A: The company develops and produces air-dry and bake enamel waterborne paints used primarily in OEM applications to coat metal, wood, plastic, glass and concrete. As the terms imply, bake enamel paints are used for applications where the painted product passes through a heated oven as part of the drying process. Air-dry paints are used for products that are allowed to dry without artificial heat.
A: The primary competition for waterborne paints is solvent-based paints, high solids liquid paint and powder coatings. One of the important differences among all of these is their level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are classified as air contaminants.
A: A coating’s VOC level is stated in pounds per gallon without water (sans water) and is determined by its chemical formula. By excluding water from the calculations, the results reflect only the volume of VOCs and non volatile solids. Solvent-based paints contain a high level of organic solvents which release VOC’s during application and drying. Their VOC levels range from 2.5 to 6 lbs / gallon. During the formulation of waterborne paint, most of these organic solvents are replaced by water resulting in VOC levels of between 1.5 to 3.5 lbs. / gallon sans water. As the name implies, powder coatings are dry coatings. The solvents have in effect been replaced by air. Powder coatings also have very low VOC levels. Also, some coating manufacturers have replaced solvents with new resins creating what are known as high solids products.
A: The 1990 Clean Air Act set guidelines for the reduction of VOCs in many products and processes and authorized the states to establish local VOC limit regulations. Companies who apply paint to their products are responsible for reducing and controlling the VOC levels in their own facilities. As a result, many of them have adapted their paint lines to eliminate the use of solvent-based paint by using newer technologies, primarily waterborne and powder coatings.
A: In 2000, the company unveiled Ultra Aqualite, a line of bake enamel coatings which it believes is the paint industry’s first ultra-low VOC, direct to metal, waterborne paint. Ultra Aqualite has a VOC rating of less than .05 lbs. per gallon sans water. The company believes this product is as close to a zero-VOC level industrial paint as current technology will permit. The company is now focusing on correcting some application problems that have arisen during field testing.
A: Finishes Unlimited can point to several advantages of waterborne paint over solvent-based paint:
- Non flammable: Solvents are flammable, so fire is always a concern when storing or using solvent-based paint. This is not the case with waterborne paints as the small amount of solvents it contains have been significantly diluted with water so they are not flammable. This may also result in reduced insurance premiums.
- Less odor: Waterborne paints generally produce less odor on the paint line.
- Easier clean up: The surfaces of paint booths using waterborne paint can be cleaned with water and mild detergent while solvent-based paint must be removed with chemicals. Used paint booth filters do not require special disposal procedures.
A: Powder coatings have comparatively less VOCs than solvent-based paint. As the name implies, a powder containing resins and pigments is sprayed on a product which is then placed in an oven where the powder melts and flows over the coated surface. Powder coatings compete with bake enamel waterborne paints, especially at companies that have decided to switch away from solvent-based coatings.
A: Finishes Unlimited believes that when companies consider the adoption of a lower VOC coating, waterborne coatings offer numerous application and field performance advantages over powder coatings.
Less paint line conversion cost
Converting from the use of a solvent-based paint line to waterborne coatings requires only minimal changes in the paint booth equipment and procedures. Converting to powder coating requires a significant investment in application equipment.
Paint line employees require much less training when converting from one liquid coating to another than is required when converting from liquid to powder coating.
Better “batch-to-batch” long-term color, gloss and consistency
When producing large batches of a specific coating formulation over a long period of time, the color, gloss and texture consistency is much easier to maintain with waterborne paint. This in turn assures that the color and texture of the coating on the final manufactured product remain consistent.
Better color accuracy for small batch orders
Companies that have small manufacturing runs of products requiring customized colors will find waterborne paint to be a much more cost effective coating than powder coating.
More energy efficient
Bake enamel waterborne paint can generally be cured (dried) in less time and at temperatures between 250 and 350 degrees f. Ovens used to dry powder coated items must reach 450 degrees.
Controlled application thickness
The application thickness of powder coatings ranges from 2.0 to 6.0 mils. Waterborne coatings are typically applied at 1.0 mills. This means comparatively more powder coating material than waterborne paint will be required when painting the same item. The thicker powder coating is also susceptible to chipping when the coated product is in use.
Better finish versatility and consistency
Powder coatings lack the ability to provide special finishes, such as metallic appearances, that can be achieved with waterborne paint. Paint lines can be quickly cleared with water for color changes. Switching colors in powder painting facilities takes more time which translates into more labor costs and lost production time.
Ability to touch up
Items coated with waterborne paint can be touched up while those coated with powder coating cannot. This is important for items with hidden or protected crevices or surfaces that do not get adequately covered in a waterborne paint booth or a power coating line and require final touch up during production or in the field.