Innovating in the paint business is sometimes as much about the process as the product.
A typical question among coatings suppliers?
"How do you put less paint on the car and have better corrosion protection than ever?" asks Tim Knavish, senior vice president of PPG Industries' automotive coatings division.
The segment's big players are spending r&d dollars to take time and cost out of the process of painting new vehicles. Reducing the number of coats by combining steps is a major innovation.
Axalta Coating Systems, formerly DuPont, has developed a 2-Wet Monocoat paint system that fuses the properties of the base coat and clear coat into one layer and reduces the number of drying cycles and ovens from two to one.
Ford Motor Co. adopted that process in 2014 at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in painting the Ford Transit commercial van. Ford says the two-wet process saved enough electricity to power 3,400 homes for a year and resulted in an 89 percent improvement in paint gloss durability, a 44 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, a 99 percent cut in particulate emissions and a savings of 10.5 million gallons of water annually.
"The two-wet monocoat process uses a primer coat that requires only a few minutes of open-air drying time before the color coat is applied," Ford explained in a written statement.
"The color coat is formulated with the same appearance and protection properties of the clear coat, which eliminates the need for a separate clear coat. The painted body is fully cured in an enamel oven after the color coat is applied. The total process removes one paint application step and one oven drying step when compared to conventional paint processes."
Christopher Toomey, BASF senior vice president, coatings solutions North America, envisions future innovations allowing paint to dry faster.
"How do we reduce the temperatures in the ovens, or even go to ambient dry?" he asks. "That's the Holy Grail -- if you could take out an oven."