Waterborne Paint: An Update
Improvement is ongoing.
In some ways it seems like yesterday that collision shops in California began to look at volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions differently. In fact, the California Clean Air Act was signed into law in 1988. The changes brought about by this law have caused VOC emissions to drop significantly over the past 25 years.
While not all the decrease in VOCs has been brought about by changes in the collision industry, the adoption of waterborne paint as an alternative to the standard solvent-borne paint of the time has been instrumental. Seeing the changes in California, and the difference that rules concerning paint products and paint application have made on air quality, other states in the United States have begun making legal mandates concerning lowering VOC emissions. In fact, a 13-state Ozone Transportation Commission (OTC) Region, which includes states in the New England region of the U.S., has enacted legislation concerning VOC emissions. In 2012, Delaware adopted new, more stringent laws concerning VOC emissions, and in July 2013, Maryland will adopt new laws as well.
While several states in the U.S. and areas in Canada have adopted this type of legislation, the majority of the United States has not. One interesting fact concerning the states where there is not a legal mandate to lower VOCs is that the sale of waterborne paint systems is actually increasing despite the lack of legislation.
Bruce Williams, waterborne product manager for Axalta Coating Systems, formerly DuPont Performance Coatings, offers an explanation for this trend. “While many collision repair shops have chosen to adopt a waterborne paint system as a way to meet a regulatory requirement, waterborne paint can deliver value to body shops,” he said. “Waterborne paint systems from Axalta are designed with more resin and pigment content, so there is less material used. In addition, new resin technology allows for reduced processing times, resulting in increased productivity.”
Joseph Skurka, OEM and industry relationships manager for BASF Corp., says his company has noticed a similar trend. “A large number of collision repair shops have converted from using solvent-based paint systems to waterborne paints. Not just a few shops, but literally, thousands,” he said. “As things are, we believe that in the future, solvent-based and waterborne paint will be swapping places, with solvent-based becoming the minority and waterborne paint will be the most widely used.”
Skurka pointed out a few ways that waterborne paints have developed in the last several years. “BASF is using a more modern pigment to make color matching easier so that body shops are able to match the vehicle’s finish better, and there are a number of application advantages to the waterborne paint systems,” he said. “We have developed application processes and optimized system components to make the waterborne paint easier to work with and easier to blend.” Skurka explained that these updates from BASF can allow a paint technician more options in fine-tuning the basecoat application.
Color matching processes for both waterborne and solvent-borne technologies have been improved by Axalta as well, Williams said. “Axalta has developed a new spectrophotometer, the Aquire Plus EFXTM for collision repair shops, which enables faster color retrieval by body shop technicians,” he said. Because one of the biggest challenges for paint technicians and collision shop owners is how to return a vehicle to its original color, the Aquire Plus EFXTM helps the technician read the color first and then read the sparkle of the aluminum flakes so that the vehicle is returned to its original color. Axalta launched the Aquire Plus EFXTM in 2012, and it can be used in shops where both solvent-based and waterborne paints are used.
Williams also mentioned an advancement in paint booth technology that affects the humidity temperature balance that is so critical to waterborne paint technology success. Axalta has co-developed IntelimistTM Spraybooth Climate Control System, which can be used in more arid environments such as Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and in parts of California. He explained, “There are some areas of the U.S. where the temperatures are very high —even over 100 degrees — and yet the relative humidity is less than 10 percent. In these areas, the IntelimistTM system can be used to inject humidity into the spray cycle of a spray booth, which can help prevent the waterborne basecoat from drying too quickly.” Williams also explained that the comfort of the technician is improved as well, since the system can cool the paint booth 10 to 20 degrees, overall.
Looking forward to changes in waterborne paint technology, and looking back at the changes that have been made, Skurka had an interesting observation. “While companies like BASF are now 20 years into offering waterborne paint for repairs, the technology used is constantly being tweaked,” he said. “We are continuously tweaking applications for waterborne paint technology, to make it easier for the technicians to spray quickly.” He reiterated the ongoing evolution of improvements to waterborne paint technologies and said he believes paint companies will continue to focus on improving cost efficiency and productivity for technicians and body shop owners.
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