ARNHEM, The Netherlands - Akzo Nobel announced the launch of a new business unit focusing on powder coatings, a move the company said reflects an expanded powder-coatings product line and a commitment "to meeting the specific needs of powder-coatings users worldwide."

Akzo Nobel said that following the integration of the former Courtaulds coatings businesses acquired in 1998, the company has assembled "a stronger and fully integrated world-leading" powder-coatings business unit. "Operating under a single business brand - Interpon Powder Coatings - the new global business is now better positioned to serve the needs of its diverse range of customers across the world," the company said.

The company currently markets two global powder product brands - Interpon for the architectural, automotive, appliance, and industrial-finishing markets, and Resicoat for the functional markets of electrical insulation, valves and pipe fittings, and steel rebar.

Rudy van der Meer, Akzo Nobel's board member responsible for coatings, said that by launching the powder-coatings business as a separate, focused worldwide unit, the company is "underlining the importance of this fast-growing coatings sector. Our market leadership and global spread will provide a solid platform for continuing growth."

Bill McPherson, general manager of the Powder Coatings business unit, said the business is in the process of rolling out a rapid-response service based on a patented color-mixing technology that he said has "revolutionized service levels in small-batch, custom-matched powder orders." The service, named "Interpon Express," is being introduced worldwide following successful implementation in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, and China. The service allows customers to purchase any quantity of custom-matched colors and receive rapid delivery, the company said.

McPherson said powder coatings are expected to continue a track record of solid growth due to a combination of environmental advantages and performance attributes such as toughness and durability, in addition to research and development advances that address "technology challenges presented by new areas of application."