High Performance Pigments Update

By Kerry Pianoforte | August 4, 2009

The sluggish U.S. housing market and ailing auto industry mean HPP manufacturers will face another tough year.

Manufacturers of high performance pigments (HPP) faced yet another challenging year. As the economic downturn continues to impact the U.S. housing market and the recent automobile manufacturer's crisis has severely curtailed auto production, demand for HPP has been soft.

"With the two major industries, housing and automotive, suffering from the economic downturn the demand for colored high performance pigments are drastically reduced," said Falko Orlowski, coatings business manager, North America, Clariant Corp. "In the face of the increasingly competitive marketplace many manufacturers of paint and coatings try to find cost effective solutions. One growth area for HPPs is the decorative market where higher quality systems become more demanding."

According to Thierry Chevrier, vice president, dispersions and pigments for BASF in North America, the market for high performance and special effect pigments was soft during the first quarter of 2009, similar to the rest of the economy. "However, BASF is optimistic that the U.S. government's stimulus funding plan will help lead to some improvement in the market by year-end, continuing into 2010," he said.

"High performance and special effect pigments track their coatings segments," said Mike McHenry, segment head, coating effects for Ciba in the Americas. "As expected, these pigments are down in the automotive and some of the other durable goods sectors. However, we have seen strong growth with these pigments in the electronics and packaging markets. Color is still a major driver in consumer purchase decisions and high performance and special effect pigments help our customers to differentiate their offerings regardless of the market they serve."

"During the economic downturn, we found there was a sharp decrease in the purchasing volume of high performance pigments," said Rick Campbell, president, Trust Chem USA."For our company, the sales decrease is less for high performance pigments than for conventional pigments. We have also seen sales to the ink industry decrease more than sales to the coatings industry."

"While there continues to be positive strong trends toward the usage of high performance and effect pigments, overall 2009 has been a challenging year for the pigments market worldwide," said Mehran Yazdani, vice president, marketing, performance pigments, Sun Chemical. "The U.S. is currently one of the most challenging regions of the world for the pigments market thanks primarily to a struggling automotive market and housing slump that has led to a decline in auto sales, home building and paint use. Similar challenges in the automotive and architectural markets can be found in Europe. In addition, we have been faced with high cost inventories that continue to impact our profitability."

According to Robert Poemer, business manager for Heucotech, the market for HPP pigments has been very heavily impacted all over the world but particularly in the NAFTA region. "This is due to their link to the automotive, coil and powder coatings industry as well as several other high performance applications," he said.

Although overall demand for HPP has been slow, Toyo Inks reported a rebound in emerging regions. "Due to the economic slowdown, a drop in demand for high performance pigments has continued until the first quarter of 2009," said Yu Adachi, corporate communications, Toyo Ink Mfg. Co., Ltd. "After the second quarter, demand had rebounded particularly in the China andJapan markets. This was due in part to government-initiated subsidy programs to boost consumption of household appliances."

According to Yazdani, China, India and Eastern Europe, are the markets where per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow most rapidly. "Related to the GDP growth of these emerging markets will be the growth in the demand for high performance pigments for the coatings of durable goods, buildings and the automotive sector," he said. "From the market segment viewpoint, we expect continued growth in cosmetics, specialties and niche markets," said Yazdani. "We also expect flat to declining conditions in automotive, architectural, and ink markets. The trend for more efficient cars in the automotive market will see a reduction in paint consumption, however, it will also increase the demand for color. This trend will help to fuel the continued growth in high performance and effect pigments."

In terms of market segments, growth of HPP is expected in the decorative market where higher quality systems become more demanding. "Further, the globalization in the industry and the global activities of key players in the market have created a lot of similarities in the use and application of pigments in the last few years," said Orlowski. "Existing technology differences across the regions will lead to further growth on the HPP side."

HPPs gain use in new segments

Valued for their ability to differentiate products with unique visual effects and excellent weathering, lightfastness and heat resistance ability, high performance pigments traditionally have been used automotive and architectural applications. However, they are also finding use in a number of different applications from electronics to RFID products.

