Science and Technology
Protecting Beauty In A Harsh World
by Christopher Jones, PPG
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
The world, although beautiful, can be a harsh place. Our cars, our planes, the very walls that make up the spaces where we live, work and learn — they all need protection from the wear and tear of everyday life.
How do we shield our cars from scratches and our planes from the blistering sun? How can we keep our buildings cool and our energy costs down? How do you protect the things people love and rely on from bumps, wear and tear and mishaps?
Scientists and engineers at PPG wrestle with these questions every day, and come together to collaborate and discuss ways to protect and beautify the products and surroundings that we rely on daily. At R&D centers across the globe, these conversations and research efforts often lead to some pretty remarkable innovations that bring more dependable, durable products to the places we live, learn and work.
Not A Scratch
|David S. Bem
Vice President, Science and
Technology and Chief Technology Officer
The global Coatings Innovation Center in Allison Park, Pa., is PPG’s global coatings research and development headquarters, where the company’s science and technology experts have been solving complex manufacturing and industrial problems since 1974.
David Bem, PPG’s new chief technology officer, has a deep understanding of and experience in launching innovative products across a variety of technology platforms and industries. In his new role as vice president, science and technology and CTO, Bem will continue PPG’s commitment to working with customers to address their specific challenges.
A recent example can be found in PPG’s partnership with a major German automaker. When the manufacturer came to PPG with an ambitious goal — develop scratch-resistant paint to help keep its amazing works of automotive art beautiful year after year — the technology team took it as a challenge to create something completely new and different.
PPG worked with the German engineers to produce an automotive first in coating solutions: scratch-resistance. Bem puts it simply: “Your car looks better. We’re able to protect it at really high levels.”
The scratch-resistant solution needed to be rolled out across the automaker’s production facilities around the world, and it needed to show consistent results. Issues like paint stability, clarity and adhesion needed to be resolved at a massive scale across disparate facilities — only a high-quality coating could ensure a Palladium Gray sedan in Paris was the exact same shade as a sedan in Salt Lake City.
Twenty-two patents later, PPG CERAMICLEAR® coatings became an industry first — a scratch-resistant paint with the ability to keep cars looking brand new longer. Customers drove home works of art, confident in the fact that their purchase would have a long-lasting beauty.
In hot climates, the sun beats down on buildings for long hours, raising the interior temperatures and increasing the building’s energy expenditure — the use of air conditioning, electric fans and refrigeration all go up as the mercury climbs.
In an effort to reduce this energy consumption, the scientists, chemists and engineers at PPG went to work on a total solution — looking for a way paint of any color could also significantly reduce the temperature of building facades, allowing for substantial energy savings.
The solution lay in the reinvention of the paint-tinting process. The team created a new dye that could present darker tints but still reflect the sun’s rays like a lighter color. With this new technology, buildings could be painted vibrant colors while reflecting more of the sun’s rays away from a building, keeping the heat down and saving on energy costs.
When looking for a solution to help buildings keep cool, Bem says PPG was “able to see beyond the needs or the issues that are there.” The end result, PPG’s ULTRA-COOL™ and OUTSIDE UNLIMITED COLORS™ paints, can reduce 40 percent of the solar gain compared to a standard paint. And they’re beautiful, available in a color palette that ranges from bold and bright to deep and dark. Buildings both new and old can better fit into their surroundings with a wider range of color options, all while maintaining greater energy savings.
Bem adds, “Where we have deep knowledge, we’re able to look at the problems holistically and provide a holistic solution.”
Beautifying A Brand
When we consider the stresses of air travel, we typically think of the human inconveniences: lengthy layovers, baggage fees, long lines. But the commercial jets that transport us through the skies also experience their own stresses: vibrations from engines and air turbulence, blazing heat and extreme cold, the loading and unloading of passengers and cargo.
Because of this wear and tear, a jet airliner typically gets pulled out of service for a major inspection and overhaul every six years. That overhaul almost always includes a new paint job. The painting process can take up to two weeks, grounding the plane and causing the air carrier to lose revenue from airfare.
The scientists and engineers at PPG looked at ways to reduce this maintenance “time-out,” and to find ways to make planes both more beautiful and more efficient during the repainting process. Bem says he viewed it as an opportunity to “provide some sort of productivity benefit, while giving the highest-quality product.”
The scientists at PPG first searched for a way to get a productivity boost from a paint job. Painting the airplane white would make it lighter, and thus more fuel-efficient. Also, since white reflects more solar energy than darker colors, the aircraft would incur less damage from the heat of the sun, and the interior temperatures would be cooler. But white is a hard sell — a company can’t differentiate its business with a white jet when other airlines are using eye-catching colors.
PPG engineers, determined to find a way to make colorful paint that is both protective and efficient, looked at the solar management processes of various organisms. They drew particular inspiration from the eggplant. The plump vegetable has a dark purple skin, but even in the hot sun, the skin feels relatively cool to the touch. The eggplant’s skin allows the solar energy to pass through it and onto the white flesh beneath. That white flesh then reflects solar rays outward, keeping the interior cool. Inspired by this, the team at PPG created a colorful exterior paint that works the same way, letting the sun’s heat pass through the pigment layer only to be reflected by a white primer coat underneath.
To reduce the amount of time an aircraft spends out of service, PPG also created aerospace paints that dry faster, and which are applied with a process that delivers better coverage with a higher gloss in less time. These efforts shaved three full days off the time required to paint a jet.
By reducing the amount of paint necessary to finish the job, the planes ended up lighter and more energy-efficient than before. Bem sums up, “We basically help them do better for less.” Across industries as diverse as marine shipping and automotive manufacturing, the innovative ideas born from PPG’s labs have proven to make our world more economically and environmentally sound. But beyond those examples, Bem says PPG’s work in paints and coatings serves a very specific goal for the consumer: protection. By safeguarding a consumer’s assets, the amount of time and resources an owner needs to spend to maintain or repair his or her asset drops substantially. “We bring great benefits when we protect things in a more efficient way,” Bem says.
PPG’s coating technologies aren’t just for multinational manufacturers and shipping businesses. The same paints and coatings can be used to maintain assets more common to the general consumer. Surely, if PPG can keep a luxury automobile scratch-free for years or keep an airplane flying more efficiently, it can make a paint that can protect a consumer’s most valuable asset — his or her home.
Ceramiclear is a registered trademark and Ultra-Cool is a trademark of PPG Industries Ohio, Inc. Outside Unlimited Colors is a trademark of PPG AC-France
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