How would you describe the state of the market for UV/EB coatings?
The recession hit almost every market sector very hard. However, we are seeing recovery and some growth in every area albeit at varying rates. The current state of UV/EB coatings is pretty stable in traditional areas and there is high interest and activity in non-traditional areas as a means to improve quality, performance and throughput as well as generate environmentally friendly alternatives to existing technologies.
What are the major trends occurring with regard to UV/EB coatings?
Regarding our business and areas of focus and expertise, we are seeing trends that push the envelope of durability with requests for extended weatherability from multiple markets. Customers are looking for 10-20 years depending on the application. Additionally, features like cleanability and chemical resistance are common requests too. Environmentally friendly solutions with low to no VOC’s (green technology) are also frequent requests. Because this is an inherent advantage of UV technology, this has broadened the scope of markets, market sectors and finishers investigating UV/EB technology.
Where is radcure technology heading in the years ahead?
As noted, environmentally friendly options and increased durability are areas of high interest. Thus, we see the technology heading towards increased availability and a wider selection of materials that fulfill these areas. This includes higher solids formulations, raw materials optimized for performance and cost, and materials with improved manufacturing ease-of-use. We also see increased interest and development/focus in the area of pigmented coating systems. Whereas UV technology has long been used in the area of ink, the concept is crossing over to the area of functional and decorative coatings.
Have the initial costs of investment in equipment and materials for UV/EB coatings users come down? Is more cross-over taking place or is this still a hard technology to “sell”?
There is a relatively wide range of cost for materials and equipment, and it is very specific to product, market and customer as to the ability to crossover and “sell” the technology. There are obviously more cost barriers and resistance in areas traditionally dominated by powder and thermal cure coating technologies. However, in new areas traditionally not using any coating, innovative UV/EB solutions offer an acceptable cost structure and strong value proposition that is much easier to “sell.”
In what segments are UV/EB coatings experiencing the most growth?
Related to our business, we see significant growth in the UV/EB for plastics. This includes areas within automotive, renewable energies, building materials, home appliance and fixture applications and the containers and closures markets.
What new application areas are being looked into for development?
For Red Spot, focus areas for development are interior and exterior functional coatings with improved environmental durability, functional and decorative pigmented UV coatings and PVD technology as an alternative to chrome plating.
What advances are being made on the raw material front and what are you looking for from your suppliers?
We collaborate with our raw material suppliers to meet the unique needs of specific markets and customers. Each application has unique challenges where we work together with our strategic suppliers to identify an innovative solution. As noted throughout, key items of focus are in the areas of extended durability, unique functionality in the area of resistance and cleanability and materials with greater ease of handling for manufacturing and application.
What are you hearing out there from your customers in terms of their expectations?
Key customer drivers of note are cost improvement of the entire operation, improved performance and quality that offers a competitive advantage and environmental awareness.
Finally, how do you see the UV/EB market evolving in years ahead?
As new regulations are implemented and environmental restrictions become more widespread, UV/EB technology will continue to evolve and grow as an ideal solution to satisfy these demands. Additionally, as technology and equipment further evolve and become better known to the mainstream customer, we look for UV/EB technology to expand as a viable option to improve things such as efficiency and capacity, performance and overall cost.