RadTech Europe Roundup

February 1, 2008
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Dubbed “RadTech Europe 07: UV/EB – The Natural Choice” by it’s organizers, the choice to hold the event in Vienna in November meant that nature itself played a role by dumping snow on attendees trying to get in and out of Austria. But if the weather was indeed brisk – so was activity at the conference, which has become a forum for UV and EB suppliers to gather every two years and check the pulse of technology and measure its progress.



Dubbed “RadTech Europe 07: UV/EB – The Natural Choice” by it’s organizers, the choice to hold the event in Vienna in November meant that nature itself played a role by dumping snow on attendees trying to get in and out of Austria. But if the weather was indeed brisk – so was activity at the conference, which has become a forum for UV and EB suppliers to gather every two years and check the pulse of technology and measure its progress.

“Every electron beam manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere is here,” commented Josh Epstein, Product Manager for Advanced Electron Beams of Wilmington, MA. And indeed the conference was successful at drawing nearly 600 delegates from 36 different countries.

But the conference may also be looked back on as a pivotal one for RadTech Europe, which only recently has restructured itself by appointing a new Executive Director, Timo Corporaal and Senior Management Assistant Vera van Gelder, who are determined to make a positive impact on the future direction of the organization. Both Corporaal and van Gelder are part of the LEJEUNE Association Management team that shepherd’s the association, which, in partnership with the Vincentz Network, produce the biennial conference.

“The power is the network,” observed Corporaal as he overlooked a show floor bustling with raw material suppliers and equipment makers. “And we are excited to explore new ways to grow the network and even improve the conference as we prepare for our next event in 2009 in Nice,” says Corporaal. Similarly, Vera van Gelder beamed with enthusiasm about helping to market RadTech and radcure technologies to new markets. “Only an energetic association meets the challenge of properly promoting rapidly developing technologies,” Corporaal has observed. “Acting ‘just good’ is the enemy of acting even better,” said Corporaal to a packed plenary session on the conferences’ first day.



Global regional demand growth forecast for UV/EB (formulations).

Kick-Off: The Plenary Session

Reminded of it’s magic and artistic beauty the plenary session kicked off with lyrics of Wien, Du Stadt Meiner Träume (“Vienna, City Of My Dreams” by Rudolf Sieczynski) before heading into more serious topics of sustainability and the growth of UV/EB technology globally.

David Harbourne, President of Fusion UV Systems, in presenting “UV/EB Market Trends in North America: A Global Perspective” observed that “for the paint and coatings industry, the current market reality is that despite the negative impacts of energy, raw material costs, and environmental compliance – industrial coatings are depended upon to overcome the most extreme environmental conditions, extremes of temperature, moisture, humidity, chemicals, fumes, scratches and abrasions, while maintaining the integrity and appearance of a multitude of products that we encounter in everyday life.”

“It is in this harsh, demanding and rapidly changing environment, in which the consequences of failure (financial and product/corporate reputation) are very high, that UV/EB curing is becoming the manufacturing process of choice for protecting the substrate, while simultaneously protecting the environment.”

Harbourne presented figures comparing the status and projected growth of UV/EB globally (Table 1). “Historically, the North American market for UV/EB curables has been significantly larger than the other major regions of the world,” said Harbourne. “But, by 2015, the consumption of UV/EB material in North America is predicted to be only marginally greater than Europe and Asia.”

“Today, and for the foreseeable future, there are, and will continue to be, a number of drivers that will impact both the users and suppliers of UV/EB equipment and materials,” says Harbourne. “It is the rate at which these changes occur that will most likely provide the biggest impact in the North American market. The changes themselves are inevitable.”

In his presentation, Harbourne highlighted the following drivers. While not ranked in order of timing or impact, these change drivers include the following factors.

· The shift in global manufacturing from North America to the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will continue to impact industrial production in the United States. In the short term, it is primarily China, followed by Russia, that is having the most impact; however, we ignore, at our peril, the potential of both India and Brazil, each of which has the capability and resources to become centers of global manufacturing.

· The recent transition from “natural” substrates, such as wood, metal and glass to composites, plastics and other substrates such as PLA films (polylactic acid) for packaging films, has motivated the suppliers of UV/EB curing processes to deliver curing systems that provide superior performance on heat-sensitive substrates, while meeting energy conservation requirements.

· As previously mentioned, the increasing costs of energy and raw materials, while making UV/EB curing, in many cases, more competitive with conventional drying/curing processes, has, in some cases, jeopardized the value proposition typically associated with UV curing. Some clear coating formulation prices have increased by as much as 70% within the past 18 months. It should also be noted that these increases have, in some instances, been offset by the availability of lower-cost raw materials and photoinitiators from China. Management of these complex cost issues will continue to challenge us for the foreseeable future.

