The world of paint is not black and white. In this wide-ranging interview, Bodyshop Magazine speak to William Brunat, Technical Director, Automotive OEM Coatings at PPG, to find out more about the sector.
For the full feature, please see the November 2018 issue of Bodyshop Magazine or http://www.bodyshopmag.com/
What is PPG’s position within the global automotive paint market?
Whether you consider sales or volume, there is no question PPG is a major player in the automotive paint industry. One thing that is certain is that we have the widest range of products and services in the industry. We supply the full range of products to the industry so all the products that you will find in an automotive paintshop could potentially come from PPG.
We cover all coatings from pretreatment to clearcoat. We also have some adhesives and sealant and supply automotive OEM coatings, refinish coatings, and industrial coatings that goes onto the parts that our customers use to build their cars. That makes us really present everywhere in the industry.
Can you briefly explain your role and responsibilities?
My main role is to manage the development and introduction of new technologies. When we introduce a new product line or technology or colour it needs to planned, organised, approved and launched successfully. That’s the core of my role. But once it’s launched there are still lots of activities around optimisation, performance, and support for our customers. My team is in charge of that technical support too.
I also interact regularly with the technical centres of our customers, the people who are making the decision on the next generation of products and applications.
What trends are impacting today’s automotive paint sector?
The last big trend was the introduction of B1:B2 compact processes. Compact process paint systems like B1:B2 remove the traditional primer layer and its associated process steps. The next big trend will be the introduction of low temperature curing. The goal is to coat both the metal bodies and the plastic parts (bumpers, mirror housings, door handles…) with the same paints. Today typically paints for bodies are cured at 140-150 °C while the paints for plastics cure at 80-90°C so we need to design new technologies for bodies that can be cured at 80-90°C. This will generate savings in energy and emissions in the paint shop but also improve the colour harmony between bodies and plastic parts in particular. We have started that already, it is already commercial and has demonstrated its performance but it’s not a compact process yet, and I believe the natural path is to combine compact processes with low temperature curing.
There are other trends. Because of lightweighting and the need for better vehicle fuel efficiency, we are going to coat different substrates, not only aluminium and magnesium, but also potentially different plastics. Paint shops will need to be able to paint them and ensure an even appearance as well as an accurate colour match despite the different types of surface textures.
Can you explain the practicalities of serving both the automotive OEM and automotive refinish markets?
As of today, the curing temperatures for topcoats in each sector are different – typically 80-90 degrees for refinish and 140 degrees for OEMs, therefore you need to use different chemistries. Also, the requirements of the paints used by OEMs are different than the requirements of paint used in refinish. But of course refinish repairs OEM paints, so having both in-house enables us to provide better products and services for both markets.
For some customers, we are coating not only original OEM but also the refinish paint. Without having both activities in-house we would not be able to satisfy our OEM customer’s needs. It also aids us in colour match as we already have the OEM formulations, and in many cases we will have only one interface with the customer, which improves relationships and communication.
How does a company of PPG’s scale, serving customers in more than 60 countries, remain flexible and innovative in such a fast-moving industry?
PPG has a presence in 60-plus counties and that gives us a wide horizon to understand what’s happening in the industry, and respond appropriately.
Another benefit of our size is that we have expertise and experience in all coatings, so we can be diverse.
We are active in open research and are constantly looking for new technologies, and only a few months ago created a new mobility team whose role is to look at the problems and opportunities that will come with electric and connected vehicles.
Can you provide a few examples of how PPG has adopted or innovated technology to better serve the market?
CeramiClear is a clearcoat that uses narrow silicon particles to increase resistance to scratches. We have been able to reach a new level of scratch resistance which hadn’t been achieved, but is now becoming standard.
Another one is the B1:B2 compact process, which is a technology that allows us to eliminate the application and the cure of the primer in the conventional system, leading to significantly reduced paint usage – typically 15% – and also a 30% reduction in energy and emissions.
More recently, electrocoats used to protect cars against corrosion traditionally use a catalyst containing metals which are not environmentally friendly. PPG has developed an organic catalyst, which is more environmentally friendly and introduce our new EnviroPrime EPIC technology. We’ve also introduced another electrocoat called EnviroPrime 7000, which reduces the usage while increasing the corrosion protection. That means less waste, which has allowed our customers to be more environmentally-friendly while saving cost.
The final one, in adhesive and sealants, is a new technology called 4 Wet, which allows us to apply all the layers – wet on wet on wet – before the final clearcoat bake. That allows savings in energy and emissions.
How will autonomous cars impact paint design and manufacture going forward?
It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen, but it’s the role of the mobility team is to assess the challenges and opportunities the arrival of mobility will bring. We’ve already identified possibilities in certain areas.
For example, we know dark colours absorb solar light and heat and that light colours reflects it; the same is true for the lasers in LiDAR. This can lead to issues with dark coloured cars in difficult conditions such as snow or rain. By using a technology with special pigments that allows the light from the LiDAR to be fully transmitted through the coloured layers to a highly reflective white primer, we can increase the amount of reflexivity by up to 10 times, increasing detectability and thus safety.
We are also looking at the potential of putting easy to clean coatings on lenses, cameras and sensors, which will help to increase detectability. We are working on more environmentally friendly coatings for battery electrodes and are also working on special coatings that will seal the battery pack and protect it from water and corrosion. There are heat issues there too, but we are working on the solutions.
Meanwhile, autonomy will change the interior of cars. We are looking for ways to help our customers differentiate themselves in providing better and more attractive interiors. We see some opportunities here.
What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities going forward?
The lifetime of new models is decreasing every year and our customers are thus going to introduce an increasing number of models to differentiate themselves. That means we’re going to see more launches, with more substrates and more colours. That can’t come at the expense of workability, durability and profitability. I see it as an absolute need to work closer with our customers to develop the coating solutions that they need to ensure future vehicles and vehicle launches are successful.