Developments in the field of environment-friendly surfaces are proceeding at a fast pace. New developments include innovative coating technology, efficient materials, such as water-based and powder coatings, new electroplating coatings, plasma surface technology and nanocoatings.
The leading trade fair for surface technology, SurfaceTechnology
plus Powder Coating Europe (PCE), held in Hanover earlier this
year, focused on the latest trends.
Water-based and powder coatings have not only become popular because of the introduction of the regulation to reduce emissions from solvents (VOC Directive, from 2001). The toxic-free and, therefore, environment-friendly coatings are also simple to use and help save energy and raw materials. For example, it would now be inconceivable to coat aircraft interiors without these coatings. Airbus teamed up with specialists from the coatings industry to develop new coatings procedures to be able to use the environment-friendly coatings as efficiently as possible.
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment estimates that about 50% of solvent-based conventional coatings in industry have been replaced by these ‘environmental coatings’.
Experts believe that emissions from coating processes will drop by at least 40% by the end of 2007 – thanks, in particular, to special water-based coating systems, modern powder-coating technologies, overspray recycling and other alternative hybrid pro-cesses. Nevertheless, this does not mean the coatings industry can sit back and relax, as Robert Kirchner, management consultant for the coating industry, explains: “We still need innovations because the solvent-based coatings cannot be completely replaced, even though the new processes and materials are good alter- natives. “For example, particularly in the automotive industry and in plastic-coating processing, suit- able replacements for solvent-based coatings, such as clear varnish, have not yet been found.”
To comply with the new environ-mental directive, companies are using innovative processes, which have the added benefit of increasing the profitability and efficiency of production.
“Shorter innovation times, increasing demands on quality and changes in statutory regulations are encouraging the development of new solutions and processes,” explains Kirchner.
NEW, IMPROVED PROCESSES
The new systems enable toxic substances to be filtered out of the wastewater, which means that 70% of the water can be returned to production. In other words, water consumption and, therefore, the amount of wastewater produced, is reduced by 70%.
Developments in traditional electroplating technology are currently focusing on using new and improved processes to create thin coating layers. At present, a company in Baden-W