The past few years have been a challenging time for the metallic pigments market. Decreased demand for higher-end items due to the economic downturn coupled with the recent automotive crisis have certainly had an impact on demand for metallic pigments. However, metallic pigment makers have reported that 2010 is off to a promising start. Only time will tell if this upstart will continue.
“Due to the downturn in the coatings markets in Europe and North America and the worldwide economic crisis in 2009, the market demand for metallic pigments was strongly affected,” said Aaron Hollman, global product manager effect pigments, performance pigments, Sun Chemical. “However, we have seen an upswing in these markets during the first quarter of 2010. This improving economic situation coupled with our focus on quality, service and innovation has put us in an excellent position for long term growth in metallic and effects pigments. Although we are off to a strong start in 2010, there is still a high degree of uncertainty regarding demand. We are cautiously optimistic that the challenging economic environment of 2009 is behind us.”
“With the automotive industry beginning to rebound from the economic crisis, the market for metallic pigments is beginning to show some improvement this year,” said Andrea Frenzel, vice president, pigments, BASF North America. “Expectations for next year are that automotive companies will continue to look to color and effects to differentiate their products and drive growth.”
According to Noel Bilodeau of JDSU, the market situation is improving but has not yet returned to pre-recession levels. “Our Q1 2010 revenues were up approximately 80 percent from the previous year,” Bilodeau said. “As we look out to 2011, we are seeing interest from auto makers for special option colors to help them increase revenue and profit. The smaller and fuel-efficient cars that are coming out are typically offered in a wider color palette.”
Sclenk-Both Metallic Pigments reports that the first quarter 2010 has been very strong. “We see demand coming back across most of the end-applications we are servicing,” said Thomas Schaller, vice president sales and marketing at Schlenk-Both Metallic Pigments. “We expect again a strong 2010.”
Metallic pigments offer users a high-end, eye catching look for their products. Customers are always trying to push the envelope by coming up with a look that will help their product stand out from the pack, while offering high performance and environmental compliance. Metallic pigment manufacturers must stay ahead on these trends and focus R&D on translating these demands into a reality.
Typically new pigment technologies are being driven by the needs of the marketplace. “A major trend that is emerging among designers is demand for higher chromaticity and color purity,” said Frenzel. “BASF has utilized innovative particle size control methods that have resulted in an optimized particle size range. This advancement, along with novel coating techniques, has led to a new class of high chroma effect pigments. We are also exploring new chemistries and materials to develop new platforms for our effect pigment portfolio.”
“Coating manufacturers continue to emphasize innovation and to utilize metallic pigments to provide greater degrees of effect and impact,” said Frenzel. “Examples include effect pigments with higher chroma and more functional properties, such as higher degrees of hiding.”
According to Bilodeau, low VOC coating technologies such as waterborne and powder coating are a strong focus, as well as the use of metallic pigments in color concentrates as it reduces VOC emissions from paint applications.
Sun Chemical has identified two key trends impacting the metallic pigments market. “First, the market continues to demand unique metallic effects that combine color, travel and functionality,” said Hollman. “Current technology continues to push towards achieving the liquid metal look combined with ease of use and formulation flexibility. Second, our customers are requesting environmentally-friendly products with smaller carbon footprints. As a result, waterborne technology continues to grow along with applications like powder coatings that reduce emissions and waste.”
Although the automotive market continues to be the primary consumer of metallic pigments, emerging areas such as consumer electronics, coil coating and digital inks, show promise.
“The auto market continues to have the largest impact on effect pigment consumption, but emerging areas such as consumer electronics and household goods continue to migrate towards metallic effect pigment shades,” said Frenzel. “This migration is driven by the need to respond to increasing consumer demand for more individual expression in the selection of products.”
According to Hollman, industrial and automotive coating applications show the strongest demand for metallic pigments. “Emerging areas are consumer coil coating, architectural paint, digital ink and securities,” he added.
Metallic pigment manufacturers have launched a number of new products to meet the ever-changing demands of their customers. Schlenk offers a variety of specially treated aluminum pigments for consumer electronics, powder coatings and coil coatings. “These products offer excellent durability and chemical resistance as well as reduced conductivity,” said Schaller. “With our superfine Alushine 7800 Schlenk offers a silverdollar pigment that offers a smooth, near aluminum metal type effect. We have also introduced our ultra-thin Alusstar series.”
“JDSU offers ChromaFlair Titanium Series Aquamarine offers customers a new color combination within our popular color shifting pigment range,” said Bilodeau. “Aquamarine has a classic silver-to-blue color combination that is popular in all markets.”
Among BASF’s latest offerings is Paliocrom Brilliant Orange, a next-generation iron coated aluminum pigment. “Based on the successful Paliocrom Orange pigment, the new Brilliant Orange offers higher chromaticity and lightness without sacrificing its excellent hiding properties,” said Frenzel. “Additionally, it has an inherent sparkle that offers a new effect in this attractive color-space. Paliocrom Brilliant Orange has been especially well received by the automotive community and is currently offered in new red, orange and gold color stylings.”
BASF also offers Lumina Royal Blue, a new red-shade blue mica-based interference pigment that has the highest chromaticity in the market, according to the company. Its main value is in creating new extreme shade high chroma colors that previously were not feasible. “Colorists are actively working to create new vibrant effect shades that can be introduced to brand owners and the design community,” Frenzel added. “Lumina Royal Blue is available in exterior and industrial versions making it suitable for automotive, coil, powder and general coating applications.”
Sun Chemical recently launched Polymer Encapsulated Aluminum Pigments, an expansion of the SunMetallics aluminum pigment product line. These pigments were introduced into the Chinese market for use in consumer electronics, automotive trim, and other single coat applications that require a high level of acid and base resistance or non-conductivity. Sun Chemical Performance Pigments’ Polymer Encapsulated Aluminum Pigments are designed to maintain the brilliance and gloss of the base pigments while resisting tarnishing in areas that are exposed to acidic or basic materials. Additionally, the polymer encapsulation makes the pigments less conductive which is essential for the consumer electronics market.
Sun Chemical has also recently introduced SunGEM, a new industrial effect pigment product line that provides 10 new shades of intense high chroma color with excellent opacity and a combination of pearlescent and metallic character, according to the company SunGEM’s newest colors will help industrial designers set new trends and position their products apart from their competition. In addition, 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.