Metallic Pigments Market

By Kerry Pianoforte | June 1, 2009

The economic downturn has impacted the metallic pigments market due in large part to the ailing auto industry, a major consumer of the pigments.

As expected, due to the continued economic downturn, the metallic pigments market has experienced a slowdown in demand. "The overall usage of metallic pigments follows the downward trend of the global economic market in 2009," said Martha Davies, global product manager, effect pigments, Performance Pigments, Sun Chemical. "One of the key market segments-automotive coatings-has been impacted particularly hard. There are other markets, such as the DIY segment, which did not show the same type of market volatility, however, those segments are much smaller and therefore could not offset the overall downturn to the metallic pigments market. We anticipate that the market will begin to stabilize during the remainder of2009 turning into 2010."

The depression in sales of aluminum pigments that began in the last quarter of 2008 also continues, according to Andrew Edwards, global director of marketing, inks, Silberline. "The global economic slow down is influencing the behavior of the consumer. Uncertainty regarding job security is generating more frugal spending habits.

"While consumer confidence remains low individuals, families and businesses reduce their spending on anything considered a luxury such as a new car, laptop or mobile phone," Edwards continued. "Many of these use aluminum pigments for functional or aesthetic effects and the result is a lower demand for these pigments. The automotive segment, given the volume of pigment used, has been the most severely hit, while the graphic arts and printing ink segment has been the most robust, although not immune."

"Unfortunately the negative trend of the last quarter in 2008 has continued," agreed Hannes Loichtl of Benda-Lutz. "The market situation remains very difficult and sales figures of 20-40% less compared to 2008 can be found quite often. The upcoming spring creates hope for increase in demand from the building industry. For 2010 a stabilization of the business on a lower level is expected."

Despite the challenges faced by the economic downturn there is still demand for metallic pigments. "Industrial and automotive applications show the strongest demand for metallic pigments," said Davies. "Emerging areas include consumer coil coatings, architectural paint, digital ink and securities."

According to Thierry Chevrier, director, BASF Performance Chemicals�coatings and plastic chemicals, North America, although metallic pigments have suffered during the first quarter of 2009, there is cause for optimism. "We are optimistic that through the U.S. government's stimulus plan and increased projects we will see improvement in the market by year end, and continuing into 2010," he said. "Today, many brand owners recognize the need to stand out from their competition and are looking at enhancing their products via metallic and special effect pigments in coatings, plastics and printing packaging.

"The automotive market continues to be a major outlet for metallic pigments and special effects, although at a decreased level because of the global financial recession," Chevrier continued. "To counter the decline in the automotive market, we have been investigating other areas that still offer high growth potential. One trend that we have identified is the work/play life relationship. In today's climate, where everyone is working extremely hard under difficult conditions, it is equally important to play hard. Recreational activities utilizing sporting goods and equipment, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercraft and other related areas are of high interest."

"Plastics, such as electronics, cell phones and computers, coatings, such as wheel rims and automotive and printing inks for packaging are just a few of the more traditional outlets for metallic pigments," said Bernadette Corujo, coatings marketing manager for Ciba, North America. "Vacuum metallized pigments have been replacing hot stamp foils. Even in these traditional segments, customers are looking for ways to differentiate their products to help drive consumer purchase decisions. For example in the automotive market, luxury cars are using high performance metallic effect pigments for luxury cars with high end wheel rims. The appliance market has moved away from traditional white goods to an expanded color space with increased usage of these upscale metallic pigments. Glitter effects have been incorporated into new looks for plastics, coatings and inks applications.

"In addition to design features, functionalized pigments are creating high end special functionality," added Corujo. "While not exclusive to metal effect pigments, emerging areas of application include security, radio frequency identification, conductive, thermochromic and holographic inks and coatings that respond to external stimulus."

Environmentally friendly products are a key area of growth for metallic pigment manufacturers. "Our customers are requesting environmentally-friendly products with smaller carbon footprints," said Davies. "As a result, waterborne technology continues to grow along with applications like powder coatings that reduce emissions and waste. Additionally, the market continues to demand unique metallic effects combining color, travel and functionality. Technology continues to push towards achieving the liquid metal look combined with ease of use and formulation flexibility."

