Ask anyone about possible innovations at paint suppliers and the answers will soon include new colors or self-healing properties, maybe even color changes (think BMW iX Flow). Few people would think of a fireproof coating in a battery pack.
A car fire is a major event for any car. A petrol or diesel burns for an hour and is then extinguished. An electric car burns for a week and takes the equivalent of twenty fire engines to get out. We know the images of electric cars being dropped into a life-size fish tank to keep smoldering safely. Obviously, there is the necessary chemical spillage afterwards.
Manufacturers and suppliers make great efforts to prevent and mitigate such tragedies. Also paint manufacturers. PPG, good for a worldwide turnover of almost 16 billion euros, gathered the international press at the production and research facility in Amsterdam to get an insight into the expertise in many areas. Because the automotive industry is only one pillar under the company, just like aviation, shipping, construction and the packaging industry. So that can of soda or that deodorant spray can only have been given a PPG finish. Another example is the UV-resistant windows in airplanes and the particularly economical organic materials for OLED applications such as smartphones or the screens in cars.
300 years in 3 minutes
The choice for Amsterdam underlines PPG’s long relationship with our country. Jan Pieterszoon Schoen, ancestor of the well-known entrepreneur and investor Pieter Schoen, built a windmill in Westzaan in 1722 to grind pigments. 250 years later, two colleagues merged to form Sigma Coatings, which was taken over by PPG again in 2008. PPG itself ‘only’ came to life in 1883. However, we don’t have much time to dwell on the past. At the museum where we are standing, it is quickly about modern electric cars and the battery pack.
As director of product development, William Brunat provides insight into market opportunities beyond the visible paintwork on a car. He will give the podium to two product lines: the dielectric coatings and the coatings that protect electric vehicles from fire. Both are included in the battery pack. To start with the last one, the fireproof coating: it can withstand temperatures of up to 1200 degrees Celsius. In addition, it lowers the underlying temperature to a maximum of 400 degrees.
The dielectric coating provides a basic insulating effect. While many electric cars currently work with 400-600 volts, with new models this is quickly increasing to 800 or even 1000 volts. Insulation to prevent short circuits is usually solved with foil or tape, but then there are risks such as air bubbles or seams. There is also the relatively complex and cumbersome method of application. This is in contrast to the coatings that must be sprayed. In addition to increased security, Brunat also praises other product features, such as counteracting known problems that can limit the lifetime of such a package.
A thousand times Moonwalk
Moonwalk, PPG’s automated mixing room, is already becoming a household name in the Benelux. The system has eighty storage spaces for pigments and thirteen active positions. When setting Moonwalk, it specifies which pigment should be placed in which active position. If a pigment is not yet present, it must be applied by hand. The machine then takes over the mixing process. With around a thousand units installed, the picture is clear: More and more customers are seeing the benefits of an automatic mixing system that saves time and increases precision. The precisely balanced pigment components ensure that the resulting paint is always the same. “It is customary to mix a little more varnish than is strictly necessary to avoid any color difference if it has to be added afterwards. With Moonwalk you prevent waste. In addition, you can let the machine mix and do other tasks in the meantime. Not to mention the much cleaner working environment. In a traditional mixing room, the tracks from previous sessions are clearly visible.”
Jo de Wachter, new business manager Automotive Refinish Coatings, shows a crucial element of the Moonwalk behind him. With this, the varnish in the bottle finds its way to the mixing cup below automatically and accurately weighed. Matteo Carraro (Moonwalk Segment Manager EMEA) looks on.