With an eye toward the future, coatings manufacturers are making inroads to reduce even further the VOC content of solvent-based coatings for commercial use – to levels well below current North American requirements.
For example, PPG recently introduced the company’s next-generation Delfeet One paint line, an array of ultra-low VOC premium undercoats, topcoats and clearcoats suitable for use across the entire commercial transportation continuum – from OEMs to bodybuilders and truck collision shops.
In developing the new system, PPG chemists set out to create a collection of coatings that would be supported and defined by three key requirements emerging from customer surveys: improved color matching capability, ease of application and the ability to more precisely control dry times depending on the size of the job. As it turns out, the Delfleet One system does all that while providing the commercial transportation industry with the lowest VOC product offerings:
1.5 VOC for basecoat, direct gloss and matte finishes. Undercoats and clearcoats have VOC ratings of 2.0 or less. Overall, the system is rated to reduce VOC emissions by 57% compared to a traditional paint system, thereby ensuring the system’s long-term viability to meet future environmental regulations across North America.
“The PPG Delfleet One paint system is a major technological step forward, the perfect example of what today’s commercial refinish industry can responsibly produce,” said Scott Colvin, PPG brand manager, fleet segments, USCA commercial. “Customers have made it very clear as to what they want: a progressive paint system that efficiently enhances job quality and productivity while reducing environmental concerns as well. Advanced technology allows us to accomplish this. Undoubtedly, other paint companies are moving in a similar direction, and we see that as a good thing since we all want to set higher standards for better, greener products.”
All this may sound impressive on paper, but how does it play out in the real and highly competitive refinish world – a world in which it is often difficult to persuade commercial refinishers to accept new paint systems? Do these new paints produce the desired results? Do eco-conscientiousness compromise revenue and profit opportunities? This writer spoke with the people who use the products daily – collision center owners and painters who know firsthand when a product works and when it doesn’t.
One person with direct knowledge of ultra-low VOC paint systems is Patrick Connell, CEO and owner of Delaware Truck Refinishers in New Castle, Delaware, Connell and his team – 50 employees including three full-time painters – provide collision repair and refurbish services exclusively for commercial truck fleets. Connell switched to PPG’s Delfleet One paint system last June. When asked why, he was direct: “I like to be on the cutting edge in my business, and ultra-low VOC paint is the cutting edge. In this case, quality and ease of use are obviously important, but I saw the ultra-low VOC level of the Delfleet One system as an equally important factor and a huge plus in terms of environmental impact and social responsibility.”
Connell points out the green-leaning marketing benefits of the Delfleet One system. “By choosing this ultra-low VOC paint system, I was able to align my company brand with a top paint brand. It was an instant image upgrade environmentally, one I’m happy to promote.”
Connell’s painters were hesitant to embrace a new system, and Connell believed it would be a challenge for them to adapt. But that wasn’t quite the case. “Painters don’t like to change the way they work. But the challenge we expected wasn’t much of a challenge at all,” he said. “Once we saw how easy it was to use Delfleet One paint, everyone adapted quickly. The product did what it was actually supposed to do – it is simple to apply, offers premium quality and is great for all kinds of jobs. We had training and support from PPG and our distributor, Single Source, and we were a Delfleet One paint center in no time.”
To illustrate how trouble-free the transition was to the Delfleet One system, Connell related a story about a junior painter on staff; he found the new system so easy to use that within six weeks he had mastered it and was elevated to a senior painter position.
In concert with the adoption of the Delfleet One system, the company expanded its capability to handle larger transit vehicles by installing a 65-ft. paint booth.
John Melvin Jr., owner of JM Collision Center in Laveen Village, Arizona, near Phoenix, is also using Delfleet One commercial coatings. He changed to the ultra-low VOC system shortly after it was introduced. “I wasn’t happy with the other product I’d been using. It wasn’t easy to work with. I had a hard time matching and blending paint and I wasn’t getting support from the company. On top of all that, it was just too expensive. My PPG and Single Source reps suggested I try the Delfleet One system. I did and I liked it.”
While Melvin appreciates the ease of use, excellent color match and tint capabilities of the Delfleet One system, its green advantage is a major feature. “We do cars too,” he explained. “For that we use a PPG waterborne system. We are familiar with ecological concerns and know the importance of being environmentally aware and accountable. When state and county inspectors come into the shop and see we’re using ultra-low VOC and waterborne systems, they are very pleased.”
Melvin’s shop covers 5,000 sq. ft. including a 50’ paint booth. He and his six employees (two painters, two bodymen and two cross-painter/bodymen) handle a steady flow of truck and car work. Melvin is a hands-on painter – he’s been in the business for more than 40 years. He and his team thought there might be some adjustments to the Delfleet One system. There were, but fewer than expected and no equipment changes. “I was involved right from the start,” he said. “I like being hands-on, so I understand what’s happening and can help out if any problems arise. But there were no problems. We were fine within a week, and within a month it was as though we’d been using it forever. My painters love it.”
The economic advantages of the ultra-low VOC product line also appeal to Melvin. “Using the Delfleet One system, I’ve seen greater product efficiency. I don’t need to use as much paint, so I’ve been able to reduce my inventory and my bottom line is better.”
The demand for green products appears to be growing, and as technology advances, better solutions are being designed for environmental compliance.
As paint companies introduce ultra-low VOC paints, they give the refinish industry a timely option that emphasizes quality and environmental responsibility.
Beyond these benefits, there is also the economic gain the system’s efficiency and productivity allow. For the commercial collision center looking to enhance its situation, the ultra-low VOC option is worth serious consideration.