· The ongoing development of new synergistic technologies, such as nanotechnology that can be combined with UV/EB formulations to enhance the already high performance of UV/EB-cured products (improved scratch/scuff abrasion resistance, barrier properties, solvent and water resistance), will enable the technology to expand current applications and to enter others not previously considered as potential UV/EB applications.

· While perhaps not considered “new,” the continuing development of UV processes and equipment for curing of three-dimensional complex shaped substrates is enabling this technology to penetrate applications and markets heretofore not considered suitable for “line-of-sight’ restricted uses of UV curing. The uses of robotics and dual-cure UV systems have been the main drivers of the market change.

· Environmental regulations mandating the reduction in emissions of HAPs, VOCs and CO2, when coupled with popular demands to lower pollution levels from consumers/users of UV-cured products, has resulted in significant pressure being applied to many industries to rethink the method by which they produce their products. Several very large global corporations have based their future corporate business strategies on being environmentally proactive. GE, with its “Ecomagination” business platform, is one of several large corporations pursuing this strategy.

· “Sustainability,” once just a buzzword and a politically correct platform, has now become a requirement for many major packaging consumers in North America. Wal-Mart and Dell Computer are two examples that have mandated that their suppliers of packaging films switch from the current PET films made from non-renewable raw materials to PLA films (polylactic acid) made from renewable resources such as corn and cut grass.

“Globally speaking,” says Harbourne, “the trends that are affecting the North American market today and in the near future will not be much different from those other regions that are involved in the global manufacturing marketplace. The differences are likely to be ones of timing and intensity, not fundamentals.”

Dirk Jaegers, of lamp supplier IST Metz, echoed a familiar theme at the conference – that of UV/EB’s role in a world of rising energy costs and rising global warming. “There is a good probability that in the future worldwide energy prices will show a further increase. For this reason the aim of equipment suppliers must be a further reduction of energy consumption and an increase of energy efficiency,” said Jaegers.

“The question is to what extent can the electrical power of a UV-curing system be reduced to achieve the same curing results? The aim in the future is to cut this energy requirement in half,” said Jaegers. “And I would not propose this if I did not think it were achievable,” he added.



UV/EB potential substitution (applications tons x1000).

European Market Concerns

“Everyone of us is well aware that in the near future the approach to our activity has to take into account that more concern has to be given to the environmental and safety issues,” added Renato Bottacchiari of Lamberti s.p.a., Italy, in his presentation “The UV/EB European Market: Opportunities and Worries.” This new scenario needs a deeper and earlier investigation, which may show the impact of UV/EB technology on the market, says Bottacchiari (Table 2).

Automotive

The driver for automotive application is the replacement of existing coatings. The main concern is the hardness of the top clearcoat, which might be satisfied using UV/EB formulations instead of water-based alternatives. Several experiments have already been carried out in this application with encouraging results for both OEM and refinish. The estimated potential available quantity for UV/EB technology is around 6,000 tons.

Coil Coating

More than other applications, coil coating seems suited for UV/EB, and primers appear as the promising candidate to open the way for UV application. It’s not ambitious to think that the topcoat seems to be within our reach and the immediate result may involve 3,000 tons.

Wood Finishes

For wood finishes, the possibility is the substitution of the spray acid catalyst systems, which are a large part of the wood industry. The greatest substitution potential may give an additional 8,000 tons of UV/EB products.

Powder Coatings

Powder is already available and well known, but the potential does not seem to be so big. The technology is environmentally friendly and enhances good performance; the driving reason to switch to UV/EB from this application might be the energy costs used to stove conventional powder coatings. At the moment, this does not seem to be enough to justify new investment for replacing the existing plants.

Can Coating

Can coating is already running some UV application like cationic for exterior clear topcoat spray cans. The application looks like one of the most suitable because of application methodology. Nevertheless, the industry seems reluctant to dismantle the existing lines.

Industrial Coatings

Industrial coatings, being the largest sector, has great potential, but apart from some fields like coatings for plastic there has not been thus far a real attempt to promote UV/EB.

“Our analysis shows a situation that seems very favorable for technologies that have the characteristics of low environmental impact, health care and safety. UV/EB is among these suitable technologies and shows the highest compatibility with the new REACH requirements. Consequently we expect a positive impact on sales in the next few years.”<



Awards and Recognition

Best Paper

RadTech Europe presented the Paul Dufour Best Paper Award to Dr. Jan Weikard of Bayer Material Science AG, Germany for his work titled “The New Frontier: Waterborne UV Coatings for Plastics.” Weikard compared the chemistry, application and performance characteristics of new waterborne UV systems with existing solventborne UV or thermosetting coatings. Examples included high-gloss clear-coats on basecoats, pigmented single-layer coatings with good adhesion on various plastic substrates and soft-touch coatings.

