Stefan Weber: For a bright future – innovative automotive paints from Würzburg

A location known for its automotive technology cannot do without ­chemistry. Automotive paint, even if it appears trivial, is of essential importance – colour is emotion and generates customer loyalty for the product. Premium paints are being developed in Lower Franconia.

 

The automotive industry in Bavaria cannot do without chemistry. Car paint, even if it appears trivial, is of es­­sential importance – colour is emotion and sparks a pas­­­sion amongst the customers for the product. Premium paints are being developed in Lower Franconia.

Hardly any other factor is as decisive as the colour for the impression a car makes. Colours turn vehicles into emotion-laden products. Colouring paints not only turn cars into true eye-catchers, but they also fulfil a variety of other important functions: they refine surfaces and protect them at the same time.
Many cars that draw attention on the road today owe their brilliance and look to products made by BASF’s Coatings business unit. Würzburg is a development and production location for basecoats. On approximately 20,000 square metres, eco­­logically efficient water­­­­bourne base­­coats are developed and produced for the automotive industry.

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Würzburg can look back at a 25-year tradition of developing water­­bourne basecoats for series production. To­­­­day, nearly all renowned automotive manufacturers use waterbourne basecoats. Over the past 25 years, the use of waterbourne basecoats from BASF has resulted in savings of over 150,000 tonnes of solvents in Germany alone. A trend that continues: experts expect that the worldwide market share for waterbourne technology will increase in the future.

Nearly one third of the 320 employees at the site in Würzburg work on the further development of these pre­­­­mium paint products in accordance with the latest envi­­­­ronmental standards. The production facility in Würzburg, with its many pilot and trial productions, is an import­ant part of the basecoats competence centre. The core work areas focus on producing and developing basecoats for series coatings. Innovative solutions generated in Würzburg make life much more colourful.

Employees working on the development and production of the high-quality coating products are in intense contact with other BASF sites to best satisfy global demands. The ob­jective is to meet the highest demands on technology and quality in an aesthetic and yet environmentally compatible manner. Exceptional design is paired with functionality.

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Automotive coatings consist of four layers; each layer has its own function. Although the coating layers are together no thicker than a human hair, they must nonetheless withstand the influences they are subjected to by daily use. In this, neither colour nor brilliance shall suffer. Pre­­cip­i­tation, UV radiation, road metal, bird droppings or the brushes used in car washes require that automotive coatings are particularly resilient.

The foundation for the four layers is the cathodic dip coating: a resource-saving process during which the car body receives its prime coat. This primer coating protects the car against corrosion. The process of cathodic dip coating is distinguished by the fact that it in particular also reaches the cavities of the body, which would not work as well if a spraying process was implemented.

The primer, the second layer, protects the body against mechanical influences such as stone-chipping as well as against harmful UV light.

The colour and in turn the emotions come into play in the third step when applying the basecoat: this layer with its colour pigments and special-effect substances significantly influences the vehicle’s visual impression.

Lastly, a clearcoat is applied which withstands the wide range of environmental influences.

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This coating protects the car and ultimately ensures colour intensity and brilliance. There is one exception: a matte clearcoat is characterised by the fact that it is not brilliant, but instead provides a non-glossy appearance.

The combination of these four coating layers thus pro­vides colour and protection – a true high-tech product no thicker than a hair!

The author is a master chemist and heads the core pro­duction for conventional basecoats and waterbourne coating segments in the Coatings business unit at the BASF site in Würzburg.

 

DSC_0449The author is a master chemist at the BASF Coatings GmbH and heads the core production segment for the production of conventional basecoats and waterbourne coatings.