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A new version of BASF’s CathoGuard 800 e-coat is making the application process more efficient

While the cathodic electrocoat (e-coat) is not visible on a coated vehicle, it is indispensable for any stable paint system: after the pre-treatment of the body-in-white, the e-coat forms the first layer in the coating process and provides the necessary corrosion protection.

There are technologies on the market that already offer environmentally compatible solutions with high-edge protection and excellent surface results, but the requirements for the products and processes are constantly increasing.“It’s crucial to increase the stability of the e-coat process and, at the same time, make it more cost-efficient,” explains Jens Wegner, marketing e-coat Europe at BASF’s Coatings division. Aspects such as energy efficiency and the environmentally friendly use of resources are also playing an increasingly important role. BASF has developed CathoGuard 800 RE, a new version of its e-coat that features technological benefits and also strengthens sustainability in the coating process. The ‘RE’ version is a continuation of the successful CathoGuard 800 series that offers the same positive properties as the original product: excellent appearance and high-edge protection. In addition, the product is tin- and HAP-free.

CathoGuard 800 RE’s key refinements over its predecessor include increased reactivity and the associated extended baking window. “This means that the temperature in the baking process can be reduced, while simultaneously increasing the material’s reactivity,” explains Oliver Johannpoetter, e-coat customisation OEM EMEA at BASF.“For thick-gauge metal too, we achieve sufficient crosslinking, despite lower temperatures. This is especially advantageous for electromobility-related applications, since with the battery modules, body mass is greater.”

CathoGuard 800 RE also permits a more homogeneous film-thickness distribution, thanks to the improved balance between the interior and exterior coating enabled by the improvement of the throwing power, which was already excellent with CathoGuard 800. The product’s increased underbake stability and improved throwing power allows carmakers to reduce energy and material consumption, depending on the line conditions. “Greater efficiency in the process obviously leads to cost savings,” Wegner stresses.

Along with the advantages related to reactivity and material consumption, the optimisations for CathoGuard 800 RE help decrease control efforts for line managers and improve the sustainability of the method. “Our aim in introducing CathoGuard 800 RE was to reduce the addition of solvents to a minimum and, in doing so, lower the VOC content in the e-coating process even more,” Johannpoetter explains.

Additionally, using CathoGuard 800 RE allows the anolyte drain to be cut by around 50%, which reduces to almost zero the usually required addition of acid to the anolyte system. This also means there is no ultrafiltrate drain and the performance of the filter modules is increased by around 20%. This has a positive impact on the lifetime of the filter units, boosts the efficiency of the rinsing process, saves cleaning costs and lowers handling efforts.

As a result, less waste water is generated in the process and much less fresh water has to be added, which makes it a leading technology in the automotive industry. “Water is a valuable commodity,” says Wegner. “Using this resource in an environmentally compatible manner is an important factor, especially in ‘water-stressed areas’, but water isn’t the only thing CathoGuard 800 RE helps to save: with the new product, the e-coat tanks can be operated at temperatures 2-3°C higher than before, so that less energy is required for cooling.”

CathoGuard 800 is already used at more than 100 customer lines worldwide. “Our new product will allow us to optimise the processes even more,” Wegner adds. “CathoGuard 800 RE can be used for both conventional processes and the integrated process. Our product portfolio allows us to individually cater to our customers’ requirements.”

Color Design Studio Europe celebrates its 10th anniversary

BASF’s Color Design Studio Europe opened at the company’s Münster site 10 years ago and was designed to be a centre of excellence for the design of new colour concepts for the automotive industry. In an open-design, Bauhaus-style building, designers from BASF’s Coatings division adopt technical and societal trends to car colour schemes – discussing their approaches with the design departments of vehicle manufacturers.

Color Design Studio Europe is not merely a workplace; it’s a space for co-creation, where workshops are held on a regular basis. BASF’s clients appreciate the work culture the studio offers, thanks to its secluded location outside of company premises. At the same time, the studio is sited close enough to the laboratories, where the colour concepts are transformed into paint formulations. The heart of the studio is the presentation area, where the effect of the colours is displayed in various light settings.

The automotive industry is a key driver of innovation, and the requirement for colour design reflects this progress and makes it very visible. In contrast to the fashion industry, the car colour sector does not embody fast-moving colour trends that change from season to season. In fact, car paint is one of the most complex colour themes there is: paint particles attach themselves irregularly on a very thin layer (comparable to a human hair) and reflect the light in a distinctive manner, producing immense depth of colour. It can take up to five years before the colours are ready for series production, as the concepts need to be discussed with the customer and then adapted to the respective car models. Since BASF works with the vast majority of manufacturers in the automotive industry, over 600 colours are currently produced in Europe, with new colours constantly being designed – and also for new mobility concepts that require specific colours.

Autonomous driving and electromobility are playing an important role as megatrends in the future of colour design. The car is being transformed from a dynamic, self-navigated vehicle into a ‘passive’, autonomous object. This affects both the interior of the vehicle and the colour of the exterior. The paint also offers more, in terms of functionality, by enabling sensor technology such as radar and lidar, for example. In addition, special colour concepts are used to differentiate between driverless cars and conventional vehicles.

The designers of BASF’s Coatings division constantly analyse technological and societal changes, and transfer them into a global collection: Automotive Color Trends contains 65 key colours that annually represent the most important trends in each region.