"High performance pigments are being used for kitchen appliances, personal watercraft, mobile devices and electronic accessories, high-end musical instruments and other forms of durable goods for their superior aesthetic and performance qualities," said Chevrier. "In addition to design features, functionalized pigments are creating high end special functionality. Emerging areas of application include security, radio frequency (RF) identification, conductive, thermochromic, and holographic inks and coatings that respond to external stimulus."

Recent products launched by BASF include Glacier Frost White S1303D synthetic mica effect pigment for exterior applications and Glacier Frost White 9S130D for industrial applications; Sicopal Orange L 2430 complex inorganic color pigment; Paliogen Blue L 6360 Indanthrone blue pigmentand Heliogen Blue L 6950 copper phthalocyanine pigment.

BASF, under the Ciba business, also recently introduced Xymara Fireball effect pigment. "Xymara Fireballis a multipurpose pigment that combines the light fastness of a typical high performance quinacridone pigment with the luster of a mid-range metallic or pearlescent pigment," said McHenry. "The value of this product is that it allows formulators to generate exciting new effects in streamlined formulations. 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."

Sun Chemical has launched a number of innovative products. SunGEM is a new industrial effect pigment product line from Sun Chemical that provides 10 new shades of intense high chroma color with excellent opacity and superior pearlescent luster, according to the company. "SunGEM's newest colors will help industrial designers set new trends and position their products apart from their competition," said Yazdani. "In addition to new bold and brilliant colors, SunGEM offers unique magnetic alignment properties that bring colorful three dimensional effects to their coatings and end use applications."

Also from Sun Chemical is SunMetallics.SunMetallics is a line of non-leafing aluminum flake pigments for use in solventborne industrial 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. "In addition to the initial product line, Sun Chemical launched eight new products in 2009 to provide increased formulation design and effect," said Yazdani. "In addition, 2009 will bring further line extensions to be able to meet the market needs for waterborne applications and specialty performance and design needs."

Toyo Ink applies nanotechnology in production process for high performance and specialty pigments. "Our high-performance pigments are used in the fabrication of color filters for top-of-the-line LCDs found in the market today," said Adachi. "The upgrading of pigment functions is a constant requirement of our customers, so we continue to improve color materials, leveraging our core competencies of advanced pigment manufacturing and unique dispersion technology.

Heucotech Ltd. is in the process of constructing a facility in Fairless Hills, PA for the production of Universal Colorants for the decorative coatings in the NAFTA market."This new business in the NAFTA region will expand on the existing base of global technology knowledge in colorants and address specific customer needs with innovative solutions," said Poemer. "The environmentally friendly Heubach technologies will work in either aqueous- or solvent-based products as well as in conventional technology or in lower VOC coatings."

Heubach has recently expanded its line of high performance pigments to include Monolite Yellow 113901 (PY139) for high performance coatings applications, Monolite Red 325401/325402 (PR254) for automotive and decorative coatings and Monolite Red 312201 (PR112) for high performance coatings. Additional pigments such as PY151, PR264, PY180 and PY181 are in the pilot plant process or in advanced stages of R&D.

Clariant has recently introduced a range of Easily Dispersible (ED) pigments for solvent-based coatings for the medium to high-end markets. These include PY 194, PY 151, PY 139, PO 36, PR 122, PR 254, PB 15:3. Other pigments are under development to complete the range. Additionally in the area of pigment preparations, Clariant has develop a complete range of very low VOC dispersions with no APEs. Colanyl 500 is used for formulating green coatings.

Trust Chem USA recently launched lower cost Red 122, Blue 60, Yellow 139, Yellow 151 and Yellow 180. "They are mainly usedin a wide range of coatings, plastics and various applications where required by customer specification," said Campbell. "Our R&D labs are working on surface treatment technology, derivative technology and nanotechnologies. We have been placing high priority on expanding our line ofhigh performance pigments, improving the quality and developing specific standards to meet customer requirements."

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