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Friday, 20 September 2019
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Raw materials & technologies

Sustainability and protection

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Environmental sustainability is of increasing importance for protective coatings. What are the main challenges? Olaf Sziedat, Business Area Director Central Europe of Hempel Germany and Dr Dieter Heldmann, Senior Technical Manager, Performance Silicones at Wacker give their opinions.

Environmental sustainability is of increasing importance in protective coatings. Source: Domagoj Burilovic - Fotolia.com

Environmental sustainability is of increasing importance in protective coatings. Source: Domagoj Burilovic - Fotolia.com

Olaf Sziedat, Hempel: The greatest obstacles to achieving sustainable environmental solutions are existing standards and resistance to change. Many of our existing standards are decades old, such as the "Deutsche Bahn Blatt”, SNCF, and ACQPA, and are preventing the implementation of new, environmentally sound solutions. Furthermore, there is no framework for making a true end-to-end calculation of the carbon footprint. Another factor is the conservative nature of industry and its aversion to innovation. Although there is a wide range of accelerated tests in use and an enormous amount of reference data available for comparing results of actual outdoor exposure, nobody is willing to trust a new system that does not come with a long track-record of references. As an industry, we need to find a way to set standards of testing that will help to skip the outdoor exposure tests so that the time to market can be shortened as much as possible.

On the technical side, there are a large number of good systems available on the market (waterborne, ultra-high solids, solvent-free). The challenge here is to reduce paint consumption/film thickness/number of layers. Doing so would enable us to improve our overall carbon footprint, which would also mean less energy consumption during application. An even more challenging aspect is making the technologies more robust and user friendly. Waterborne solutions are too sensitive to drying conditions and the pot life of solvent-free systems is too short. Ultra-high solids still contain too many solvents.

Dr Dieter Heldmann, Wacker: There are several challenges and they very much depend on the coating technology. For example, one major challenge is lowering the VOC content in the formulation of inorganic silicate primers and other shop primers. The chemistry here usually involves hydrolysis, and that makes it difficult to formulate genuinely waterborne systems. Replacing aliphatic isocyanate-based coatings is another major challenge. But here the industry already has solutions, e.g. in the form of isocyanate-free products based on low-viscosity silicone systems. These polysiloxane coatings have gained substantial acceptance in specific niche areas and might expand into standard coatings applications in the future. They deliver the same, if not superior, level of performance without impairing the formulation’s application properties. We also see a growing interest in waterborne resin products for high-temperature applications. True, application and formulation can be more complicated than with conventional products, but their market share is growing nevertheless.

These examples show quite clearly that the industry is committed to developing and offering more sustainable products to the market. Lead chromate and chromium(VI) are also a good example. In recent years, these pigments have been largely replaced by more sustainable products. However, developing a new product is costly – a risk that a manufacturer will only take if the customer is willing to pay for the benefits and sustainable features which the product offers. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Markets still tend to stick to conventional systems because of their long track record and for cost reasons.

In the July/August Issue of the European Coatings you can read the full "Expert Voices” interview. Here, Olaf Sziedat and Dr Dieter Heldmann also talk about their predictions on future trends in protective coatings.

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