Karen Parker inbody image

Companies that turn abstract ideas into real, commercially viable products must have employees that possess both scientific understanding and imagination. I had the privilege of seeing first hand a company that is imagining the future when I attended WACKER’s International Press Workshop this March. The Munich-based company manufactures products for various industrial sectors, including the coatings industry.

The highlight of the event for me was a visit to the company’s Burghausen plant, which makes products ranging from polysilicon and hyper-pure silicon wafers to silicones, silanes and pyrogenic silicas, as well as dispersions and dispersible polymer powders, solid resins, fine chemicals and base materials for the chemical industry. One of the stops on the plant tour was a facility where researchers are working on an “eye to the future” project. They are making a silicone film as thin as a human hair with excellent dielectric properties. WACKER is partnering with industry and other researchers in developing flawless films that will be used in future maritime wave energy converters to generate electricity from ocean waves.

Two technologies highlighted at the workshop relate to our industry. One is a material developed by scientists at the University of Tokyo, Nissan Motor Co. and Advanced Softmaterials Inc. that is based on WACKER cyclodextrins and used in self-healing coatings. The other product is VINNAPAS® LL 3112, a new binder for intumescent coatings. The binder supports foam expansion, increases long-term foam stability, helps to maintain adhesion to the substrate, and improves the strength and durability of the coating. This technology provides a solution to the need for robust research and development of intumescent coatings.

Urban populations are growing as workers in developing economies move from rural areas to work in cities. This spurs demand for steel-frame construction, a preferred building method in urban areas because of its high load-bearing capacity, ease of assembly and the aesthetic variety it provides. With steel-frame buildings, demand for fire-protection products has increased as governments implement stricter construction standards. Intumescent coatings – coatings that swell when exposed to heat – are a way for engineers to meet these requirements.

In a 2009 study of the intumescent coatings market in the United States and Western Europe, research firm Frost & Sullivan noted that intumescent coating products are highly technology driven, due in large part to frequent changes in fire rating levels. “In order to achieve higher fire ratings, intumescent manufacturers need to invest heavily in R&D to formulate new products,” noted an analyst. “Additionally, drying time and coating applicability also play a crucial role in coating applications in new and maintenance projects.”

The report also noted that facility owners have become increasingly aware of the benefits of intumescent coating products and have begun to choose them over conventional fireproofing material such as cementitious coatings and gypsum boards.

What impressed me the most about my visit to WACKER was the company’s commitment to forward-looking technologies. In this issue, you can read more about the new technologies showcased by WACKER at this year’s European Coatings Show in our article titled, Sustainability Drives ECS. A more in-depth article can be found at www.pcimag.com/ecsreview.