Scratch prevention coating

Paul Boughton
Microscratches on a car's finish, like those that occur at the car wash, may be tiny, but they can cause huge headaches. But now an innovative automotive OEM clearcoat has been developed that protects finishes from these annoying cosmetic blemishes far longer than other clearcoats.

The new product - iGloss from BASF Coatings -not only has a brilliant appearance, but also provides long-lasting scratch resistance, has a long life expectancy and is resistant to environmental impacts. The researchers at BASF have succeeded in optimising the clearcoat's key properties across the board. This means that other important features such as appearance, flow, durability and environmental compatibility were also maintained at the highest level.

In addition, iGloss can be used in normal four-layer systems. While other clearcoats require the application of a fifth layer to meet the customers' quality demands, BASF Coatings' iGloss fits in smoothly with standard OEM coating systems. What this means for carmakers is less material, lower cost and leaner processes. In addition, iGloss is available immediately.

An entire series of pilot applications, weathering tests and extensive analyses have already yielded very good results. Dr Joachim Woltering, head of BASF Coatings' Clearcoat Competence Center, regards iGloss as a genuine breakthrough in the area of two-component clearcoats.

Woltering said, "With iGloss, we have reached a new level of scratch resistance, even when it is exposed to extremely adverse weather conditions. We also managed to achieve a high level of chemical resistance and gloss retention."

Formulating the new clearcoat called for intensive research work. BASF Coatings researchers Dr Andreas Poppe and Dr. Matthijs Groenewolt first played a decisive role in pushing forward the preliminary work and then the development of iGloss all the way through to its market launch.

The researchers' idea was to combine the benefits of inorganic, 'hard' materials and organic, 'soft' materials - and to balance out the respective disadvantages of the two as much as possible. The resulting hybrid material delivers scratch resistance, but without the brittleness of glass, for example.

The new BASF Coatings solution involves a lattice structure of glass-like silicon clusters that enhance scratch resistance. This structure additionally features modified segments that optimize 'elastic recovery', ie the ability of the material to return to the same shape once an applied stress or load is removed. "Our research efforts achieved this property fairly early on," recalls Groenewolt. "The challenge was to make a paint that was both scratch resistant and weather resistant at the same time. This combination had proven unfeasible in many past projects dealing with scratch-resistant paint systems. With iGloss, we have now managed to deliver a product with the best of both worlds," said Groenewolt. For both carmakers and automotive customers, the advantages of iGloss are obvious: Scratch prevention with higher gloss.

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Marco Benen is with BASF Coatings, Munster, Germany.

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