Implementing effective paint shop strategies has never been more vital to capturing the customer’s attention and loyalty, and keeping cost down and efficiency up. From the ever-increasing expectations of the end user to the need to protect the environment in material and energy usage, the challenges for the automotive paint plant are tougher than ever.

The much-vaunted new technologies that many people were promoting in the last ten years – electrostatic charging, UV curing, water-borne basecoats, film instead of paint, have been drastically rationalised in the light of the cost pressures being passed down to what is one of the most difficult and expensive areas of automotive production.

BMW is a good example of this selective use of new processes; Dr Alfred Rutka uses powder clearcoat but is not convinced by UV curing. And environmental management is just good business for the Leipzig paintshop – using or recovering almost all paint material means better cost control and efficiency as well as being a good corporate citizen in green terms.

While Rutka is now Director of painting operations for the German carmaker, his background is in pretreatment – he was one of a team who filed patent number WO/2001/092597 on: A Method For Treating Or Pre- Treating Components Comprising Aluminium Surfaces, in 2001. This takes us to one of the cornerstones for the future of all ferrous and non-ferrous metal coating – the vital importance that pre-treatment and non-paint coatings will have in tomorrow’s automobiles.

It simply is not going to be good enough to rely on paint (or even film) coatings to deposit many complex layers onto steel or aluminium, with all the environmental impact that this has. Legislators and car company chiefs will ultimately put irresistible pressure on the paint shop area to reduce costs further and this, combined with moves to further extend corrosion and perforation warranties to virtually cover the lifetime of the vehicle, will force vehicle designers, engineers and coatings developers to make the paint shop of the future a very different place to the one we know now.