"In many fields customers are targeting higher productivity and ecological solutions," said Loichtl. "Metallic pigments should meet these requirements by having higher stabilities to enable a reduced number and thickness of layers. Furthermore, the pigments should be applicable for UV-curing and water-based systems. Aromatic-free solvents in metallic pastes support the ecological aspect. Overall, the competition is stronger caused by a decreased market."

Schlenk has also invested in the trend of environmentally friendly products. "Schlenk has successfully implemented a corporate environmental management system according to DIN ISO 14001:2005 to provide certified market-driven products globally," said Michael Bauer, marketing director, Schlenk Metallic Pigments. "In addition, we have constantly been furthering the improvement and optimization of any process activities within the Schlenk group to match these trends."

New Products

Metallic pigment manufacturers have brought a number of innovative products to market. Sun Chemical has launched a new portfolio of metallic pigments called SunMetallics, as well as eight new products in the SunMetallics line to meet customer needs for end use aluminum metallic effects.

SunMetallics is a line of non-leafing aluminum flake pigments for use in solventborne industrial and OEM coating applications. The product portfolio includes cornflake and silver dollar pigments over a broad particle size range to allow for formulation of coatings with excellent hiding power to brilliant metallic effects and excellent color travel, according to Davies.

SunGEM is a new industrial effect pigment product line recently launched that provides ten new shades of intense high chroma color with excellent opacity and a combination of pearlescent and metallic character. SunGEM demonstrates unique magnetic properties that extend the world of effects beyond color, travel and brilliance to the ability to control pigment alignment and provide truly unique design capabilities.

Silberline has recently launched a number of new metallic pigment products for the automotive, plastics, powder coatings and graphic art and printing ink segments. "Silver Star and Silver Star AQ for the automotive and coatings industry expressly designed to meet customers demand for the highest quality aluminum pigments at economical prices," said Edwards. "Powder coatings has seen the launch of SilBerCoate PC-XS, a range of superior performance aluminum pigments for high durability powder coatings, and the plastics segment now have the brightest effect available in the SparkleSilver Ultra family for injection molding, extrusion and blow molding."

BASF has launched Glacier Frost White which has a bluish reflection color. "It is based on synthetic mica, which provides a coating substrate free of impurities that are found in nature such as iron oxide," said Chevrier. "The result is a very clean, white and pure pearlescent pigments that has applications in personal care packaging as well as automotive and decorative coatings. Glacier Frost White has been referred to as the 'whitest white' pearlescent pigment in today's market."

Ciba's latest offering include Xymara Fireball, a multipurpose pigment that combines the lightfastness of a typical quinacridone pigment with the luster of a mid-range metallic or pearlescent pigment. "The value of this product is that it allows formulators to generate an exciting new effect in a streamlined formulation," said Corujo. "In some cases, formulators can achieve a similar look with Fireball as they would by combining a transparent high performance red with a weather resistant effect pigment. This all-in-one pigment provides a more brilliant and clean hue than the traditional blend."

Schlenk has launched a number of new products. Powdal non-leafing powder coatings are improved silica coated powder coatings which display excellent resistance. The new series of water-based non-leafing pigments, Aquamet HR silica coated pigments, offers excellent humidity resistance. The ultra thick Decomet vacuum metallized pigments provide a full range of light to dark chrome effects for solventborne and waterborne systems.

Blitz UVAL from Benda-Lutz is a new series of aluminum pigments that was developed to meet the requirements of customers by creating stable UV-curable systems with special effects. "Until now, metallic shades were only possible with two-component systems due to the catalyzing effect of conventional metal pigments initiating polymerization and therefore causing poor shelf life of one-component formulations," said Thomas Schaller, vice president sales and marketing, Schlenk Both USA. "With Blitz Uval Benda-Lutz developed a new type of stabilization to overcome these problems and to allow producers to formulate stable one-component metallic UV paints and inks, too."

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