The market for high performance pigments (HPP) and special effect pigments has continued to show signs of improvement. Although still not quite back to pre-recession levels high performance and special effect pigment manufacturers are expressing cautious optimism that this positive trend will continue.
“For 2012, the challenges continue for high performance and special effect pigments, even though we have seen improvement in overall demand versus the same time last year,” said Maria Giannobile, marketing manager, pigments and colorants, BASF Corp. “Market demand continues to rebound, however, it continues to remain highly correlated with the global economy and tied to critical segments such as automotive and durable goods. Overall, we remain cautiously optimistic regarding the business outlook as we continue to improve upon our position by utilizing our broad portfolio. BASF offers a full portfolio spectrum that can address a wide variety of market sectors and applications.”
“Due to continued, although slow growth in the global economy, we continue to see a positive upswing in the high performance and special effect pigments market in 2012, but still not to pre-recession levels,” said Scott Heitzman, global product manager, high performance pigments, Sun Chemical Performance Pigments. “This is an important market for Sun Chemical Performance Pigments and that’s why we recently acquired Benda-Lutz. The acquisition of Benda-Lutz allows Sun Chemical to expand its product portfolio in metallic effects to our core coatings markets and increase our global footprint in pigments and effects. We are optimistic that Sun Chemical Performance Pigments will see continued growth for the high performance and special effects pigments market in 2012.”
Heubach experienced growth in this market segment in the higher end industrial and particularly in automotive coating markets in 2011. “This was partly due to increased demand as well as to new market penetration with recently developed HPPs,” said Bob Poemer, business unit leader at Heucotech, Ltd. “The automotive sector has continued to strengthen in 2012 as OEM sales are up for the third straight year. Industrial applications are also strengthening but housing and commercial construction have continued to be weak.”
According to Frank Lavieri, general manager, executive vice president at Lansco Colors, the market for high performance pigments has grown this year in line with the coatings market segments that use them. “Purchasing a high performance pigment requires a high level of confidence in the supplier by the customer because the performance properties of the pigment are not readily seen in simple screening tests,” he said.
Trust Chem had very strong growth in 2010 and 2011 in both the U.S. and Europe for its high performance pigments mainly supplied from its joint venture factories. “However, the significant slow down in Europe starting in late 2011 and continuing in 2012 has slowed down our sales growth,” said Rick Campbell, president, Trust Chem USA. “Some key European customers saw some significant drop off in demand. In the U.S. the first half was actually stronger than expected however, it appears the U.S. economy is slowing down and we do not expect the second half to be as strong.”
Investment in China continues
China continues to lead the way in terms of the best opportunities for growth for high performance and special effect pigments. Pigment manufacturers have continued to invest heavily in China.
Earlier this year, BASF moved its global headquarters of the dispersions and pigments division to Hong Kong. “Asia represents a large market for our global business and we want to further participate in the dynamic growth taking place in that region and beyond,” said Giannobile.
Hangzhou Heubach Pigment Company Ltd. was recently established in Hangzhou, China. “This location, near Shanghai, has fully equipped laboratories for the coatings, ink and plastics industries to handle any technical service requirement our customers may have,” said Poemer. “In keeping with Heubach's global philosophy of supporting our organic and inorganic pigments and preparations with experienced technical marketing personnel, this latest operation complements the existing facilities in Germany, India and America.”
Trust Chem has all of its production in China and its factories and company have benefited from the growth in China. “We think high performance pigments will grow faster than traditional pigments in China,” said Campbell.
Although there is a sense of optimism for the future, raw material prices continue to be a challenge for pigment manufacturers.
According to Poemer, 2011 was a very difficult year as almost all raw materials increased throughout the year. “At the appropriate time after all other options were exhausted, a portion of these costs were passed to the marketplace,” he said. “So far in 2012, we have not seen the continuously upward trends for raw material pricing that was seen in 2011. We are therefore focusing our resources on new technology and providing solutions to customers. Both the supply situation and pricing seem to have stabilized to a large extent in 2012.”
Sun Chemical is anticipating raw material prices to stabilize at the current high levels. “However, we are certainly aware of the high degree of volatility in the global economy,” said Heitzman. “Therefore, we will continue to monitor the key raw material indexes and focus our manufacturing team on process and raw material productivity.”
“Trends in raw material costs are always a concern,” said Giannobile. “At BASF, we continuously strive to improve our processes and existing technologies in order to deliver better value to our customers.”
Delivering enhanced performance
The added cost associated with these types of pigments means that customers have very high expectations for high performance and special effect pigments. Customers expect these products to deliver outstanding performance characteristics. These pigments are used in a wide range of high-end market applications from automobiles, house exteriors to electronics.
