Thursday, 31 January 2008 17:00

All Major Paint Companies Assist Shops in Transition to Waterborne

Written by Rachel Mercer
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Whether you’re an auto repair professional or not, chances are you heard something about “going green” today, or you heard what your “carbon footprint” looked like last year. Whether at work, in your car, or in your home, the focus on energy reduction and environmental preservation is at a fever pitch these days. But in California, preserving the environment through changes in automotive refinishing has been a focus for many people and many companies for several years.

In 2005, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the Suggested Control Measure (SCM) for Automotive Coatings. This measure was designed to significantly reduce the VOC content of automotive coatings. Since 2005, many companies have worked to develop and release products to automotive refinishers that would allow them to comply with the Suggested Control Measure (SCM), particularly in the South Coast Air District and the San Joaquin Valley APCD. According to CARB, there were an estimated 4,100 body shops in California in 2007. Approximately half of these body shops are in the two air districts that have adopted the SCM.


“There are twenty air districts [in California] with local rules that limit the VOC content of automotive coatings,” said Public Information Officer for CARB Dimitri Stanich. “[CARB] anticipates other districts, including Ventura, Santa Barbara and Sacramento will be revising their rules during 2008.”

For those automotive refinishers in the South Coast Air District and San Joaquin Valley APCD, the date for compliance with the SCM for most coating categories is January 1, 2009. Three coating categories, including adhesion promoter, primer sealer and single-stage coating, must meet the VOC regulatory limit contained in the SCM by January 1, 2010.

PPG is just one of the paint companies which has worked to develop products that assist automotive refinishers in meeting the regulations for VOC output, particularly as the date for compliance approaches.


Mike Koss, regulatory affairs manager for PPG, said, “As the Suggested Control Measure was developed, PPG communicated its opinions and concerns about supplying product to comply. As air districts have approved their versions of the SCM, PPG has been working to supply the product and training to implement a smooth transition to the new regulations in the coming months.”

Recently, PPG introduced a step-saving system for repainting underhood areas with waterborne converted into a one-application, single stage product. PPG has developed the Envirobase High Performance basecoat system and the Aquabase Plus basecoat system in an effort to assist automotive refinishers as they comply with the SCM.


The Envirobase High Performance basecoat system is a third-generation water-borne technology product that PPG first introduced in 1999. Envirobase High Performance features anti-settle tint technology assuring toner stability and longer shelf life, high-opacity toners and ease for application and blending. The Aquabase Plus basecoat system, which was first used in Europe, was introduced in the US in California in 2006. Aquabase Plus requires no special additives and boasts simplicity in blending. Aquabase Plus is fully compliant with all California VOC legislation as well.


“In addition, since CARB isn’t just about waterborne products but lower VOCs, we are developing many new products to address the lower limits,” said Koss. “These new products include cleaners, sealers, clearcoats and plastic adhesion primers.”


Sherwin-Williams’ AWX Waterborne Basecoat System has been available to North American Collision Centers since April 2007. The system, made up of 45 toners, 20 pearls and 5 xirallics is currently being implemented in California to help collision centers comply with the new low-VOC regulations set forth by CARB.


“Since the AWX launch in April 2007, Sherwin-Williams has worked diligently and attentively to convert customers from their current solvent-borne systems into the compliant waterborne system,” said Rebecca Rizzo, AWX product specialist, Sherwin Williams.


“The trend in the marketplace is definitely moving toward a greener, environmentally-friendly product and methods of doing business. With growing demand for waterborne in areas outside the existing rules areas, Sherwin-Williams has plans to offer AWX nationwide in 2008.”

BASF has developed two waterborne systems that are available to consumers in California. The two products, Glasurit 90 Line and R-M Onyx HD, are both compliant with the new VOC recommendations that will take effect in some California districts in July 2008. The Glasurit 90 Line has been available in Europe, the U.S., and Canada for 14 years. In addition to the familiarity that automotive refinishers may have with the product because of its fourteen-year availability, many of the characteristics of the Glasurit 90 Line may appeal to refinishers working to become compliant. The Glasurit 90 product has quick-hiding, fast-drying formulas that result in faster cycle times, according to BASF representatives.

Jay Johnston, BASF refinish training manager, said “both paint systems are OEM approved and unlike other waterborne systems, such common concerns as shelf life or special shipping requirements to prevent freezing are essentially non-issues because the tinting bases are color concentrates that can be stored like solvent borne bases.”

Johnson continued, “In addition to these advantages, 90 Line and R-M Onyx HD offer superior technology that enables easy implementation into the collision centers that are located in the regulated areas.”

