Metallic Pigments

By Catherine Diamond, Associate Editor | June 8, 2016

Diversified trends in automotive colors and increased consumer competition are driving this market forward.

The global metallic pigments market is expected to reach $1.20 billion by 2022, according to a report by Grand View Research (GVR) in March. This growth is largely attributed to changing consumer preferences towards “fashionable products with enhanced colors and brilliant visual effects.” Technological advancements have introduced high-luster and sparkling effects with increased durability for automotive OEM processing and paint refinishes, researchers found.

“These odorless pigments are also widely utilized in other expanding end-use industries such as packaging, cosmetics and printing inks, particularly in emerging economies of China and India,” the report stated. “Increasing consumer awareness regarding sustainability and environmental friendly nature of these pigments has also benefited the overall market.”

Aluminum pigments emerged as the leading product segment and accounted for over one third of the total market volume in 2014. Copper pigments are expected to be the fastest growing product segment growing at a CAGR of 5.7 percent from 2015 to 2022. These pigments are rapidly gaining popularity due to their ability to impart a unique gold-bronze effect to various substrates, researchers found.

Suppliers report growth in the early part of 2016, and believe there is reason to be optimistic moving into 2017. Aaron Hollman, global director of effect pigments, Sun Chemical, said that metallic effects continues to be a growth area for Sun Chemical.
“In the past several years, we have seen tremendous growth of our Benda-Lutz brand of metallic pigments and preparations,”

Hollman said. “Our goal is to continue to expand the use of both decorative and functional metallic effects into new applications and unknown markets through innovation. We are very excited about our pipeline of new products. By delivering true added value for our customers, we can continue this upward growth trend in 2016 and beyond.”

Frank Nataro, VP, sales & marketing, Americas & Europe, Silberline Manufacturing Co., Inc., said that while aluminum pigments have seen a slight decline, colored metallics are gaining in popularity.

“Aluminum pigments have slightly declined due in large part to the decline of straight silver in the global color popularity for automobiles,” he said. “Colored metallics are becoming more popular as high chroma colors such as metallic reds, blues and greens are gaining favor, specifically in the automotive coatings market. The declines we have seen in the automotive market due to color popularity have been somewhat offset by demand for new silver aesthetics and technology approvals and an increase in industrial and vacuum metalized flake markets.”

‘Green’ trends

As consumers and manufacturers become more focused on the environment, suppliers are challenged with meeting sophisticated technical demands while utilizing ‘green’ methods. Thomas Hughes, head of key account management and automotive coatings, ECKART America Corporation, said that both environmental regulations and cost are the major factors impacting this industry.

“Our development efforts are aligned with the market and our customer needs in order to provide increased value with our technical solution offerings,” Hughes said. “The demand for environmentally-friendly coatings continues and we support this with our technical leadership position with stabilized and encapsulated pigments for water based coatings systems and pigments for powder coatings.”

Silberline’s Nataro said that stricter environmental regulations have forced metallic pigment suppliers to modify their processes and materials in order to provide pigments that can pass all regulatory testing and offer low to zero VOC. 

“There is also a push for further reduction of aromatic content in the carrier solvent in some metallic pigments, along with more and more pressure to test and ensure that PAH levels are within regulations for the different markets,” he said. “Silberline is continuing to see more efficient coating applications, imparting thinner film builds and less overall paint being required to paint a vehicle, while retaining excellent color and performance.  Finer and brighter continues to be the message.”

Ron Levi, president of New Brook International, said that by far, the most important factors are the environmental, shipping and handling regulations, which he says have gotten much stricter.

“The cost of doing business with these products has risen considerably and has been passed along to the customers down the line,” Levi said.

Raw material costs are one contributing factor to price increases in a multitude of industries. Sun Chemical’s Hollman said that effectively managing raw material costs is “critical to maintaining stable pricing for our customers.”

