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Experts from BASF’s Coatings division, laboratory manager Michael Brünnemann and product manager Stefan Sickert, describe how the company is responding to the special colour needs of OEMs

Spectrum - shutterstock_121520689Carmakers are calling for an ever more customised colour spectrum, shorter development and delivery times, and flexible batch sizes. A new material and manufacturing concept is enabling BASF’s Coatings division to respond precisely to these needs – while offering close-to-production product quality. The importance of individual colours in response to market requirements is constantly growing.

Against this backdrop, the development goal of BASF’s Coatings division was to provide the market with individual colours for small numbers, right down to individual vehicles. Automotive refinishing materials cannot be used for these applications because of the lack of process reliability in the automotive industry’s usual coating processes and from a quality perspective.

fig1The latest generation of individual colours, ColorPro IC waterborne basecoats, now makes it possible to also use constituents of the common basecoat materials in the production of individual colours (see Fig. 1, right).

As a result, the circulation stability then matches the level familiar from conventional basecoat production materials. Another consequence is that the materials are also suitable for ESTA application. The material is used both in the processes for OEM customers and in the paintshops operated by suppliers of plastic hang-on parts. This guarantees that the colour of the body and hang-on parts match.

Flexibility in amounts, delivery and processingAbove a batch size of 25 kg, it is possible to meet customers’ requests with reference to the amount supplied. The innovative production process means that colours already developed can be shipped within approximately ten working days. The prerequisite for this is that series approval for the new material concept has been agreed and concluded with the OEM customer.

In the case of queries from the automotive industry and its customers about colours for which a ColorPro IC formulation has not yet been drawn up, their feasibility or otherwise can be confirmed within just a few days. In the event of a positive outcome, production can be carried out within six weeks.

Once the shipment has arrived, another special feature of the new material generation is revealed: a storage stability of up to 12 months can be achieved. The new material concept means a significantly faster response can be made to individual customer requests relating to the colour than with conventional material and approval concepts. A period of up to two years from the design process until introduction is normally required for production colours.

In terms of tying up capacity in the paintshops too, ColorPro IC offers a significant advantage as a result of its process reliability: bodies do not need to be sidetracked into special or refinishing lines. Coating takes place as part of the normal production process, with the material feed taking place via a mini feed system and circulation lines.

Adaptation to modern processesOne of the upcoming challenges lies in integrating individual colours in primerless processes. In current coating processes, the material is used instead of the regular waterborne basecoat in the standard coating process (see Fig. 2, below). The aim is to make the material suitable for application onto matched basecoats (wet-on-wet) in the integrated (primerless) process (see Fig. 3). This way, individual colours will be made usable for primerless processes in the future.