Sustainable from the Start

Waterborne or solvent borne high solids coatings technology – what’s best for the environment?

“Ford's strategy is to embrace and expand our use of high solids coatings,” says Mark Nichols, technical leader for the research lab at Ford Motor Company. “And that's a different strategy than many other auto makers have around the world.

If you think about the benefits of high solids coatings, you have to think about what the alternatives are. And for the most part the alternatives are either lower solids solvent borne coatings, which have been popular for years in Europe and in Asia, but are slowly being phased out due to environmental regulations. The main competitor is waterborne coatings where some of the solvent is replaced with water.”

Tim December, group leader-R&D at BASF, a coatings supplier to Ford, adds: “The downside of the waterborne products is they have to use humidity and temperature control for the booths. They need some dehydration steps, which use energy, which generates CO2. So the waterborne has an edge on emissions for the organic solvent that gets in the atmosphere. But if you draw a big circle around the process, it really comes down to a balance.”

“What's the best route?” asks Dave Allen, Eastman technical coatings director. “Well, it depends. From a greenhouse gas argument, high solid solvent borne is superior to waterborne."

Ford is confident that it has placed the right bet on this issue.

“Sustainability is all about delivering cost, quality and environmental,” says Tim Weingartz, materials manager – paint engineering group, at Ford. “We're looking to fundamentally achieve all three simultaneously. We're driving things like smaller footprint plants, the lower use of raw materials coming in, lower energy to continue the plant operation.”

"You can't unbake a cake," offers Edward Guerrini, technical director – North American Coatings at BASF. “Once you have developed the chemistry and the technology, it's fixed. If it's not sustainable from the very beginning, it won't be sustainable at the end.”

“The key with sustainability is you don't wait for 10 years to see where you're at,” says Mike Meyer, technical upstream manager – strategic sourcing, for BASF. “You've got to be doing things today to make sure you're around in 10 years.”

“There probably won't be a single solution across all industries, but there'll be solutions for each industry,” explains Brad Lich, vice president & general manager for Eastman’s Coatings, Adhesives, Specialty Polymers & Inks business. “Consumption is really where it's at; making products that have better longevity. Whether that's a coating that lasts twice as long or a car that lasts twice as long – the most sound way to drive sustainable solutions is drive reduced consumption.”

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