Irfab Article – Waterborne Coatings

Olga Menukhin

Associate Consultant, Irfab Market Studies, PRA World

A steady growing business

The global market for water-borne coatings is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.5 % – 2.8 % by 2023.

According to the Irfab Coatings Markets study, published by PRA, more than 92 % of the demand for water-borne coatings is attributed to architectural coatings, while about 8 % is generated by the industrial markets. The global demand for water-borne coatings is estimated to be more than 25 million tonnes in 2018.

The use of water-borne technology in interior and exterior architectural paints is well established, 90 % and 80 % respectively. This technology segment is smaller in architectural coatings used for floor and roof applications. In architectural coatings for wood, the market share has significantly grown over the last five years, predominantly in Europe, North America, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand and is estimated at almost 48 % of the demand volume.
Top industrial coatings markets for water-borne technologies are automotive & transportation, metal packaging, general industrial and industrial wood coatings. The highest growth is expected in the transportation sector, 3.4 % CAGR over the period to 2023, with truck & bus, rail and refinish segments driving the demand.

Packaging & general industrial

Demand in the packaging & general Industrial group, where it is estimated at over 940,000 thousand tonnes, is driven by the two main markets with the highest volumes, metal packaging and coatings for plastics. Metal packaging coatings is the largest market for the water-borne technology with its share in the entire segment being 50 %; for beverage cans almost all coating, 96 %, are water-borne worldwide. Following the metal packaging manufacturing requirements, all components of coatings for food and beverage cans must comply with food contact regulations. Developing coatings products that do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) remains one of the key trends within the industry.

The share of water-borne technologies used in coatings for plastics is also high, 23 %. Water-borne 2K PU coatings are used for interior components in transportation, while 1K basecoats are applied on exterior components. Most OEMs have no preference as to whether the component supplier uses solvent-borne or water-borne coatings, as long as the finished product meets its specifications. Although some OEMs may specify a water-borne basecoat to be used in combination with solvent-borne primer and clearcoat.

In the general industrial segment, water-borne coatings account for 6 % of the technology mix. Technology developments are mainly driven by meeting the requirements of the low VOC regulation. The introduction of water-borne coatings into the market has been challenging as they still suffer from inferior overall performance levels over the solvent-borne products. Production costs for water-borne resins and coatings are also higher, which also inhibits their growth. China is seen by some industry participants as being the key growth market over the next few years for water-borne coatings.

Automotive & transportation

The demand for water-borne coatings in automotive & transportation sectors exceeded 544,000 tonne in 2018, 18 % of market volume. In the largest market, Auto OEM coatings, as a result of introducing compact process that eliminates the primer surfacer layer, a number of automotive plants operating a water-borne compact paint process is growing. The main driver for this industry change in the next ten years is the need to establish more water-borne compact processes. The growing impact of this change is reflected in the world’s consumption of water-borne coatings as the primer surfacer layer is predicted to decrease, whilst the demand for the special basecoat layer to achieve superior performance and aesthetics, is projected to increase. One of the major regulatory drivers is the China VOC tax, which is stimulating product and technology development in China, especially the growth of water-borne coatings and compact paint processing. The share of water-borne technologies in trucks, buses and other vehicles is 18 % of the market demand in 2018. Europe is the main region leading the use of water-borne types for basecoats, topcoats and monocoats where these are now the main technology. Water-borne basecoats are also the main basecoat type many parts of Asia.

In Refinish, water-borne technologies have a share of 15 % and their use is growing. Although solvent-borne types continue to dominate this segment, 2K water-borne acrylic/polyurethane dispersions are used where strict VOC regulations are established. In more mature markets water-borne technology is used for basecoats and it is expected that global economy lines will emerge with enhanced performance at a lower cost.

The use of water-borne coatings in aircraft is already large compared to other segments, 30 %. Coatings manufacturers supplying to the aircraft industry are working on developing water-borne chromate-free primers, but their performance does not yet match that of solventborne chromate-free primers that are currently in use or under evaluation. In rail, water-borne coating systems represent 11 % of the technology mix and are all used in different regions of the world. Growth in the use of water-borne types is driven by targets set by the large global manufacturers of rolling stock to reduce their carbon footprints over the next few years. Reducing energy usage and the quantity of VOCs emitted during the painting operation is part of this goal. Moving to water-borne paints has helped with reductions in VOCs and this is set to continue in the future in certain regions.

There has been little change to the technologies used in the marine coatings market where solvent-borne technologies continued to dominate with over 95% of the market demand. Water-borne coatings are mainly used for routine maintenance or for coating interior areas.

Construction & infrastructure

Within the construction & infrastructure group of markets, waterborne coatings generated demand of more than 484,000 tonne in 2018. Water-borne technologies continue to be developed by coatings manufacturers for the protective coatings market, but there has been no significant change in demand for these coatings since 2010. This is due to slow acceptance by the end user sectors, reluctance to switch to new systems, issues with application or performance and cost. About one third of the coatings used to protect concrete are waterborne, but less than 2 % of this type is used on steel. Water-borne heavy-duty coatings will continue to have only a minor role in the technology mix in these markets.

The global demand for water-borne industrial wood coatings is estimated to be more than 228,000 tonne in 2018. This represents 9 % in volume terms in the technology mix used in this segment. Solventborne wood coatings still have a large share of the market in many regions, but the use of water-bornes is slowly growing, particularly as new coating lines are installed. Although water-borne types are one of the key systems to further reduce VOC content in ACE coatings, the share of water-bornes remains small, only 5 % of all coatings used on machinery. Most OEMs have considered and/or evaluated the use of water-borne coatings, but the use of water-borne coatings still causes various problems; for example, difficulties with application, varying flow, appearance and performance; challenges with adhesion and corrosion protection. Together with required investment, all this makes them less preferred by ACE equipment manufacturers.

Originally published in European Coatings Journal 11 – 2019

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