Auto OEM Coatings

By Tim Wright, Editor | March 19, 2012

Lower costs, reduced air pollution and better performance are key drivers in automotive coatings and suppliers like BASF continue to offer new technologies and new products for the automotive industry.

The state of the automotive OEM coatings market is improving. The global market for automotive paint was $10 billion in 2011, according to the Southern Pines, N.C.-based consultancy Chemark Consulting. The market grew from $9.3 billion the previous year. North America was the largest regional market worth $2.62 billion in 2011 while all regions experienced positive growth compared to 2010.

“OEM car manufacturers are building more vehicles, and as production increases this ultimately helps OEM paint producers,” said Stacey Russell, marketing communication manager, BASF. “When the industry looks at the seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAARs) and sees that it is improving it helps to build confidence. While Europe’s economy is struggling, with less increase in automotive production, Asia is in a growth mode, particularly in China.” 

Part of the Functional Solutions business segment, BASF’s coatings division is one of the world’s top suppliers of coatings for automotive and industrial applications. The division, which also includes the sale of its Relius brand of decorative paints, reported sales of €2.8 billion ($3.7 billion) in 2011, an increase of $223 million over the previous year.

The company attributed a part of this growth to the favorable market environment in the global automotive coatings industry, where it served increased demand from customers in Europe and Asia, especially China.

For 2012 BASF said it is looking for its coatings sales to grow in part to growing demand from the global automotive industry as paint sales rely heavily on automobile production.

“By 2020 there will be approximately 1.2 billion cars on the road worldwide, an increase of nearly 300 million compared to 2012,” she said. “Global population growth, rising standards of living in emerging markets, increasing urbanization, climate change and the limited availability of fossil fuels require new concepts with regard to sustainability and energy efficiency.”

BASF is working to develop functional materials and solutions that will contribute to the vehicles of the future whether for cars with classical internal combustion engines, hybrid drives or electric ones, according to Russell.

In conjunction with the trends mentioned above, coatings solutions from BASF are designed to help improve the productivity and environmental performance of carmakers. For example, BASF introduced the environmentally friendly cathodic e-coatings CathoGuard 800 and 900 product lines. “Cathodic e-coating, which is the first paint layer applied to a body, forms the basis for perfect automotive surfaces,” said Russell. “It protects the car’s surfaces, edges and cavities from corrosion. The innovative new paints also contain less than one percent solvents.”

Also on the technology front BASF Coatings recently received several awards for XFine, its automotive color innovation. The German Design Council selected the paint manufacturer as a winner of the 2011 Automotive Brand Contest, the first international brand and design competition for the automotive industry.

“Being selected as a winner of the Automotive Brand Contest for this intensive metallic special effect paint underscores that our design and technology competence is highly valued and that XFine has helped us to attract a great deal of interest,” said BASF color designer Mark Gutjahr. “As a coatings manufacturer, we are highly honored to receive the award. After all, nearly all the other prize winners are our customers, the automakers.”

XFine has also been nominated for the 2012 German Design Award, one of Germany’s most prestigious design awards, sponsored by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi).

With XFine, the challenge and the innovative solution involve the arrangement of novel aluminum flakes in the surface of the finish. The particles, which are not aligned at all in the liquid coating, must be perfectly positioned after the coating has been applied. BASF Coatings succeeded in inserting physical and chemical structures that support the alignment of the aluminum particles during drying. This promotes the even distribution of the aluminum flakes, bringing about the mirror effect of the coating.

This mirror effect creates powerful contrasts. The color appears particularly bright on the edges of the car body, while it has a very dark effect when viewed from the side. This flip effect between bright and dark highlights the contours of the car body.

With XFine, a stronger metallic effect has been achieved for OEM waterborne basecoats without posing highly specialized requirements for the coating process.

The independent jury of experts who chose BASF as the winner is made up of representatives from universities, design agencies, automotive journalists, as well as a member of the German Design Council.

After its win in the Automotive Brand Contest, XFine also received the 2011 Materialica Design & Technology Silver Award for its color innovation in the category surface and technology. Designer Gutjahr and Stephan Schwarte, head of color development, accepted the prize at the Materialica, 14th International Trade Fair for Materials Applications, Surface Technology and Product Engineering in Munich, Germany. The main focus of this award is on aerospace, automotive, engineering, sports and technical consumer goods.

Daimler introduces BASF’s iGloss Clearcoat for its OEM coatings

Daimler recently became the first automaker to introduce BASF’s new iGloss clearcoat for OEM coatings. At its plant in Bremen, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe, SLK and SL models are coated with the scratch-resistant paint.

The clearcoat is the top layer of the automotive finish and provides gloss for the body, as well as protection from stresses such as sunlight or chemicals. The iGloss technology offers all these features and additionally provides high scratch resistance.

“It offers better protection against microscratches, which can come about at the car wash, for example,” said Dr. Matthijs Groenewolt, iGloss developer. “This means car owners can now enjoy that new-car effect for much longer than before.”

iGloss combines the advantages of inorganic “hard” materials with those of organic “soft” materials. The hybrid material delivers improved scratch resistance without increasing brittleness. The technology does not require any significant changes in the application process.

General Motors uses eco-friendly water-based “three-wet” paint process for Chevrolet Sonic

For the production of its subcompact Chevrolet Sonic, General Motors brought online a new paint shop at its Orion Assembly Center that features a "three-wet" paint process. The process eliminates the need for a primer bake oven, normally used between the primer and color-coating layers. The Orion Assembly Center allows three layers of paint to be applied one after another while still wet before a single trip though the oven.

This process reduces the paint shop footprint by 10 percent, said GM. It also provides additional floor space and reduces the energy needed to heat and cool these areas.

"Cutting our greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our energy consumption were key to implementing our water-based three-wet paint process," said Mauricio Pincheira, paint manager at Orion. "We want to provide a durable paint that impresses our first-time Sonic customers and maintain the tough environmental standards we have across the company."

Orion's new paint shop was engineered to minimize energy use while reducing solvent emissions. By using the three-wet process, a thin film pretreatment and lean design methods, Orion's paint shop uses 50 percent less process energy per vehicle than the shop it replaced, the car maker said. It is also heated by natural and landfill gas, which results in less emissions than coal-fired boilers.

When full shift production is achieved, Orion's new paint shop will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 80,000 metric tons per year—equivalent to the annual emissions from 14,000 vehicles—and solvent emissions by approximately 108,000 pounds of solvent per year.

These cost-saving paint process improvements trimmed the manufacturing costs by approximately $40 per vehicle.

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