He added, “The last 12 months have seen many changes in supply, currency exchange rates and the price of petroleum derived goods. Our global manufacturing team has invested in designing production processes with a high degree of flexibility. This flexibility allows us to globally source raw materials and utilize our global manufacturing footprint to consistently deliver quality, service and innovation in this highly volatile period.”

Emerging markets

Metallic pigments are versatile, eye-catching and increasingly utilized to differentiate products in competitive markets. Strong markets have historically included industrial and automotive markets. According to Silberline’s Nataro, there is also demand in protective coatings markets, automotive OEM and refinish coatings. “Metallic printing inks are also adding flash and pizzazz to packaging and paper, creating new effects that catch the eye,” he said.

Hughes, of ECKART, said that there is steady demand in the automotive and the electronics segments in spite of the decline in pure silver in the automotive sector.

“However, we continue to see an increase in the use of metallic and special effects in designed colors,” he said. “For example more metallic blues, reds and other colors. We expect this to increase in the future along with the use of more pure silver metallic based on the development of the new pigments we are developing.”

The automotive segment, which has been the key driver for global metallic pigment demand, has remained steady in North America and is showing modest gains in Europe, according to Hollman of Sun Chemical.

“Sun Chemical has seen strong demand for Benda-Lutz SPLENDAL vacuum metallized pigments for high end automotive interiors. We are also seeing increased usage of our new high performance stain resistant metallics for wheel coatings. For topcoats, new color trends emerge every year,” Hollman said.

New technologies, products

Metallic pigment suppliers are frequently introducing new technologies to the market. What follows is information on these new innovations from select manufacturers, in their own words.

ECKART America Corp.

To support the North American and global needs in the automotive OEM market and industrial applications, ECKART has invested in an application center in Louisville, KY. ECKART continues to expand its STAPA UCP products. These pigments have a proprietary encapsulation that offers the highest stability and brilliance in solvent- and water-based coatings. In addition to its Ultra Chemical Performance, STAPA UCP display a pronounced optical dark flop. Their smooth, untextured surface along with the extreme fineness provides a unique brilliance and light reflection.

New Brook International

Along with its supply partners New Brook continues to focus on bringing brighter bronze powders to the market with the pop and shine required by today’s formulators. On the aluminum side the company is stressing a transition away from aluminum powders to pastes or forms with other carriers, which satisfy current safety and storage regulations. 


Schlenk Metallic Pigments continuously work on improving surface treatments of its effect pigments to make its products more durable and fit for easier and wider use for its customers. Schlenk Metallic Pigments has successfully introduced its super-durable powder coating aluminum series POWDAL SDT.  With the new and further improved surface treatment, customers can achieve highly durable metallic powder coating finishes with improved application abilities. Furthermore, Schlenk has launched its new polychromatic rainbow-effect pigment MULTIFLECT.

Silberline Manufacturing

Due to the ever-increasing regulations, Silberline has developed products specifically aimed at the waterborne industrial coatings market.  As the trend towards water based coatings continues into the future, Silberline has developed numerous chemistries and surface treatments that have allowed the formulators to create dazzling metallic effects in a water based coatings system without the worry of hydrogen gas generation or loss of any optical properties. Silberline’s commitment to water based technology has given rise to two new product lines: SILBERCOTE AquaPellet and STARBRITE Reveal AQ. 

Sun Chemical

Sun Chemical has recently introduced Benda-Lutz COMPAL WS, a new range of highly concentrated, VOC-free aluminum preparations for coatings. The company also recently expanded its Benda-Lutz MAXAL EC product line to include finer particle sizes allowing for smooth metallic finishes combined with the durability of its MAXAL EC pigments.

Sun Chemical’s Benda-Lutz COMPAL WS is a new range of highly concentrated, VOC-free aluminum preparations for inks and coatings. Designed for long term gassing stability in aqueous environments, COMPAL WS can be used in both water or solvent based systems, providing maximum formulation flexibility. Each grade of COMPAL WS preparations is delivered in an easily dispersible granular form for safe and easy handling, improved shelf stability, and numerous other advantages in transport. 

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