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Behind the scenes at Glasurit Product Development

Published on 2006-11-28. Author : SpecialChem

Münster -- New special effect paints, extra-matt surfaces or VOC-compliant products - the automotive refinish paint market is changing constantly. Sometimes it is the car manufacturers who make "fashionable" demands, sometimes the legislators who put pressure on the paint manufacturers by bringing in new directives. Then Glasurit Product Development goes into action. There are many stages along the way before a product is ready for the market, as the example of the scratch-resistant clear lacquer demonstrates.

It is a long way from idea to product

At Glasurit in Münster, the Product Managers and the experts from the laboratories and Customer Service regularly sit down together for product meetings. Pressing questions are considered: what's new in the car industry? Has any new legislation been brought out? What do the bodyshops need? What is the competition doing? What can we do to improve 90 Line, the solvent-based paints and the basic materials?

"These frequent meetings are necessary because the market is constantly changing and it takes time to develop a new product. A year can easily pass between the idea and the finished product, as the development of the scratch-resistant clear lacquer shows," explains Stefanie Riepe, Glasurit Product Manager.

Will the new product pay?

The development of a scratch-resistant clear lacquer has long been under discussion in the Glasurit product meetings. Luxury cars are just starting to be given sprayed with extremely scratch-resistant surfaces, and various manufacturers are working to develop the appropriate repair paints.

A large team consisting of Product Managers, laboratory experts and customer service personnel is formed to consider the exact requirement profile that a scratch-resistant clear lacquer "made by Glasurit" must meet. It is particularly important that it should fit easily into the Glasurit product system, should have the usual Glasurit product quality and should of course be particularly resistant to scratching.

There are various ways to achieve this scratch resistance, and each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. The team have to weigh these up and reach decisions.

"One of our competitor's paints was scratch-resistant because it was particularly hard. But hard surfaces have a tendency to be particularly brittle" recalls Stefanie Riepe at the first meeting. The team therefore decides to develop a softer clear lacquer. A lacquer with the so-called reflow effect, where the effect of heat, for example from insolation, causes the finest scratches to disappear.

Phase 1 - the laboratory stage

The laboratory chemists need around six months to create a product from an idea. Within a few weeks, they develop a laboratory model and test it, then from these findings develop a new laboratory model which is in turn tested and further refined, and so on.

When the laboratory model has over 90% of the desired product characteristics, it is tested extensively at the Glasurit training centre by the in-house trainers. Is the paint scratch-resistant? Do the smallest scratches disappear under the effect of heat? Can the paint be worked as quickly and easily as usual? Does it give excellent coverage? In short: does the product work?

If not, the laboratory experts must go back to the drawing board. But in fact the scratch-resistant clear lacquer fulfils all expectations, and so the laboratory produces a pilot quantity of a few kilograms for the next stage of development.

Phase 2 - the test market

During the pilot phase the new product is tested for several months by some of the country trainers or by pilot customers under absolutely normal market conditions. The problem of producing a scratch-resistant clear lacquer is a particularly pressing concern for workshops in Holland, Germany and Great Britain.

At the same time the marketing experts at Glasurit are already considering important matters such as the product name, advertising and labelling. The editors of Glasurit express want to know: will it be ready for us to report on it in the next issue? However, the project is still strictly confidential at this stage.

If the test customers confirm the excellent working properties and the high quality of the new clear lacquer, work will begin to train the National Head Trainer with the new Glasurit product. And production can now go ahead.

Phase 3 - Manufacture

A few more weeks pass from the time production is given the go-ahead to the filling stage. During this time all constituents are strictly processed according to the formula. The laboratory experts take samples and again check colour and viscosity before the filling stage can begin. Only when the finished product is on the shelves are customers and the public informed.

"High scratch-resistance safeguards the value of cars": this is the caption with which the HS scratch-resistant clear lacquer 923-45 VOC 3.5 was introduced in Glasurit express. And it is promises such as this that justify Glasurit's reputation as the premium supplier.

Looking back, Stefanie Riepe says of the development of the Glasurit scratch-resistant clear lacquer: "We showed the right feel for the market with our "soft" lacquer. Car manufacturers are increasingly discovering the advantages of paints with a reflow effect."

Source: BASF

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