Cromax Pro from DuPont was released in California in March 2007. This new water-based color coat was designed to meet the new VOC regulations while saving time and reducing the amount of paint used. According to DuPont, “unlike solvent-based color coats that require painters to wait while solvent “flashes off” or evaporates, additional coats of water-based Cromax Pro can be applied while the first coat is still wet, saving labor time.”

“DuPont’s objective is to help our customers not only cope with the new regulations, but actually improve their businesses in the process,” said John McCool, vice president and general manager of the refinish business in DuPont Performance Coatings. “Our new Cromax Pro waterborne products represent a real technological breakthrough because they will help collision repair businesses comply with the new regulations while saving labor.”

Akzo-Nobel introduced AutoClear Superior 250 in May 2007. AutoClear Superior 250 is a unique clear coat specifically designed for improved performance with waterborne base coats. AutoWave is the Sikkens Akzo-Nobel brand’s waterborne basecoat, which works along with AutoClear Superior 250 and the Colorbuild 2.1/2.8 system. Akzo-Nobel’s Colorbuild 2.1/2.8 is not a waterborne product but is a low-VOC version of an undercoat priming system. With Colorbuild, six colored primers can be mixed to imitate OEM undercoat primers.


“By imitating these OEM undercoat primers so effectively, the OEM type appearance is more easily matched, according to David Bly, Global Sikkens product manager for Akzo-Nobel. “If further damage is done to the vehicle through an accident, a parking lot incident or chipping, the undercoat produced by Colorbuild 2.1/2.8 will closely match the surrounding top coat.”

Paint Equipment Develops As Well

Other companies are developing products that will work better with waterborne paint and function more seamlessly for body shop owners and technicians as they meet the lower VOC requirements. For example, the Automotive Aftermarket Division of 3M has expanded its PPS brand Paint Preparation System line of disposable spray cups. The 125 Micron and 200 Micron Welded-in filters provide better paint  flow and eliminate the need to pre-strain paint with separate equipment. In addition, the new 125 Micron Welden-in filters feature a finer mesh that better filters out clumps and coagulated particles sometimes found in waterborne paints.

“The welded-in filters offer a larger surface diameter for better filtration, which improves gun performance and ultimately the paint finish,” said Brian Shafer, marketing supervisor with 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket Division. “3M and the PPS system are recognized as the industry leader in disposable paint systems; we know what painters need and are continuously developing new solutions.”


In addition to new products, many companies are developing ways to demonstrate their environmental concern to their consumers. Akzo-Nobel is one company making such an effort. In late 2007, Akzo-Nobel began their “Ecological Campaign,” offering their customers a set of marketing and sales tools designed to market their business to their consumers as being environmentally friendly. According to Bly, “With the switch from solvent-borne to waterborne systems, automotive refinishers can reduce their emissions by as much as 38%. This is a huge step in reducing the carbon footprint our customers produce.”

The Conversion Process
With the new regulation and approaching deadlines, many shop owners may fear these changes to new technology will slow their paint processes or reduce their efficiency and productivity. However, automotive refinishers and body shop owners don’t have to “go it alone” when navigating through the conversion process. Many paint companies offer assistance to body shops in their efforts to become VOC compliant.

BASF Refinish Manager Jay Johnston pointed out some of the steps that BASF takes when working with their customers in converting to waterborne paint systems. “The conversion is accomplished by the ability to standardize products, processes, procedures and training within the shop facility,” he said. According to Johnston, BASF representatives perform a shop study that includes analyzing the current equipment and conducting a management review of the shop’s objectives and goals. Afterward, BASF offers training to employees to ensure they understand the proper application procedures for the new waterborne paint.


“Our customers want to go green and we are dedicated to helping them improve products, sales and productivity with the use of our AWX Waterborne Basecoat System,” said Sherwin-Williams’ Rizzo.


Rizzo emphasized that a successful transition into compliance with the SCM requires more than new waterborne products. “Sherwin-Williams works to make the transition smooth and easy through customer service support, information, thorough training and adding equipment, if needed,” she said.


Akzo Nobel is another company that has a technical staff that works to assist customers during the conversion process. The staff can identify specific equipment needs, assist in installation and offer follow-up training. “We understand that this is a big change for [our customers],” said Akzo Nobel’s Director of Marketing Tim Loden. “It’s something different. We want to make it as easy and seamless as possible.”

Being informed about changes in your air district and planning ahead is key to successful conversion, especially when a deadline is looming. Take advantage of resources offered from your paint supplier, CARB and your local governing air district when making changes to your business.

Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer based in Moultrie, Georgia. She can be reached at


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