Forging New Frontiers in Powders
Posted on Monday, August 28, 2023
While powder coatings presently hold roughly 15% of the total industrial finishing market, the technology is making steady gains with a bullish outlook for the future.
Several factors are fueling powder’s ascension, including advancements that are broadening its use and performance advantages, growing climate change concerns and efforts to make powder more available on a global scale.
Today, coatings manufacturer PPG is currently seeing the highest demand for the technology in Europe and Asia. In fact, the latter represents the single largest area of opportunity for powder due to strict environmental regulations and an aggressive focus on more sustainable manufacturing processes.
To meet rising global powder demand, PPG has acquired four key companies since 2019, focuses heavily on developing advanced formulations through research and development (R&D), and, most recently, ramped up global production capabilities through a $44 million investment in seven powder plants in the U.S. and Latin America.
Exploring New Industries and Applications Through Innovations
Since the infancy of powder coatings in the 1940s, significant investments in R&D have spawned novel solutions that solved some of the toughest coatings challenges of the times. In recent years, the frequency of these breakthroughs has accelerated, particularly at PPG where several industry firsts have originated.
While the automotive, appliance and architectural industries remain the biggest buyers of powders, newer formulations are making the technology viable for an ever-growing range of applications, end uses and segments.
An Industry Breakthrough in Powder Primers
In this era of powder innovation, primers have not been left behind.
Several years ago, PPG developed ENVIROCRON® EXTREME PROTECTION EDGE powder coatings, followed by ENVIROCRON® EXTREME PROTECTION high-edge epoxy primer. Both were engineered to maintain uniform coverage on sharp edges and angles during curing.
More recently, PPG scientists have formulated a breakthrough ultradurable polyester-based zinc-rich primer with high transfer efficiency properties.
Compared to standard zinc-rich primers, this new primer deposited 74% more powder in flat-panel lab testing, offers better edge coverage, easier application and has improved flow, wrapping and penetration. The patent-pending primer will be widely available in 2024.
The Advent of Low-Cure Powders
Unlike metals, high temperature curing required of many standard powder coatings is not an option for wood. Wood’s low conductivity, poor dimensional stability and inconsistency in moisture content pose additional powder application challenges.
But advancements in application, curing, resin and binder chemistries have produced low- cure formulations like PPG ENVIROCRON® HEATSENSE powder that eliminate these traditional barriers with baking temperatures of 250-350° F (121-177° C) and cure times as brief as five minutes.
These game-changing coatings open new opportunities in furniture, cabinetry, case goods and shelving, RVs, building products and other industries that rely heavily on heat-sensitive wood and wood-based substrates like MDF, HDF, oriented strand board, plywood and hardwoods.
According to a recent study conducted by MarketsandMarkets™, the global market for low-cure powders is expected to reach $116 million by 2027, growing an a CAGR of 3%.
Dielectric Powders Meeting Growing Demand for Electric Vehicles
Rising gas prices and growing environmental awareness are propelling rapid growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
The consumer shift from conventional engines to alternative fueled vehicles is creating new opportunities for the powder coating industry as the technology is widely used in the production of EV batteries.
Over the next five years, demand for electric vehicles will only accelerate in North America and Europe. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global market size for EVs is expected to grow from $500 billion in 2023 to $1,579 billion by 2030.
As a pioneer in dielectric powders, PPG developed PPG ENVIROCRON® EXTREME PROTECTION Dielectric Powder, a patented, proprietary coating that helps to maintain battery life and safety by preventing overheating and electric arcing.
Acceleration of Antimicrobial Powders
The COVID-19 pandemic increased worldwide interest in antimicrobial power coatings. Formulations like PPG SILVERSAN™ antimicrobial-protected powder helps to inhibit the growth of microbes and fungi on cured paint films that can lead to unpleasant odors, discoloration and substrate damage.
This technology leverages silver ions that penetrates the membranes of bacteria and disrupt their functions, ultimately helping to deactivate them.
According to Grandview Market Research, the global antimicrobial coatings market was valued at $10 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.8% from 2023 to 2030, driven in part to rising demand in industries that manufacturer products used in high-traffic, high-touch spaces like medical and fitness facilities, airports and schools.
