Paints and coatings have been used in the United States since the 1700’s. Alkyds and enamels were the standard into the early 1900’s. In the 1940’s and 1950’s polyurethanes and resins were introduced. In the 1970’s, the industry (largely driven by regulations) began to pay attention to environmental concerns. This trend heightened in the 1980’s and 90’s. Today, coating technology is pushing forward on two fronts: formulation technologies and production/ application technologies.
There are several new, advanced formulations being utilized today. Coatings which contain high solids and are waterborne in their formulation are much in demand today. They provide low voc’s (volatile organic compounds) and also have little or no odor as they cure.
These same formulations can also be enhanced with the use of resins or other additives, to provide performance over a wide range of applications. An example of cutting edge additives would be the use of fluorine or silicon atoms.
Another advance in formulation would be the use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Operating at the molecular level, nanoparticles are being used in formulations to improve corrosion resistance, anti-microbial properties and various mechanical properties.
There are advances in process technologies as well. For example, production companies now utilize extensive recycling of materials in the production process. In addition, unused coatings themselves are being recycled.
Products are also more user friendly and provide savings in ease of application. Many products have been developed that eliminate preparation processes, which means more savings for consumers and less stress on the environment. More efficient spraying and application equipment has been developed as well.
What of the future? Smart technologies that allow coatings to change or alter according to the conditions they encounter are on the horizon. It is possible in the future that a waterproofing company would apply a coating that would sense corrosion or microscopic failure and the coating itself would effect repairs.
Paints that include a piezoelectric component could potentially alert companies of shock, vibration or other damage.
Thermochromic coatings, those which contain elements that react to temperature changes, are also being explored.
Photocatalytic coatings are being developed which would allow them to be self-cleaning.
There is no question that the coatings industry has been evolving and will continue to evolve in ways which will meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer, just as it always has.