Waterborne Paints

How Waterborne Paint Is Changing The Automotive Industry

Paint has long been a necessary product in the automotive world. Customizers and aftermarket manufacturers are among those who require paint products to conduct business. Perhaps the most prolific painters in the automotive sector, other than OEMs, would be shops operating in the repair and refinish segment. These are auto-body shops that make a living on being able to paint fast, match colors perfectly and be economical in the process.

Because volatile organic compounds (VOC) in paint have been recognized as bad for the environment, there is change afoot that will eventually affect practically everyone who paints.

The move to less toxic, water-based finishes is already well under way elsewhere. Waterborne paints are currently in extensive use in Europe and Canada, and many OEMs now use water-based paints on their newest products. Paint manufacturers are also moving quickly to develop low-VOC primers and clear-coat products in addition to the color coats available now.

The consensus among the people we talked to is that the transition to waterborne finish products may not be as difficult or as costly as some first supposed. In fact, the changeover may bring with it a number of advantages.


Conversion Equipment Requirements

In Cape Town, most shops have already converted to waterborne paint. In other provinces, many paint shops have put off the transition, in part because of cost concerns.

“It’s a myth that you’ve got to buy all kinds of new equipment and put in new spray booths to convert,”. “The truth is, they’re going to need a new gun—a stainless-steel gun, because you don’t want rust in your spray gun.”

In addition to a new paint gun, waterborne paint does like to have large volumes of clean air to enhance drying.

“For water, the key to drying is air flow—getting air to move across the surface of the car to make it dry,”. “However, the car will also dry without great air flow; it just will take longer. So if you’re a production shop that’s trying to move cars through, you’re going to want to put in blowers to get a lot of air movement to get the cars to dry super-fast. But if you’re a custom shop or a smaller shop that doesn’t have cars stacked up outside and you want to put in a small box fan to get a little air movement, that’s all it takes. The difference will be, maybe, instead of drying in 10 minutes, you’ll dry in 30 minutes. For a production shop, that’s a big deal. For a custom shop, probably not to them.”