Campbell cited lightfastness, solvent stability, heat stability and fewer impurities as desired characteristics of high performance and special effect pigments. “The most interesting thing is the cost of many of these high performance pigments have dropped over the past five years and the premium versus lower quality traditional pigments has been reduced,” he said.
“End users expect their products to look distinctive and valuable,” said Frank Maile, director business unit coatings and plastics, Schlenk. “During the last several years, the trends towards liquid metal or chrome-mirror effects have amplified. Simulating the appearance of ‘pure metal’ by coatings containing metallic pigments will continue. It explains the use of expensive VMP (vacuum metallized pigments) in coating applications.”
According to Giannobile, the benefits of using high performance pigments include enhanced durability, opacity and higher hiding and for special effect pigments, exceptional brilliance and ultra-high chroma are highly valued, which enables the creation of novel designs and differentiation.
“Traditional markets such as the automotive and industrial sectors will continue to be primary consumers of high performance and special effect pigments,” Giannobile continued. “However, we continue to see interior and exterior decorative applications as a high growth area for high performance as increased interest for materials with improved durability, opacity and weatherfastness properties are being sought by our customers in these markets. Further, we anticipate growth in demand for heat management pigments as rising energy costs and global warming concerns increase the need for solar management solutions within architectural and construction applications.
According to Lavieri, high performance pigments allow coatings companies to make more durable coatings that withstand the forces of nature longer and require repainting less often. “This saves the end user money over the life of the painted article with reduced maintenance cost and part failures,” he said. “High performance pigments also are the only option available to color certain high demanding types of applications where classical pigments will fail. An example of this is in powder coating applications where high performance pigments with good heat stability are required.”
According to Poemer, architectural coatings formulators are looking at high performance pigments to increase their color space and add durability to their systems. “The large size of this market segment could obviously add significant demand in future years,” he said. “Automotive has still not fully recovered to 2006-07 peaks so it also has significant growth potential.”
“The high performance pigments must possess special qualities or the formulator would simply opt not to work with them,” said Poemer. “Many of Heubach's pigments contain properties necessary for high performance coatings including excellent light fastness, chemical resistance, thermal stability and either excellent transparency or opacity depending on the application. We differentiate our pigments with increased strength, ease of dispersion and viscosity stability. High Chroma, light fastness and weathering are the key drawing points of the higher end products. Pricing differentials are smaller than seen in the 1990s and early 2000s which increases their attractiveness.”
“Like most companies we are studying the effects of nano particles on performance but there is still much more in depth study required,” Poemer added. “Furthermore, we are looking for zinc-free anticorrosive pigments that can provide optimized performance. We continue to look for products that will allow us to offer an expanded color space to our customers. These products would include products such as an inorganic orange as well as a further expansion of our high performance organic pigment portfolio.”
Benjamin Moore has introduced Molten Metallics, a new addition to its Studio Finishes portfolio. The name of this new paint product evokes the end result: a surface imitative of a hand-hammered metal.
While most of the special effects coatings in the Studio Finishes collection are glazes, Molten Metallics is an alkyd high gloss paint. It is ideal for adding a dramatic, glamorous look to furniture, decorative pieces, trim and accent ceilings and walls. It also is recommended for exterior surfaces and delivers an effective rust-resistant treatment.
“The illusion of the texture that Molten Metallics creates is captivating and sensual,” said Sonu Mathew, Benjamin Moore’s senior interior designer. “It’s an easy way to produce a rarified look that only artisans typically have mastered. And, it’s a lot more economical, too.”
Six standard ready-mixed colors are offered: Gold, Copper, Bronze, Gun Smoke, Silver and Charcoal.
DuPont Refinish has extended its range of Cromax special factory packed colors by introducing the Mercedes 047 Alubeam Silver—WB-X4789—to answer the growing demand for aftermarket solutions to liquid silver "alu-shine" effects.
The new waterborne basecoat color, available in 0.5-liter tins, has been developed with the inclusion of a Hydroshine pigment to specifically match the Mercedes color Alubeam Silver.
"Over the last two years we've expanded the number of factory packed colors DuPont Refinish offers its bodyshops,” said Ann De Clerck, color marketing manager, DuPont Refinish EMEA. “Thanks to the liquid silver trend, the silver mirror-effect is becoming very popular. With our close links to our OEM division, we are able to rise to these trends quickly and allow our refinishers to meet aftermarket demands. We anticipate this trend will continue to grow so it is important the color is widely available for future use."
Due to its aluminum flakes, the new Mercedes color requires a special application technique. DuPont Refinish has compiled a dedicated technical data sheet for the two colors that use this technique - Mercedes 047 Alubeam Silver and Nissan KAB Silver.