What experts think about the future of wood coatings

Wood is a trending material. Not only for furniture but also al sorts of other goods and of course in architecture. We interviewed two experts about latest trends and how coatings can improve protection of the natural colour of wood.

Both experts think that wood coatings will have to get more environmentally friendly. (Source: ratamann777 - stock.adobe.com) -

The trend towards more sustainability is by far not the only reason why wood is such a popular material. Foremost it is a very beautiful material. Both of these facts combined are probably the reason why people recently are asking more and more for coatings that keep the look of wood coatings more natural.

“The authenticity of the “uncoated wood” look, its conservation over time, and the general protection properties of the coating have all improved thanks to the skill of paint formulators and the availability of new raw materials”, says Marcello Vitale who works as Innovativion Research Technical Manager for IVM Chemicals in Italy.

Challenges for “natural” wood coatings

However, “this is especially challenging in outdoor applications, where the coating’s colour and performance are subject to harsh conditions,” adds the Global Marketing Manager Cédric D’Hulst from Allnex. D’Hulst emphasises that several radiation curing systems provide good results. He says: “We developed UV-curable resins for clear matte coatings, and also water-based product to give a good natural effect and preserve the natural look of wood.”

Marcello Vitale from IVM Chemicals

Marcello Vitale, Innovativion Research Technical Manager at IVM Chemicals.

One of the challenges is that “Natural look” coatings are, by their nature, extremely thin and can seemingly represent a poor long-term defence for wood when its surface is subject to environmental attacks such as rain and sunlight”, says Miacello Vitale from IVM. However, he also states that UV systems offer good light fastness, when they are aided with the right additives like nanomeric versions of some oxides, like cerium or zinc oxides, and wood-penetrating antioxidants.

Sustainability is more than just looks

The trends toward more sustainability is not only affecting the appearance of wood coatings but also the raw materials that are used to formulate them. “Pressure to shift to low VOC, formaldehyde-free and low odour systems is increasing and continues to challenge existing technologies”, says Cédric D’Hulst and adds: “Bio-based coatings, particularly for natural substrates like wood, are likely to get increased traction going forward.”

Cédric D’Hulst from Allnex

Cédric D’Hulst, Global Marketing Manager at Allnex

IVM is already taking steps toward more bio-based solution. ”As part of the LIFE-Biopaint Project, we are building an advanced prototype paint production unit for 100% UV coatings. It will employ largely bio-based resins produced in the same vertically-integrated plant”, explains Vitale from IVM. The plant is scheduled to start operation in the second half of 2020.

Wood versus other substrates

Both experts think that the wood coatings market will be affected by some changes regarding shifting substrates. However, in a complete different direction. Cédric D’Hulst from Allnex expects “alternative lower cost substrates (vinyl, MDF, plastic composites, etc.) will continue to replace wood in some applications in the years to come, as digital printing now makes it possible to reproduce wood-like patterns that still look natural.”

On the other hand, the trend towards sustainability may have an opposite effect as Marcello Vitale states: “Wood is the ideal renewable material, and wood-based products will replace plastic or even metals in many applications in the future.”

Both statements are probably true to a certain degree. The future will show, which one will be predominant.

Jan Gesthuizen

Further Information:

This article is based on a more detailed interview on wood coatings that was published in the European Coatings Journal 9/2019. If you want to read the full interview join European Coatings 360°

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