The new millennium entered smoothly, its commencement unblemished by a bevy of predicted disasters. Though global disaster was averted, for the coatings industry, the continuing globalization of the market hangs heavy with impending issues and challenges. These challenges certainly won’t change life as we know it, but they will reshape the marketplace and strongly influence the direction of the industry. Perhaps the greatest agent of change is the trend toward consolidation. During the last decade, the industry saw an unprecedented number of consolidations and acquisitions. By all accounts, this trend is expected to continue. Savvy formulators will need to anticipate the demands of the industry, and act progressively and strategically if they are to survive. Likewise, they will seek out suppliers who are able to anticipate performance challenges and develop cost-effective, proactive solutions.

Adopting such a philosophy is one of the many challenges for the industry. But signs of progress are present. Paint designed to meet the needs of a more sophisticated consumer is already on the shelves. Coatings that address anticipated consumer demands, such as more environmentally friendly products, are in development. Higher performing products are being formulated at a substantial cost savings. Low-odor paint is now commonplace, and no-VOC paints and other alternative coating technologies are quickly becoming a reality.

A World of Opportunity

Driven by the need to nurture core markets and expand globally, widespread industry consolidation has resulted in a smaller but stronger international coatings industry. The result is a markedly more competitive environment. These now powerful coating manufacturers are uniting their newly acquired and often large and diverse technology bases and, in turn, refining their product lines, bolstering their technical service capabilities and streamlining production. The end result: Manufacturers with strong production, service and distribution capabilities, which produce higher performing, more competitively priced final products.

However, before the final product ever gets to market, formulators and marketers must carefully consider the technology related trends at play in this new marketplace. They must sift through their newly acquired technologies and capabilities, from the paint formulations themselves to their distribution capabilities, and closely examine the needs of their new markets. Top industry trends include identifying globally useful raw materials, leveraging purchasing power, a tightening global regulatory climate, and addressing global performance issues.

Survival of the Fittest

As formulators begin to examine their acquired technology bases, they will need to simplify and streamline their formulations. Eliminating duplicate or similar product offerings is one possibility. Additive packages must also be examined. Regionally available or useful products must be replaced with globally available and useful ones, and additive performance must be optimized where possible. The focus will be on identifying raw materials that can help meet the diverse needs of the various regions in which they are now competing. Likewise, additives that can perform multiple tasks will increase in value and use. Once core product lines have been identified and additive packages determined, formulators can recommend a purchasing strategy.

Purchasing Power

As manufacturers expand their technology base, their sheer size and volume puts them in an ideal position to leverage their purchasing power of raw materials. Based on even the moderate volume of coatings a medium-sized manufacturer will produce in a year, seemingly small savings in additive packages can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual savings. For large manufacturers, this savings may translate to millions of dollars. Hence, even a seemingly small savings can contribute significantly to the overall cost containment goals that formulators must achieve to remain competitive.

Global Issues

Concerns over VOCs have dominated the regulatory climate of the global architectural coatings industry for the last decade, and initiatives for tighter restrictions are expected. At the consumer level the concern is odor, while VOCs are responsible for a host of safety and handling issues during manufacture. Regions such as the United States, Europe and Japan have all mandated strict environmental requirements. And as the international paint industry becomes more condensed, the remaining world markets will likely follow. As formulators integrate and redefine their product lines to meet the performance requirements of their new markets, they must also formulate to meet current and future global regulatory demands.

Formulating for Global Performance

Formulating for global performance often really means reformulating. This is especially true for formulators who are attempting to enter a new market with an existing product line or are facing a new performance challenge with an acquired product.

Having recently entered a new market, one medium-sized domestic paint formulator faced the dual challenge of reducing odor during production while improving early water resistance in a particular coating formulation. Just as important was the need to contain formulation costs. Ammonia was the main culprit in regard to odor both during manufacture and in the finished paint system. With fewer technical resources available to devote to this specific project, the formulator turned to ANGUS Chemical Co., a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., to help achieve its goals. ANGUS was chosen for its technical capabilities and expertise in developing formulation solutions in the specific region that the formulator was now competing.

AMP-95® (2-amino-2-methyl-1-propanol), a multifunctional amine, was specified to both lower odor and achieve crucial early water resistance of the paint film. Because of its low volatility and high base strength, the multifunctional amine is an effective ammonia replacement. The amine enabled the formulation of a low-odor paint system with an acceptable VOC level. In addition, the amine allowed the reduction of glycol, which further reduced VOCs and, in this instance, resulted in a final product that is well within current and proposed VOC mandates. Use of the amine resulted in a more stable pH in both the grind and the finished paint system than did the ammonia.

With one objective achieved, efforts began to address early water resistance. ANGUS helped the formulator avoid a common but serious pitfall — replacing ammonia with the multifunctional amine at an equal ratio. The concern was that with the elimination of ammonia and the incorporation of the multifunctional amine, the new formulation would contain higher levels of slow-releasing materials — levels great enough to facilitate water resistance effects during curing. In addition to amines, raw materials that can affect drying characteristics include surfactants, defoamers, coalescing solvents and glycols.

To prevent water sensitivity problems, these components were adjusted to properly balance the formulation. The multifunctional amine was incorporated in the grind at 0.15% on the total weight of the formulation. Dispersants and wetting agents were then reduced by 25%. Glycols were lowered by 30% and coalescing solvent levels were optimized by 10%. Water-sensitivity performance testing was completed on a similar paint reformulation shown in the table. As the photograph in the figure demonstrates, the paint formulated with the amine demonstrates greater water resistance than its ammonia-based counterpart.

The manufacturer’s reformulation efforts also resulted in an unexpected benefit — a reduction in formulation costs. Although the amine costs more per unit than ammonia, its utility and resulting ability to lower other additive levels helped meet cost containment goals. Other performance characteristics the amine provided included improved flow, gloss and scrub resistance.

Certainly the mantra for this new marketplace could be “Develop a vision and make it a reality.” There are now many tools available that formulators can use to take their products to the next level. Identifying those tools and using them to their fullest capability is the challenge. One resource formulators will increasingly rely upon to help with this is their suppliers. As the industry continues to grow and redefine itself, additive suppliers will likely be a constant, providing formulation insights, tools and techniques to improve existing and acquired products. In the end, manufacturers who know the needs of the market, and the most efficient way to formulate paint will succeed.

For more information on additives, contact ANGUS Chemical Co., phone 800/447.4369 or 517/832.1560.