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Thursday, 09 July 2020
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Raw materials & technologies, Technologies, UV/EB Coatings

Expert Interview: “Stricter regulations are generally considered to be drivers of innovation”

Monday, 30 July 2018

Complying to regulations is not only a challenge for companies that are active in the field of radiation curing. It is also the change to gain a competitive advantage says Tunja Jung from BASF in our expert interview. Also, she talks about technological trends and dual cure technology.

LED technology for radiation curing coatings is developing faster says Tunja Jung of BASF. (Source:Ron Heidelberg - stock.adobe.com)

LED technology for radiation curing coatings is developing faster says Tunja Jung of BASF. (Source:Ron Heidelberg - stock.adobe.com)

Ms. Jung, what do you think are the greatest challenges in UV curing at the moment?

For me the greatest challenge is dealing with the rising tide of regulations in health, safety, and environment (HSE). In other words, the burgeoning requirements handed down by REACH, Swiss Ordinance etc. and brand owners. At the same time, this also creates opportunities for innovation and enhancement in UV technology.

A further challenge is the availability of raw materials. There is a growing shortage of raw materials due to strong demand and positive economic developments in all regions.

Some industry participants complain that regulation takes up so much of their time that there is barely any time left for innovation. 

Stricter regulations and a scarcity of raw materials are generally considered to be drivers of innovation. The rapid adjustment of existing formulations to new requirements ties up a lot of resources. However, if formulations can be made to comply quickly with the new regulations, this also represents an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.

Tunja Jung BASF

Tunja Jung works as Team Leaderat BASF in the Resins & Additives Unit for Europe. She also lectures a seminar on radiation curing.

In future, the costs for adjustments will have to be borne increasingly along the value chain as far as the consumer, so that scope for ground-breaking innovations may be created. On the other hand, adaptation of existing formulations can also spawn innovations if it simultaneously leads to additional properties such as enhanced chemical resistance and the like. This situation applies not only to coatings and or printing inks manufacturers, but also to us raw material manufacturers.

Which specific issues are you referring to? 

REACH is a huge one, of course. The registration phase is now complete and the product evaluation phase is underway. Every evaluation can signal a new product labelling situation and it is essential to adjust to the new situation quickly in order to take advantage of any new opportunities that arise.

Is this only an issue in Europe?

European and American chemicals legislation is certainly very stringent and is playing a pioneering role in this regard. However, other countries are following suit, especially those in Asia, and that will have a further impact down the line.

Turning to another topic, how closely do you work with the manufacturers of radiation sources? 

We have lamps from various manufacturers on site, be they LED or mercury vapour types. And we stay in regular contact with each other to promote technological exchange between the lamp technology sector and the chemical industry. In the LED sector, the level of cooperation is certainly somewhat deeper at the moment, as this field is developing faster.

In the context of innovation in radiation curing, the topic of dual cure is also important, of course. How do you see this technology?

The question is: what exactly is meant by dual cure? We understand it to be the UV-curing mechanism plus a second, different mechanism, which is usually triggered by heat. However, the mechanism of UV curing by means of free-radicals does not change, though. The thermal mechanism, for example, can also be triggered with peroxide free-radicals. But polyisocyanates, too, can be used to effect polyurethane crosslinking or to take advantage of totally different combinations. In my experience, the first two combinations are the most common.

Dual cure usually yields a combination of the properties of both systems. This is less a synergistic effect than it is the average effect of the two technologies. However, dual cure can compensate for the disadvantages of radiation curing, such as the poor curing of very thick pigmented layers or of "shadow” curing.

Dual cure can be basically used in all applications, whether in the furniture, flooring or automotive industries. While dual cure is somewhat more expensive, it has a positive cost-benefit ratio when it comes to compensating for the weaknesses I’ve just mentioned.

What are the main advantages of UV curing in your view?   

UV curing is a highly efficient curing technology and offers an unbeatable cost-performance ratio, particularly when viewed over the full production process. It is especially unbeatable where scratch-resistant and chemical-resistant surfaces need to be produced at high speeds. Which makes the technology an interesting candidate for new applications such as digital or 3D printing.

Another innovative application field is the curing of coatings on three-dimensional objects. This is particularly challenging for UV coatings because the distance and angle between the UV lamp and the coating surface varies. To compensate for this so that uniform product quality can be obtained, meticulous coordination of coating raw materials and process technology is essential.

You are also going to hold a seminar on radiation curing shortly. What can participants expect?

The first part of the seminar will cover the technical basics to help newcomers understand the technology and to make the topic fundamentally accessible. I will also deal with the various chemical components, such as binders and photoinitiators. In addition, there will also be formulation insights for avoiding possible "traps”. In other words, anything that could be classified as tips and tricks. The seminar is therefore suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners.

The interview was conducted by Jan Gesthuizen

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