“With a new generation of waterborne UV-curing polyurethane dispersions, it is possible to formulate coatings for plastics with performance characteristics that, until now, could only be realized by two-component polyurethane systems or solventborne UV systems,” explained Weikard.

“Waterborne UV technology offers the possibility to convert the conventional dual-layer coating build-up from solventborne to waterborne. The high-quality single-layer pigmented systems are a new and very economical option. Water as solvent is a more favorable alternative, economically as well as ecologically. The decision to convert to waterborne UV technology has already been made by several companies in the European furniture industry.”

Innovative Commercial Applications

The plenary session concluded with awards for innovative commercial applications of UV/EB Technology.

Auto

In the automotive category, Wörwag Coatings won the RadTech Europe Innovation with a UV clearcoat for thermo-formable plastic substrate for making automotive body parts. Worwag is becoming accustomed to being identified as a standout for their leading edge work in coatings. In 1998 Wörwag won the Innovation Award granted by the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg/Germany (the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Prize) for developing environmentally compatible paint technology for the coating of the vehicle body of the “Smart” car followed in 2000 by the “Environmental Leadership Award” for the same project granted by DaimlerChrysler.

Printing and Packaging

Recognition in the Printing and Packaging sector was given to Crea Printing Industries of Belgium. Crea has developed PP + 3D“, a 3-D-lenticular printing method of producing a production box that utilizes 100%-UV printing inks.

“Crea has developed a new, revolutionary printing technology applied to synthetic materials,” explains Peter Hillewaere. “Crea’s work in developing products such as Magic Motion® differs from older 3-D techniques in the lifelike quality of the depth reproduction and the possibility to create moving images. UV technology helps to make this effect possible in a single print run and is biodegradable.”

Industrial Coatings and Adhesives

The Industrial Coatings and Adhesives award was presented to Dietmar Dengler of Delo Industrial Adhesives (Windach, Germany) for their cationic UV-curing edge sealant for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). “Low permeation for water is critical to the edge sealing of these arrays,” explained Dengler. “And so UV epoxies are an ideal technical solution for this purpose.”

RadTech Europe Award

Finally, in a touching expression of sentiment, Luc Nuijten was awarded the association’s first RadTech Europe award in recognition of his outstanding efforts in the promotion of UV and electron beam technology. Luc has been involved with the coatings industry for over four decades.

Earning a degree in chemical engineering at Delft University in 1963, Luc worked with ICI Dyestuffs Division and Nobel Division, Pennwalt Corporation and UCB Chemicals, now known as Cytec. In late 2004, Luc retired from UCB Chemicals and since that time served as a senior consultant for RadTech Europe.

Among his achievements, Luc championed the European UVITECH project, one of the earliest efforts to provide data on the safe use and environmentally friendliness of UV/EB technology. This work set the stage for the subsequent development of the UV and EB protocols.

He was also instrumental in ensuring that the UV/EB technology would be recognized as a technology qualifying for the ECO-label. Luc worked to prevent implementation of a mercury ban for UV lamps that would have been detrimental for the UV industry. Luc’s latest work concerned investigating the de-inking and recyclability of UV-coated paper.



Technical Session

The main technical conference, always the heart of the RadTech Europe event, was well organized into three concurrent sessions. A total of 53 papers covered topics ranging from health and safety, equipment, graphic arts, wood, automotive and metal applications, and innovations in chemistry, equipment, and new synthetic routes.

UV in Flexible Electronics

Some notable presentations included two papers on the use of UV in flexible electronics. In his paper “UV-Curable Electrically Conductive Flexo Ink,” Rudie Oldenzijl of Acheson Electronic Materials in the Netherlands reported on Acheson’s effort to develop a UV-curable conductive ink, which is applicable with flexography and that has the right properties after UV curing to function as an RFID antenna. Oldenzijl reported some success in that the developed UV-curable electrically conductive ink had a resistance of < 0.020 Ohm/square/25 micron after UV curing and a heat treatment that was close to the target goal. A few beta site tests have shown that it is possible to use this ink as antenna material for an RFID tag.

Similar work was presented by the team of Kowalik, Worch and Hartwig of Fraunhofer IFAM, in Germany, who presented a paper titled “Conductive UV-Curable Adhesives for Printed RFID Antenna Structures.”

Conductive UV-curable adhesives were developed for use as RFID antennas and could be applied with printing methods like offset printing or flexography. It was shown that silver-filled formulations were developed, which could be fully cured by UV light and processed with offset printing and flexography. The researchers concluded that these UV formulations together with the printing processes make a cheaper and quicker production of the RFID antennas possible and, therefore, a big step for a broader application of this technology is completed.

