Near-Zero VOC General OEM Bake EnamelEPA Contract Number: 68D03023
Title: Near-Zero VOC General OEM Bake Enamel
Investigators: Godshalk, Henry W.
Current Investigators: Slama, Francis J.
Small Business: Finishes Unlimited Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: April 1, 2003 through September 1, 2003
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2003) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , SBIR - Air Pollution , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Finishes Unlimited, Inc., produces baking enamels for general purpose original equipment manufacturers who make sundry metal products such as lockers, tool boxes, compressors, folding chairs, storage racks, etc. Although it is a small company, Finishes Unlimited, Inc., has been among the leaders in one type of environmentally friendly coatings (i.e., waterborne bake enamels). In 1993, it became the first company to discontinue solvent-borne and high-solids paints to concentrate all development efforts on waterborne alternatives. Approximately 3 years ago, encouraged after one of its chemists developed a line of very low volatile organic compound (VOC) color dispersions, the company decided to give top priority to a low-VOC project. The efforts of 3.5 technical people were committed to the project, the goal of which was to develop a near-zero VOC waterborne coating that would satisfy all of the requirements for a general-purpose OEM bake enamel.
Progress has been better than anticipated. During the first year, products with VOCs of 0.1-0.5 lbs/gallon without water that perform very well in the laboratory were developed. Four types of problems in field trials were experienced: (1) cratering, (2) surface roughness, (3) insufficient adhesion, and (4) insufficient hardness. To encounter unanticipated problems in field trials is not unusual, and the company was not discouraged. With continued efforts in the laboratory, all of these problems have been solved, except for the surface roughness problem, which has been identified as arising from poor overspray melt-in.
If the surface roughness problem can be solved, Finishes Unlimited, Inc.'s development products would eliminate approximately 4,000 gallons of VOC emissions for a typical customer who uses 24,000 gallons/year of currently available waterborne coatings (incidentally, that amount of VOC represents a potential raw material savings of $15,000). The capabilities of producing good metallic appearance and of controlling film thickness would be retained. These properties are sacrificed in powder coating, the other near-zero VOC option.
It has been very difficult to work on the surface roughness problem, because it cannot be reproduced in Finishes Unlimited, Inc.'s laboratory. With its laboratory-scale equipment, the company always achieves smooth coating, with good gloss, and depth of image if such properties are desired. Large-scale equipment, operated in large paint booths, produces different results. The SBIR funding will be used to: (1) build a nearly plant-sized spray booth in its laboratory, so that production-scale equipment and substrates can be used with laboratory-sized paint samples, and (2) support a technical staff to conduct the studies and solve the problem.