You may have noticed that the number of waterborne systems has increased massively during the past decade. Waterborne systems, like paint and adhesives, where water is the main part of the product in many cases, are popular due to several factors. My goal with this article is to introduce you to what I believe are the three most significant aspects of the increased demand for waterborne product systems, focusing on coatings and adhesives.
Reason 1: Product quality is improving
Since the introduction of waterborne systems, the focus has been on improving the quality of the systems.
Toyota has proudly promoted its low-VOC strategy since the late 1980's. They have set quite strict guidelines and rules and started their development of waterborne automotive coatings in 1989. From introducing these paints gradually from 1989 to 2005, they now have well-working coating systems and have reached their goals on VOC. I urge everyone interested to read more on how Toyota implemented their waterborne 3-wet painting process.
Additives like microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), may take the properties of waterborne systems, like coatings, one step further. Due to its insoluble characteristics, it can help to stabilize waterborne systems with substantial particles (like self-compacting concrete, highly pigmented coatings, and similar). By creating a very dense surface, the waterborne systems, with the inclusion of MFC, may also increase its tolerability towards humidity and external conditions. As seen this from the anti-cracking behavior from coatings with MFC presented earlier on this blog.
Reason 2: Product handling
Yes, it is important. Every "Do it Yourself" (DIY) person who have investigated the waterborne paints vs. the solvent-borne paints know the difference. Water-borne paints can be more challenging to apply. That is why equipment and thinking needed major improvements when professionals started to use them. Both the caution of the painter and the materials needed improvement which led to innovations in equipment like tapes and coverings. Improving the rheology additives, also bettered aspects like sag and leveling. All in all, the introduction of waterborne systems created a higher pressure on the rheology system, which, in turn, led the manufacturers of the end-products to innovate on these. To sum up, the right rheological tools in your tool box is essential to create a well-performing waterborne system (like a coating), and product handling may be improved.
Reason 3: Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
This is probably one of the principal drivers from a regulatory perspective, but also an imperative step on the chase for less dangerous and more environmentally friendly product systems. The definition of VOC are different based on regions and even on countries:
- In the EU it is defined as "any organic compound having an initial boiling point less than or equal to 250 °C (482 °F) measured at a standard atmospheric pressure of 101.3 kPa."
- In the US it is regulated by their class and code.
- In Canada, the VOCs are classified as organic compounds with boiling points in the range of 50 to 250 °C (122 to 482 °F).
The VOCs caught added attention during the 1980's and 1990's, and the legislation has been sharpened several times. As a paint producer, your customers will have the hassle to comply with the ever changing legislation. In the long run, that is not your preferred position. Things are moving around you for sure, so innovating on an improved waterborne system may pay off quickly. My question to you is simple: Will you take the chance not to improve your product systems?
Thus, having new and well-performing additives and building blocks to improve the VOC footprint is important. Subsequently, having a rheology additive from a natural source like MFC can quickly become a benefit for the producers of coatings and adhesives by providing an improved function as well as decreasing the VOC contents.
To sum up, the producers that want to stay in front also need to take advantage of the new tools available. By improving the three points I have touched above, a company and its product portfolio sharpen its competitive edge. A friendly suggestion from me would be to include MFC next time you want to improve your waterborne product. It may be worthwhile.