When people hear the words ‘technological innovation’, they probably imagine self-driving cars, smooth-talking AI assistants, or Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. In reality, many innovations – the things that truly make a difference to our world and the quality of our lives – are not so obviously striking. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, innovation is rarely the consequence of a single brainwave or individual – rather, more than ever, progress is driven by teams, step by step.
At DSM, we understand all too well what it takes to deliver technological innovation over time. Our teams of scientists have developed a range of innovative technologies – for example, we were one of the first companies to pioneer powder coatings in the early 1960s. A wide variety of metals and household appliances could soon be painted more cheaply, quickly and sustainably than ever before, simply by electrostatically applying a thin layer of powder and curing this coating by heat. It may not be top of mind for most people, but powder coating technology changed the game for the coatings industry worldwide.
Addressing the heat-sensitive challenge
Nevertheless, for decades, powder coating technology was limited to applications involving non-heat-sensitive substrates, such as metals. To address this constraint, our teams of R&D experts at DSM went down a new route, step by step developing a new technology based on unsaturated polyester and urethane, which allowed curing at lower temperatures while delivering high-performing, consistent coating solutions. In other words, the innovation bridged the technology gap and allowed powder coatings to become a reliable proposition for heat sensitive substrates.
With the launch of our Uralac® Ultra resin in 2014, the curing temperature of powder coating resins could be lowered to 130oC, and the curing time to three minutes. This might not sound immediately revolutionary, but it meant powder coatings could now be applied to a wide range of wooden and MDF substrates without danger of the substrate being damaged, paving the way for the use of powder coatings in wooden furniture manufacturing. In short, what was a step for powder coating technology was a giant leap for the furniture industry.
Higher performance, lower environmental impact
Since then, powder coatings based on Uralac® Ultra technology have delivered a range of crucial benefits to coating applicators, wooden furniture makers and end users around the globe. Not only can these coatings be applied more efficiently, lowering costs and increasing output, but they contain low to no volatile organic compounds and enable energy savings during curing. At a functional level, Uralac® Ultra coatings deliver excellent levels of hardness and durability, without compromising on surface quality.
Moving forward, our R&D teams will continue to drive our technical proposition for powder coatings, step by step, by looking to reduce cure times and temperatures even more, further widening the furniture application scope – and making the technology even more efficient and sustainable. In this way, and although it might not be obviously striking to people outside the coatings industry, we’ll continue to have a big impact on people’s lives and enable a world that’s better for more people.