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Outlook for Transportation Coatings and the Role of UV/EB

By Mary Ellen Rosenberger, founder/managing partner

Bayspring Solutions LLC

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A key focus of the RadTech Transportation Team has centered on radiation cure materials and how the technology supports the objectives of the automotive, aerospace and rail industries. RadTech has an important role to play in supporting these objectives in a way that we never imagined five years ago. Transportation industry leaders now speak of CO2 emissions rather than VOC, 3D printed parts, lightweight substrates from plastic composite to magnesium and aluminum, as well as the Consumer Electronics Show unveiling of the latest in autonomous vehicles.

Global initiatives continue to support meeting greenhouse gas (GHG) standards globally, as witnessed in the recent global agreement in Paris. Likewise, a recent midterm evaluation of US Light Duty Vehicle GHG Standards MY 2022-2025 by the NHTSA and the EPA came to a positive conclusion.

  • Independent technical assessment by the EPA and NHTSA is that the industry can meet the 2025 CAFE goal of 55 MPG for light duty vehicles.
  • Wider range of technologies are available for manufacturers to meet standards at equal or lower cost.
  • Advanced gasoline technologies are the primary approach with modest levels of hybrids and electrification.
  • Car/truck mix reflects updated consumer trends.

Industry strategy plays into the hands of technology development that supports radiation cure materials. Globally, areas of interest in product development centers remain around lightweighting through the blended use of metallic, plastic and composite materials. Fuel economy improves six to eight percent by reducing vehicle mass 10 percent.

Advanced powertrain development includes gasoline technology, hybrids and electrification. Technology trends toward autonomous vehicles, vehicle ride share and mass transportation initiatives are creating demand for the right technology.

Manufacturing and assembly as we know it will change dramatically as new ways are found to assemble lightweight vehicles. Future assembly plants likely will assemble Class A appearance panels in the last station of final assembly. OEM paint shops will become a thing of the past as the vehicle will no longer need the pretreatment and corrosion protection required of ferrous metal substrates. Painting of parts will become the job of Tier 1 suppliers that deliver parts line side. Lightweighting of the vehicle will shift to a space frame design, lightweight components and flat panel designs held together by adhesives and protected with space-age sealer.

Development of radiation-cured materials that support heat-sensitive substrates, lightweight glass alternatives and electronics are all needed to support the vehicles of the future. Sealers and adhesives will be used in volumes that support new vehicle substrate designs.

3D printing has altered vehicle development time to months rather than years. Complex parts and small-volume replacement parts are more easily printed than molded. Material science is urgently needed to support automotive durability demands for 3D printed materials. Automotive innovation centers have teams devoted to 3D printing as the technology becomes the next production reality.

To say that the tail is wagging the dog is an understatement. New developments and innovation will reshape the transportation industry from top to bottom. We see new players all around us, from Tesla to Faraday Future. However, do not think for a moment that existing OEMs are not pulling their weight in the quest to meet global demand for improved fuel economy and reduced GHG emissions. We all play a role in developing products for these new times.

For a second year, RadTech formed a team for a second year to support the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) World Congress 2017, that took place April 4-6, in Detroit, Michigan. Chaired by Dr. Christopher Seubert – Ford Paint, Innovation Center (a new member to the RadTech Board), some exciting papers were presented in session M401 – “UV EB Leading the Way for Automotive.” The topics covered included lightweighting, hardcoats for glass, interior/exterior trim coatings, 3D Materials and “Paint Shop of the Future – Facility Designs.”

Future work for the RadTech Transportation Group will take on a more strategic role in developing ideas and products that support future industry goals. These could include the following:

  1. Transportation themes
    • Meeting future GHG standards – lightweight vehicles/powertrain Technologies
    • Autonomous vehicles
    • Electronics
    • Mass transportation – vehicle ride share
  2. Base Technology
    • Material science
    • 3D printing – vehicle development and manufactured parts
    • Electrification
    • Cyber security/information technology.

RadTech work group opportunities presented at the Austin, Texas, Transportation Group meeting will be developed further with Dr. Christopher Seubert at the upcoming uv.eb West 2017 event in San Francisco, California. These opportunities include the following:

  • Lightweighting
  • 3D printing – functional materials
  • Assembly plant of the future
  • Automotive durability standards

In conclusion, technology opportunities that will shape the future for the transportation industry are being developed in research and development centers around the world. RadTech is poised to support the transportation industry locally and globally. Current development roadblocks will be resolved by commercial solutions very soon.

Images in this article and on the magazine cover are from RadTech’s Guide to the Current Automative Uses for UV/EB. For more information on this resource, contact RadTech International North America.