The First Commercial Retroreflective Powder Enhances Safety
Unlike reflective materials that return light in a scattered pattern like a mirror, retroreflective surfaces return light in a more direct, focused pattern that heightens illumination, a feature that enhances visibility in low-light conditions.
Pavement markings, signage and safety vests infused with retroreflective glass beads or prism-shaped particles have been widely used on roadways and construction sites for decades.
Until recently, however, retroreflection was only available through liquid-based paints, fabrics and tapes. To bring retroreflection to the powder platform, PPG scientists spent years developing a way to keep embedded reflective glass beads on the surface of a low-matte powder.
The result was the development of PPG ENVIROCRON® LUM Retroreflective powder coating in 2022. This patent-pending breakthrough combines the safety advantages of retroreflection with the performance advantages of powder, a first for the industry. The powder has a broad range of applications including signage, bikes, guardrails, construction equipment and more.
Less Paint, Less Waste, Better Coverage
Today’s manufacturers are looking for every opportunity to streamline operations, maximize throughput and reduce waste and costs. Newer high transfer efficiency (HTE) powder coatings deliver on all these fronts by improving first-pass build rates.
Compared to standard powder coatings, these formulations can reduce powder consumption by 20-25% and reduce curing temperatures by 10%, which can lower overall energy costs. HTE powders also deliver a more consistent finish since coverage is based on chemistry, not applicator method, technique or skill level.
PPG ENVIROCRON® HTE powder is a proprietary formulation that applies consistently across geometrically shaped parts and is formulated to electrostatically wrap and penetrate deep into recesses or hard-to-reach areas, improving transfer efficiency rates up to 85% or better.
More Environmentally Friendly Solutions
Global efforts to reduce hazardous waste and volatile organic compounds (VOC) are driving the adoption of powder coatings as manufacturers transition away from solvent- borne formulations with increasing frequency.
But ambitious efforts are ongoing to develop powders that offer sustainability benefits beyond low- to no-VOC content.
Recently, initiatives aiming to reduce or eliminate the use of PFAS chemicals, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are gaining a lot of traction. In fact, several states, including California, Minnesota, Maine, and New Jersey, are introducing regulations to restrict the use of PFAS compounds. Europe is also making similar moves.
The same durable and resilient properties that make this class of over 12,000 chemicals attractive for a wide range of consumer and industrial products also poses environmental risks due to their inability to break down over time.
Coatings makers like PPG are working to engineer advanced powder coatings that offer optimal protection and aesthetics yet are made with fewer chemicals of concern.
One notable win on this front is PPG CORAFLON® PLATINUM powder coating for architectural extrusions. This patent-pending solution is made with fewer PFAS chemicals than earlier powder generations, offers 20% higher transfer efficiency than standard powders and has an extended gloss range that creates finishes never before possible with powders.
More recently, the company announced a reformulation of PPG ERGOLUXE® powder coating for metal office furniture that is made without intentionally added polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), one of the most widely used PFAS chemicals.
Powder coatings play a key role in PPG’s commitment to good environmental stewardship. The coatings maker is working to achieve 50% of sales from sustainably advantaged products by 2030. Making powder more accessible on a world-wide scale in a way that is aligned with global powder trends is key to PPG’s drive to increase overall usage of the technology.
A Total Solutions Provider
PPG’s technical prowess is delivering cutting-edge powder products that improve efficiency, sustainability and performance. As a pioneer in powder innovations, PPG invests roughly 3% of net sales in R&D annually. This commitment has delivered major advancements that are forging new frontiers for both the company and the powder industry as a whole.
But cutting-edge, high-performance powders are just part of the PPG equation. The global coatings giant offers a variety of value-added services, including in-house and outsourced protective coatings application, as well as expert color services including precision matching, custom color development and one of the industry’s largest libraries of colors and special effect finishes.
Finally, one of the most widely respected programs within the industry is PPG’s Secure Launch Program™. It was developed in 2013 to help manufacturers incorporate new coating technologies, including powders, into their manufacturing processes quickly and seamlessly. A decade later, the program remains without equal in the coatings industry. Visit PowerofaPartner.com to learn more.