Patrick Bourguignon, AkzoNobel director for Automotive and Specialty Coatings: We see a growing shift to sustainability and sustainable paint systems. This focuses on raw materials, alternative eco-material and waste materials. Low-VOC coating systems are in growing demand. The trend toward electrification is driving battery coatings, and the trend towards self-driving vehicles is driving our work on radar-transparent and radar-visible coatings. Finally, functional coatings and surfaces play a big role – providing our customers with self-healing and high scratch resistance coatings, among other things.
Kevin O’Connor, director of Global Marketing & Product Management at Axalta: There are several trends influencing the new product development activities with Axalta R&D:
• Sustainability: Sustainability is important to how we think of our business at Axalta—from the way we make paint, to the way our customers process and apply our paint, to the sustainable technologies that our products support. From an environmental sustainability perspective, Axalta is committed to a robust set of enterprise-wide sustainability goals including reducing VOC emissions by 3%, reducing energy use and GHG emissions by 5%, and reducing water use by 10% by 2022. Our R&D team is also committed to developing technologies that lower the overall energy consumption and VOC emissions at our customers’ paint shops. Lower VOC waterborne formulations and 80°C bake technologies are a primary focus in our R&D. Higher paint transfer efficiency technologies including digital paint application also reduce the overall paint consumption and enable two-tone roofs without the incremental energy required in a second pass. Finally, Axalta’s plastic coating products support lightweighting for decreased fuel consumption while our Voltatex® product line enables extended lifetime and higher voltages in EV motors.
• Future mobility: Axalta has developed novel modeling tools and coating formulations that enable 77Ghz radar positioning behind plastic parts without compromising coating appearance. Without this capability, long-range radar would require the need of unsightly radomes installed around the perimeter of the vehicle. In addition, as more ridesharing is adopted and vehicles are subjected to longer duty cycles, the performance of coatings is expected to increase, including improvements in chip and scratch resistance and anti-microbial and haptic features inside the car.
• Advanced manufacturing: As real-time analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud-based data collection and sensor-technology take hold in the OEM paint shop, there will be continuous pressure to decrease the overall cost to coat. This cost, typically estimated to be between $500-$700 per vehicle, includes capital, labor, energy, materials and waste management. Axalta’s R&D team continues to develop products to reduce this overall cost. 80°C low bake technology (reduced energy and capital) and Digital Paint Technology (reduced energy and labor) are examples of this product development effort.
• Customization: Consumers’ desire for vehicle customization continues to grow, and “custom color” solutions and two-tone roofs are desired. Axalta’s digital paint technology will provide custom color options and individualization at the lowest overall cost to coat.
David Cranfill, BASF technical director for OEMs: As companies explore connected autonomous vehicles and new alternative powertrains, coatings need to adapt. BASF’s surface solutions will give those vehicle surfaces new functions. Coatings will have to reflect LiDAR, not interfere with RADAR, and interact seamlessly with various autonomous sensors, adding to the reliability of the entire transportation ecosystem.
This is driving innovation within the industry to formulate coatings that are compatible with the sensors, but stay within the desired color space. The coatings also need to be self-cleaning and ice- shedding to keep sensors free of dirt and debris that could stop them from working.
The shift toward alternative electric powertrains and away from fossil fuels also puts the focus on new technology, the environment, and sustainability. Sustainability is a value that BASF shares with its business partners.
Coatings will have to handle the heat management requirements around batteries and electric motors. At the same time, external coatings with infrared-reflective pigments will keep the cabin cooler to reduce the need for extra energy to power air conditioning. That lets the electric car go farther on a single charge.
Several sustainability trends continue to drive market innovation, including low-temperature cure and integrated processes to compress the paint shop footprint and reduce energy usage. BASF is also working with governments around the world to meet new standards for lower VOCs.
Rebecca Liebert, executive VP, PPG: We believe the auto industry is at the dawn of an exciting new era of opportunity. Our ability to successfully transition to EVs, autonomous vehicles and other new mobility solutions will depend not only on their performance, reliability, affordability and convenience, but alignment with the emerging needs and values of those who will build them and buy them. We continue to make significant progress in developing functional coating technologies and processes that support the needs of our OEM customers.
Whether the challenge is reducing emissions, enabling increased use of lightweight materials and mixed metals, ensuring precise color match across multiple application environments, or cutting energy costs and resource consumption, our people are listening, innovating and delivering solutions that drive success.