The automotive industry has long wanted to address the EPA's hazardous waste regulations, which describe hazardous waste generated by the zinc-phosphate process of pre-treating vehicle bodies and components for enhancing finish adhesion and corrosion resistance. Henkel was first to debut a phosphate-free zirconium-based pretreatment in the auto industry with its Bonderite TecTalis process. The process was developed to address regulations by eliminating heavy metals such as nickel, manganese, and zinc-phosphate sludge from the process. As a result, this phosphate-free conversion coating process eliminates pretreatment sludge, reduces landfill requirements, and simplifies the waste water treatment.
Henkel has demonstrated a collection of process improvements, including operating at ambient temperatures, elimination of phosphates, no biochemical or chemical oxygen demand, elimination of regulated heavy metals, and significantly reduced operating costs.
The reduced costs relate to having eliminated three steps in the pretreatment process, reduction in energy usage by approximately 30% and water usage by 20%, and finally, the elimination of waste sludge, including the elimination of the steps and overtime spent on dumping and disposing of the sludge. Net, a considerable savings in water used is realized by this process.
Henkel started the laboratory work leading to the Bonderite TecTalis process in 2001. A trial application was made with Ford on 20 Town Cars at Ford's Wixom plant in December, 2006, and the process was fully operational at the Ford St. Paul Ranger plant in November, 2007. This advance in pre-treatment processes is a major development, saving substantial money, energy, water, waste, and, potentially, plant space. Commendably, another industry competitor has launched a very similar phosphate-free, zirconium-based process to compete with this game-changing innovation in nearly the same timeframe, and the industry will have to react to these vastly improved processes for pre-treatment.