Three reasons why water-borne product systems are taking over

Ole Martin Kristiansen | December 4, 2018

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.

The improvements are also a result of new thinking. Higher solid contents in the resins has been popular, and many producers of coatings have been switching their solvent based coatings with high solid resins or powder coatings. The new resin types are demanding changes in the additives available as well, causing a new development on this side. Additives like with better environmental footprint is being introduced to the market, like the cellulose fibrils.

Reason 2: regulatory shift

This is a key driver. China has taken the position as one of the leading drivers towards exchanging the solvent based systems. Chinese cities are banning solvent based coatings, and the Chinese government is placing taxes on solvent based coatings for certain applications (through the "air pollution prevention & control action plan). While the pick up of water borne systems have been slow in many of the mature markets, rapid regulatory developments like the one in China is giving increased speed of the switch. In addition, it is placing more pressure on the producers to be early in the market with new lower VOC paint (even for marine and industrial coatings). We are seeing a time of change!

Reason 3: Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)

Heavily linked to reason 2, 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 cellulose fibrils (like Exilva) 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 early adapting to, and improving the three points I have touched above, a company and its product portfolio sharpen its competitive edge.

Free Ebook

Written by:

Ole Martin Kristiansen

Ole Martin is the Marketing Manager of Exilva in Borregaard. He holds a bachelor's degree in Media Management and has been with the company since 2017.