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Technological Advances in Paint

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Gareth Hughes has an insatiable desire to learn. After completing his Ph.D., he decided to pursue his passion for paint and finishing by working as a resin chemist. From there, he moved to the paint development lab where he began to use the resins he had worked on to formulate clearcoats for the refinish business. Now, as the director of technology and global platform marketing director for PPG Automotive Refinish, Hughes continues to learn about the important changes and ongoing innovation happening in the world of automotive refinish.


What important technological advances have occurred in paint and finishing during the past 20 years?
I would say the most important advance has been the move from solvent-borne to waterborne basecoat. This is part of an overall trend to lower VOCs, which has also driven paint technology to use high-solids coatings systems.


What changes do you foresee in the near future in paint technologies?
We will more than likely continue the trend of lower VOC products, which include waterborne basecoat technology. In addition, a requirement for improved throughput and technologies that help reduce energy usage will drive a trend for paint technologies that provide faster cure times.


The metals used to make cars are changing. How will that affect paint and finishing procedures for body shops?
I don’t imagine much of a change will be experienced at the body shop level. Paint manufacturers will work to minimize any impact of these metal changes, meaning lower-weight metals. We may see some very subtle changes, but none that would be significant. There may be changes in the prep, with etch primers and other undercoat systems, but again these changes will be minimal.


How have shops around the nation adapted to waterborne paint?
In North America, we have found shops transition to PPG’s Envirobase High Performance and Aquabase Plus waterborne basecoats to be very fluid. PPG has found great success with the launch of our waterborne technology in North America. Our collision repair shops are experiencing improved productivity, better color accuracy and ease of use with this new technology. PPG anticipates other states adopting similar VOC regulations as California and Canada within the next few years.


What types of training should shops undergo to prepare themselves for changes in refinishing?
PPG has an excellent Convert with Confidence training program that we recommend for all distributors and collision repair facilities. We encourage them to attend before making the switch to a waterborne basecoat technology. This comprehensive training is offered in a one- or two-day course that is held at one of the PPG state-of-the-art training facilities. These courses offer classroom and application time.


What challenges—technological and economic—do paint companies currently face that will have a direct impact on shops?
Paint manufacturers will need to focus on delivering products that provide faster throughput and increase color palette at the OE level, and provide solutions that help reduce energy


What do shop owners need to know right now about paint and finishing?
Shop owners need to be aware of the changes within the market today. Green technology is not a fad but is a changing technology that will be here to stay within the aftermarket industry.


How do you envision the future of paint and finishing in the collision repair industry?
[I see an] increase in low VOC products, the drive to lower energy consumption and a greener sustainable footprint for collision repair centers.

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