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The challenge

Traditional automotive paint generates waste and pollutants

The Australian automotive industry uses about 10 million litres of liquid paint a year to coat the surfaces of new vehicles. Paint is used for decorative finishes on plastic components such as interior elements like door trim panels, engine covers, body parts and bumper bars.

Traditional wet paints don’t have a high rate of spray transfer onto plastic parts. Up to 70 per cent is lost as waste, which contributes to two and a half million litres of solid waste a year.

They also contain solvents which release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the atmosphere.

In Europe, emissions of VOCs from industry are strictly regulated and it is only a matter of time before similar restrictions are put in place here in Australia.

Our response

Making powder coating stick to plastic

Together with our partner, Dulux Powder Coatings/Orica, we developed the technology platform that enabled the replacement of wet paints with powder coatings. Powder coatings are environmentally friendly and stick better meaning less wastage.

CSIRO's zero-waste powder coating in action
CSIRO's zero-waste powder coating in action

Powder coating particles are attracted to and stick very well to the material being coated, providing it conducts electricity, like metal components. The powder coating relies on the powder carrying one type of electrical charge and the material being coated having the other, opposite charges attract so the powder sticks and is then cured to form a smooth finish.

Plastic doesn't conduct electricity, so we coated the plastic components with a nanometre-thin layer of speciality multifunctional molecules that provides surface conductivity and promote the ability of the powder coating to stick well to plastic components.

Within this partnership, Dulux Powder Coatings developed new generation powder coatings that could be cured at much lower temperatures and for much shorter times than traditional powders.

The results

A zero waste environmentally-friendly coating

We have developed coating technology to replace traditional wet paints in surface finishing non-conductive materials.

This will eradicate 95 to 98 per cent of solid wastes and 100 per cent of VOCs arising from current wet painting processes.

It has been successfully trialled in the Australia and is being customised and commercialised for coating automotive plastics.

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