The composite industry is used to working with unsaturated poly-/vinylester (UP/VE) products for more than 60 years. The diversity for the application-areas of UP-system has seen a steady growth. In comparison with other materials, like steel, it brings light-weight, endurance, weather-stability, free-choice of form and yet remains economical attractive. Even with new developments in carbon-fiber and renewable resources UP-Systems can still keep up.

For the coating industry, the use of epoxides (EP), polyurethans (PU), poly-aspartics and acrylics are more commonly used than conventional UP-Systems. The exception is for In-mould coatings or Gelcoats. Those products are mostly based on UP/VE and used in combination with a backing of glas-/carbonfibre reinforced laminates.

Floor coating In-Door application, ABP Office Hamburg, Germany
Floor coating In-Door application, ABP Office Hamburg, Germany

While most of the coatings/composites are applied in multilayer systems a mix-up of the different chemistries is mostly seen as doubtful as it bares the risk of losing adhesion. When multiple layers are applied, having different chemical backbones, mostly sanding, priming or other types of pre-treatment is necessary.

Despite the different industries and applications these different kinds of chemistry have their own specific advantages and disadvantages. E.g. Epoxides are known for causing strong allergic reactions with prolonged or repeated exposure, with PU the use of iso-cyanates by applicators is also troublesome as is the emissions of styrene, MMA and solvents in these conventional systems.

For the last 30 years, most of the new-developments in composites and coatings were focused on increasing profit and growth by decreasing costs. Being competitive meant trying to get the lowest price with the best possible quality. Quality was and still is a matter of price, even better properties have lost against cheapness. Following this trend, in the late 80’s the demand for standardized quality-management arose. The first standard came for the BSI with the number 5750 which in effect resulted in the ISO 9000 Series in 1987.

With the quality assured with this international norm, also the audibility of processes came into higher demand. Pretty soon there was the need for instruments measuring the quality, reproducibility, repeatability and consistency. The choice for these tools is unrivaled, e.g. Six Sigma, (Gemba)-Kaizen, Operational Excellence, 5S, Lean Management, best practice, etc. even combinations of the various technics are implemented with great success. 

Gelcoat  Spray application at German boat builder
Gelcoat Spray application at German boat builder

With these management tools implemented clarity is given on product and process quality, efficiency and effectivity even the impact on the environment has become measurable. And indeed with striving for higher efficiency and cost-optimization also the energy consumption as a cost-driver needed to be reduced. You could conclude that the processes have become greener and generally speaking the impact on the environment, due to the lesser energy consumption, per kilogram material is strongly reduced.

In the last years there is fortunately an increased awareness, not only for the environment, but also for the protection of health and the need for a safe workplace. Already there is a tendency observed that when the choice is taken in favor of low price it is seen as a choice against good health. When it comes to working with hazardous materials, mal-/Mismanagement has become a new meaning in relation to cut-costs versus SHE. Applicators are better educated than in the early days of coatings and composites and they care for their own health and the environment. Therefore an era is reached, at which the environment, applicators and users do matter. A good balance is to be found between people, planet, profit and quality.

With the most cost-reduced processes the focus is changed to the safety, health and environmental impact of the products themselves.

More and more is discovered about the adverse effect of specific chemicals on health, environment, flora and fauna and with this increased knowledge the public acceptance is logically decreased. The responsibility for current and future generations is taken more seriously than ever and legislation is getting stricter and stricter to protect people and environment and obligate the industry to take their responsibility.

Floor coating at Daimler AG, Bremen, Germany
Floor coating at Daimler AG, Bremen, Germany

For sure it is a huge challenge to develop a “jack-of-all-trades” that includes good profitability, high quality, no labelling and “zero”-emission. With the additional requirements of easy-handling, fast curing and readily available. One product to serve all applications!

Even before legislation began to regulate the negative effects of 2-component systems in the composites and coating industry, it has been the thrive of AB-Polymerchemie GmbH (ABP Coatings) to develop products for customers that should bring a technical, safety and environmental benefit.

In close cooperation with customers ABP Coatings developed products that long before legislation demanded, had < 1% VOC and were free of suspected carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substances like alkyl-phenols.

As ABP Coatings is a “formulator” company, it is highly dependent on the technology offered by suppliers. However with the fore mentioned positive trends, partially caused by legislation and the increased awareness of people, more and more alternatives are made available.

Going from suppliers to formulators, from formulators to applicators and finally to the end-users, the complete supply chain can be strongly reduced of chemical hazards, decreased negative environmental impact and enlarged personal health and therefore elevated well-being.

With this green technology, products are developed that can be used for the coating (PACTYLON®) and composite (PACTYLAN®) industries and still is backwards compatible with the conventional EP, PU, acrylics and UP/VE systems without the fear of losing adhesion.

Moderate labelling
Moderate labelling

This new product range from ABP-Coatings also offered through Velox Composites and Voss Chemie Benelux is completely free of solvents, reactive diluents and only contains unsaturated hybrid polymers dissolved in high-grade, higher molecular, multi-functional methacrylates. The curing is with standard peroxides and there is no longer the need to differentiate between brush or spray application or even between gel- and topcoat. Even the rheological behavior is only a matter of choice, going from strong thixotropic until nearly Newtonian fluids, e.g. self-levelling floor coatings. The labelling is very moderate and already next generations are being developed to have completely label-free products.

Typical values for this technology are:

  • Odorless
  • MMA/styrene-free
  • Solvent-free
  • < 1% VOC (72 hours at 85°C)
  • High chemical resistance
  • Good mechanical properties
  • Excellent UV - stability
  • Low shrinkage
  • Fast curing

As it might not yet be a technology that is a “jack-of-all-trades”, it is a significant indication how a responsible and a caring future for the composites and coating industry looks like.