers superior weathering resistance, outstanding chemical and mechanical resistance, and good flexibility for wood joinery and other outdoor applications.

"Enhanced raw material technology tends to be in the area of liquid dispersing agents for UV, crosslinkable additives for defoaming and surface control, and anticrater additives to correct contaminated surfaces," said Howard. "The biggest challenge will be to compete with existing solventborne technology coming from areas not as concerned with VOC compliance."

Degussa Tego Additives and Specialty Resins offers Tego Dispers 685 and Tego Glide 110.

Tego Dispers 685 is a high performance dispersing and wetting agent designed for organic and carbon black pigments in radiation curing and solvent-based systems. The new Dispers 685 is a liquid dispersing additive that performs well with regard to color strength, excellent reduction of viscosity and improved flow behavior.

Tego Glide 110 is a universal anti-cratering agent used in solvent, water, and radiation curable technologies. Glide 110 can be used to improve wetting on contaminated or low surface tension substrates. Glide 110 improves scratch resistance and flow behavior while having minimal influence on recoatability and foam stabilization.

"Current and future developments will further broaden the scope of UV/EB formulators, addressing some of the more difficult technological requirements," said Rahn's Gatti. "These include high purity/low residuals in raw materials leading to suitability for low migration/low odor applications, adhesion to difficult substrates and improved outdoor weathering performance."

Rahn is working on a wide array of new product introductions, according to Gatti. These include high performance and cost effective urethane acrylates; high performance polyester acrylates for industrial coating applications, including materials with improved adhesion to metal; continuous improvement on low odor/low extractable photoinitiator technologies; investigations on new chemistries for co-resin raw materials; improved outdoor weathering performance; and a variety of new products for graphic arts applications.

Rahn added several new products to its product portfolio this year for various UV markets.

Genorad 21 is an in-can stabilizer for UV metallic inks and coatings. This is the latest complement to Rahn's stabilizer product family. Genorad 21 is designed specifically for use in UV curable metallic systems. With its unique chemistry, Genorad 21 improves the stability of UV metallic systems allowing for true one-pack systems.

Genomer 2235 is a low viscosity aliphatic epoxy diacrylate and is recommended for use in radically curable industrial coating applications where high reactivity and low viscosity are required. It displays good flexibility and adhesion.

Genomer 2280, when compared to straight Bisphenol-A epoxy acrylates, offers a balance of properties with high reactivity, high hardness and good flexibility resulting in excellent toughness. It is recommended for wood and other industrial coating applications.

"Current radcure resin technologies include waterborne, solventborne and 100% solids, with each type having its advantages and detriments," said Gaynor. "A large growth in radcure technology will require UV curable resin suppliers to maximize the advantages for their products, giving an applicator improved performance across the board compared to their current system. High performance waterborne technology will be the core of the UV developments for Alberdingk Boley as coatings suppliers and applicators look for environmental solutions without loss of performance."

Alberdingk has recently introduced several new water-based UV curable polyurethane products within the LUX product line. These new products not only have ideal chemical resistance, but also use Alberdingk's NMP-free polyurethane technology providing unique performance as well as environmental solutions.

LUX 480 has ideal chemical resistance, with complete resistance to household and industrial stains and chemicals such as mustard, ammonia and alcohol. Its hardness after cure provides an ideal solution for an application such as office furniture.

LUX 484 was designed with increased elasticity to provide improved flexibility and adhesion. These attributes make it ideal for substrates such as plastics and metal.

In terms of equipment, Fusion UV's Harbourne said, "The main thrust of development amongst UV equipment suppliers seems to be centered on improving the overall efficiency, or energy conservation, of the conversion of electricity to UV photons. As equipment suppliers it is important to offer UV equipment with more efficient power supplies, lower cost of ownership and reduced operating costs."

RadTech Europe 2007 is Europe's event for UV/EB curing

The RadTech Europe 2007 Exhibition & Conference taking place from November 13-15, 2007 in Vienna, Austria will be the meeting place to the radiation curing industry in Europe. Approximately 50 exhibitors will be on hand displaying the latest UV/EB radiation curing technology and innovative UV/EB applications.

Under the theme "UV/EB-The Natural Choice" the RadTech Europe 2007 Conference will contain more than 100 presentations and poster contributions from university and industry demonstrating innovative product developments, methods, trends and strategies. The conference is expected to attract more than 600 participants.

The list of technical topics includes HSE (health-safety-environment), Application Properties, Equipment, Wood & Surface Performance, Graphic arts, coatings and applications in the automotive and metal industry, new synthesis routes, chemistries and structures, advances in photochemistry and polymerization, innovations and adhesives.

In addition, a brand new session "Ink Jet/Digital has been included as a premiere due to the growing interest of the ink industry as well as the specially designed end user sessions on "Wood-based Panels for Furniture and Flooring" and "Printing, Varnishing and Laminating for the Packaging Industry."

For more info: Vincentz Network, www.coatings.de/rte.

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