Radiation curing: Turning it on
Market researchers from Markets and Markets estimate the market size in 2019 for the radiation-cured coatings segment at a volume of 500,000 tons. With a share of 45 %, Asia-Pacific is the largest region in which these systems are used. North America follows behind and holds a 25 % share of the market. Europe is in third place with 22 %. The remaining 8 % is spread over the remaining regions of the world.
In the recent past, according to Markets and Markets, the segment of radiation-curing coatings has grown at an almost double-digit rate. Michela Fusco of Allnex confirms this trend with her assessment of the market: “UV or radcure is one of the fastest growing technologies within the coatings industry. The market is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of over 4%”. Fusco emphasizes, however, that growth expectations certainly need to be reassessed in the wake of the global COVID-19 crisis. Clémence Poncet of Arkema takes a similar view: “During the past few years, the UV curable coatings market has shown a growth rate superior not only when compared against the coatings market but also the GDP.”
Mature application segments with a higher market penetration of UV technology, such as furniture and floor coatings, printing inks and overprint varnishes, show a more moderate growth rate of about 2-4 %. Applications and markets that are considered emerging, such as UV metal coatings, inkjet UV printing and emerging application areas such as 3D printing show more important growth rates, Poncet emphasizes.
China most important radiation curing market
Arkema’s expert expects the market to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by the move towards environmentally-friendly ink and coating systems combined with increasing restrictions through the legislation on VOC content. Furthermore, mega trends such as the increasing population and urbanization supports growth across multiple end coatings markets, thereby driving the need for higher productivity, one of the key benefits provided by UV technology, explains Poncet.
“From a regional perspective, China remains the biggest and fastest growing market for UV, though we also see opportunities for conversion to radcure technology in several coatings applications in the more mature markets of North America and Europe”, says Fusco.
High costs hinder further market growth
In certain traditional markets, UV curing technology penetration retains a low market-share compared to other technologies, as Clémence Poncet of Arkema points out: “One key limitation is the requirement to convert existing lines. Solvent-based coatings continue maintain a high market share due in part to the cost of the system, but more importantly through the high investment necessary to install new UV-curing installations; this is particularly difficult to justify in an uncertain macro-economic environment and in more mature market such as Europe with softer end market demand.”
On the other hand, she explains, companies are looking for alternatives to solvent-borne coatings to reduce their VOC, and UV curing technology is clearly an attractive technology given that it delivers a lower cost per m2 dry coating while offering superior performance for the most demanding applications.
James Swope of The ChemQuest Group states: “The single greatest limiting factor for UV curing is “line of sight” exposure necessary to cure without incorporating secondary cure mechanisms that dilute its value proposition. EB curing is greatly limited by capital costs and substrate composition and configuration. IR is not always viewed as an energy cure technology but shows continued growth and promise as a focused, efficient source for thermal cures either alone or in combination with UV.”
Positive outlook for radiation curing coatings
Poncet is confident that the main advantages of UV curing, such as performance, productivity and low environmental impact, will support the penetration of the technology throughout the coatings market.
Coating manufacturers continue to invest in the development of innovative products. A prime example of this is the increasing investment in UV LED technology for heat-sensitive substrates, Poncet notes. “Furthermore, the trend towards more functional coatings with improved performance and surface functionalities is creating novel opportunities for UV curable coatings technology, supported by recent advances in equipment technologies.”
This is a shortened version of a more detailed overview from the European Coatings Journal 5/2020. The complete overview is also available digitally at European Coatings 360° for subscribers. A trial subscription for a month is free of charge.