Energy-Efficient Techniques

New, energy-efficient techniques utilizing solid-state sources such as LEDs and semiconductor light matrices (SLMs) were discussed as well, with a paper by Alex Schreiner, the past director of R&D for Phoseon Technology. And in an interesting twist, Dr. Bernd Brandl of IST Metz, a European-based manufacturer of arc lamp systems presented the paper “UV LEDs: Survey of a new Emerging Technology.” “How and where can LEDs compete today with mercury medium-pressure gas discharge lamps at this stage,” posed Brandl and Dirk Jaegers of IST. “Quo vadis LED?”

A well-attended paper on “Photoinitiator-Free Daylight Curing of Maleimide Functional Coatings” was prepared by Leo G.J. van der Ven, Keimpe J. van den Berg, and Edith Benningshof-Hulsbos of Akzo Nobel Car Refinishes. This paper described a “robust daylight curing clearcoat” based on isocyanate/thiol chemistry that has been launched on the market. The authors propose that such a system benefits by eliminating the need for dangerous short-wave UV sources impractical in the refinish shop. The authors concluded that maleimides are suitable to cure without use of a photoinitiator with UVA bulbs and that the addition of a sensitizer and/or a thiol can enhance the conversion at the surface which is retarded by oxygen inhibition.

Equipment

Advances in equipment were abundant as Kevin Joesel of Fusion UV Systems detailed successes in curing three-dimensional parts with a variety of techniques including reciprocating lamps and work done with robotic UV curing in his paper, “Direct-to-Metal UV Coatings Applications for UV Curing.”

Tunja Jung of Ciba Specialty chemicals, Basel, Switzerland, updated the audience on Ciba’s continued progress in commercializing the PlasmaCure process.

Dr. Klemens Rother of Cadfem GmbH presented results of their work with the Fraunhofer IPA in developing a system that uses sophisticated computer modeling programs to help position and optimize the uniform curing of complex 3-D objects such as car bodies when many fixed lamps are required.

The system can be used in combination with other process tools that model the thermal drying and spray application process to provide a completely automated view of coating and curing for automobiles.

Nanotechnology

Two papers were presented that pointed to the influence of developing nanotechnology in UV formulations. In “Fully Scratch Resistant UV-Coatings Achieved by Nano-Particles, High Functional Acrylates and Different Curing Conditions,” Dr. Matthias Fies, Klaus Menzel and Dr. Michael Kutschera of BASF found that fully scratch-resistant UV coatings can be achieved with either UV acrylates filled with nanoparticles or with high functional acrylates with a special molecular design. The group concluded that UV curing under inert conditions and at elevated temperatures increase the scratch resistance of the UV coating to an optimum level.

Good results with nanotechnology were also reported by Frank Bauer of the Leibniz Institute for Surface Modification in his work with the firm of Cetelon Nanotechnik. In his presentation on “UV Curing and Matting of Nano/Micro Composite Materials,” Bauer presented results of a system that creates a matt effect with gloss levels down to 0.5 units (at 60 ) as well as a soft-touch feeling while maintaining a high abrasion resistance. He concluded that matted nano/micro-hybrid composites provide a very natural visual appearance and seem to be suitable for durable parquet and PVC flooring applications.

Environmental, Health and Safety

A full range of papers on the environmental, health and safety of the technology was moderated by Maureen Waite of Cytec, which included topics on food contact compliance (Keller & Heckman), labeling of acrylates (Bayer Material Science), the REACH initiatives (Unilever) and recycling of paper with UV inks by Jori Ringman of the Confederation of European Paper Industries.

Academia

In addition to these presentations an impressive roster of 31 poster papers were presented at the conference from a wide range of academic institutions including 10 papers from the local Vienna University of Technology in Vienna on topics ranging from new photoinitiators to the surface grafting and metallization of polypropylene.



Apres-UV

The November weather combined with the physical layout of the show made traipsing about Vienna for sightseeing somewhat challenging for all but the most determined or cold-blooded of the group. Unlike some past conferences, attendees were scattered among more than a half dozen hotels, and the conference center was several kilometers from most of the city’s cultural and entertainment highlights. So, for many attendees the trip was mostly business in a city known for museums, music and Freud.

But, RadTech Europe always excels is its ability to have fun at the end of the day. Tables laden with delectables and tipping heavily towards Viennese-style tortes and petit-fours.

A good part of the exhibition floor was magically transformed by Vincentz into a makeshift nightclub with the Euro-pop rock styled band Smash living up to their name as they belted out songs from Avril Lavigne to Earth Wind and Fire.

Wine and (of course) hearty beer put attendees in good spirits. It was clearly one time during the three-day affair when nobody wanted to eliminate the volatile organics in the room.

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