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Ceramiclear team shines with automotive clearcoat

What’s behind that fantastic shine on a Mercedes-Benz luxury automobile? No one is likely to say “a wood floor.” But that, in fact, was the genesis of PPG’s CeramiClear scratch-resistant automotive clearcoat, the industry-standard clearcoat that PPG pioneered with Mercedes.

That inspiration, coupled with the talent and determination needed to develop it into an award-winning product earned the CERAMICLEAR® team PPG’s 2012 President’s Award for Technical Achievement.

In 1998 – before the idea that would lead to CeramiClear coating – the poor scratch resistance of two-component clearcoat technologies was considered a long-standing industry problem. “Cars had a great shine and depth of image as they rolled off the line, but were vulnerable to damage from day-to-day use, car washes and environmental hazards like acid rain, tree sap and certain types of light,” said Larry Fitzgerald, senior scientist at PPG’s Coatings Innovation Center (CIC) in Allison Park, Pa., and a key organizer of the President’s Award initiative.

The car maker, Mercedes, expressed interest in a product that would protect the paint color and finish on its high-end vehicles. After seeing some early prototype coatings, Mercedes agreed to work with PPG to develop a scratch-resistant clearcoat and bring it to market.  Research into existing PPG products with scratch-resistant properties turned up a coating for wood flooring whose tough shine was based on a technology that made use of a silica-filler pigment. That knowledge provided inspiration for the development of CeramiClear coating.

22 patents later
Work at the CIC resulted in the first practical nano-silica-reinforced formula for a scratch-resistant automotive clearcoat. Still, researchers needed to resolve technology issues related to durability, stability, clarity, adhesion, sanding, polishing and workability. 

Changed the market
Once the resins that went into the product had successfully been made at PPG’s research-and-development center in Springdale, Pa., dozens of PPG and Mercedes engineers and technicians gradually scaled it up at automotive plants in Germany.

An industry-standard for high-end vehicles
“Scratch-resistant clearcoats are expected now. CeramiClearis the only product, though, that successfully applies nanoparticle technology, so its performance is unmatched, even to this day,” Fitzgerald said. “We completely changed the market.”

More to know:

PPG holds 22 patents for technologies used to create CeramiClearcoating, which essentially comprise three individual inventions:

  • A silicon-containing flexible polymer that brings the silica to the surface, and delivers a tough tightly crosslinked surface layer without causing the coating to become brittle.
  • A means of using the same siliconbased polymer to keep the nano-silica from agglomerating or “clumping” throughout the coating application and cure process.
  • An adhesion promoter based on a boron-containing polymer that enables manufacturers to make repairs to scratch-resistant coatings.

CeramiClear is a registered trademark of PPG Industries Ohio, Inc.