Powder coatings: Challenging and promising

For the most part, the powder coatings market rebounded nicely in 2021 from the pandemic low in 2020. The biggest challenge was, and continues to be, raw material pricing and shortages. Despite these challenges, the global outlook for powder coatings remains positive as a result of the ongoing sustainability trend.

Quelle: fotolia -

The 2021 global powder coatings market is estimated to be close to EUR 12 billion and 2.8 billion kilograms, according to Orr & Boss. The market grew by an estimated 11.8 % in volume and 19.6 % in value in 2021, fully recovering from the 2020 contraction. All major regions of the world now exceed their 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The global market is now 18 % higher in value and 10 % higher in volume versus the pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

The European powder coatings market is estimated to be EUR 2.11 billion and over 360 million kilograms. This is a 14 % increase in value and 2 % increase in volume versus pre-pandemic 2019 values.

Current circumstances impacting the market

The powder market, just like most other coatings markets, is being impacted by the current macro-economic and geo-political circumstances, leading to temporary volatility in demand, according to Jeff Jirak of Akzo Nobel Powder Coatings. “This has followed on from a period of unprecedented dynamic market conditions during the past two years. There are various factors that have created these recent unprecedented conditions. The Covid-19 outbreak, nationwide lockdowns around the globe – especially in Asia – disruptions in manufacturing activities and supply chains, production halts and labor unavailability. All of them have negatively impacted the powder coatings market”, he said.

At the same time, there’s an underlying increasing demand for more sustainable coatings solutions, where powder is well-positioned, based on its intrinsic environmental benefits – no VOCs, very low waste levels and high production efficiencies. Jirak is certain that this switch to powder coatings solutions will further grow the market demand for powder solutions.

For Mehmet Ali Kamacıoğlu of Jotun, powder coating technology has quite big potential to unlock new opportunities as it is still one of the most efficient coating technology and fits quite well with many companies’ sustainability ambitions. “The traditional business of powder coating is under pressure of different challenges in different regions, such as continuing lockdowns in China, energy crisis in Europe and lower consumer index in many markets”, he adds.

According to Pascal Nicard and Klaus Gast of Axalta Coating Systems, the powder coating market remains strong. “Even if we have noticed some reduction in demand following the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” said Nicard. The supply chain situation is less constrained compared to beginning of the year but still volatile, adds Gast. However, both representatives from Axalta expect the market to be influenced by this situation throughout 2023, and to remain very dynamic.

Powder coatings are a relativ young technology compared to other coatings. “Although it has great potential for conversion in some areas, we don’t see the development as fast as we are expecting to see. Industries, traditionally using liquid coatings or alternative technologies, are finding powder coating interesting but still require further testing and consumer approval”, said Kamacıoğlu on the challenges in the market. 

Jirak has experienced highly volatile dynamics in the markets, from raw material constraints and pandemic issues that impacted manufacturing, to persistent inflation in materials and energy worldwide. Despite these volatilities, Akzo Nobel has continued to invest in new innovations in architectural products, automotive applications for wheels, underbodies and EV batteries, as well as many new applications in industrial markets. In terms of challenges, in the short term, Jirak points to the energy crisis.

Cost inflation, impacting the whole value chain, will be the biggest challenge short-term in the opinion of Gast. “There is a need to make sure that all parties in the value chain remain profitable to enable product developments and innovation”, he adds.

Research and development at Akzo Nobel will focus on powder coating solutions with lower cure temperature technology solutions. “It is vital that these lower cure temperature solutions are further embraced by the industry, as they will allow for reduced energy consumption. This will not only help users to overcome the short-term energy situation, it will also further strengthen the strong sustainability profile of powder as a coatings solution of choice”, Jirak explained.

Battery manufacturers have discovered powder coatings

Kamacıoğlu sees creating efficiency and reducing carbon foot print as one of the greatest potentials for powder coatings. “Electrification and sustainability are the two biggest megatrends which will enable an increased market for powder coatings”, said Nicard. Electric vehicles is a segment where powder coatings will play a very important role. “Corrosion protection will only be one of the important properties powder coating will offer, in additions the products will offer additional fetcher, like thermal management, intumescence, fire retardancy and dielectrical strength”, according to him.

For Jirak, the future of mobility is electric, and the rise of the modern electric vehicle appears unstoppable. Global CO2 emission targets and changing consumer behaviours are driving change. “Manufacturers, however, share familiar challenges and common concerns, especially when it comes to safety and performance. Fluctuating temperatures in battery cells can lead to thermal hot spots and the risk of battery failure. Powder coatings are increasingly playing their part in protecting batteries and associated components from overheating and insulating them against other threats that can reduce performance and increase risk”, Jirak said. Kamacıoğlu states that EV battery manufacturers have already discovered powder coating technology as it contributes to longer service life, safety and longer range. 

Struggle to get out of the niche

Even though eco-awareness is increasing in society, the share of powder coatings in the market is still relatively low despite their eco-friendly benefits. Although eco-awareness is increasing for Kamacıoğlu, powder coating manufacturers still need to do extra mile to demonstrate advantages of powder coating compared alternative technologies and adapt this technology to the industries. “To have higher increase of powder coating we need to see more conversion in the industry”, he stated. 

“Eco-awareness is indeed increasing. We need to take into consideration that powder coatings produce no solvent waste, so they’re inherently more eco-friendly. They don’t create effluent disposal problems, they help reduce air pollution and there’s 95 % powder utilisation, which means that material loss can be kept to less than 5 %.”, according to Jirak. “Technical factors have traditionally limited the adoption of powder. The powder coating is baked in an oven, where it melts to a uniform coating film. Both the electrical conductivity and baking cycles have limited the adoption of powder coatings to metals and objects that can geometrically be cured in an oven at the required temperatures. Besides this, the appearance of a powder-coated object has tended be different to a liquid-coated object. This difference in appearance has certainly limited penetration in some market segments. Over the years, powder has significantly improved its appearance, for example with metallic looks and smooth textures. Today, it’s hard to tell whether an object has been powder or liquid coated.”

The missing awareness from the market about powder coating to be an eco-friendly solution with zero VOC and zero hazardous component might be an explanation, according to Gast. Market access is partly constrained due to rather high curing temperature, he assumes. His colleague Nicard sees the need to increase visibility and awareness of powder coatings under C02 emission (sustainability). He is certain that a new generation of powder coatings with lower curing temperature and higher durability will further enhance the share for powder coatings in the industrial coating market.

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