Ready to proof - CLJ 3/21/23


By Courtney Bassett, Managing Editor, Paint & Coatings Industry

Insights from CoatingsTech

July marked 12 months since I joined PCI Magazine’s editorial staff. Over the past year I have had the pleasure and privilege of diving into an unchartered territory for me — the world of coatings. Through reading countless technical articles and staying up to date on the latest industry and company news and trends, I am consistently impressed by this industry that is at the forefront of technology, sustainability trends, and innovative thinking.

However, the experiences that have had the largest impact in my first year have been the various industry conferences and events I have attended. These events have a way of exposing even novice coatings professionals to the capabilities of these technologies, while sparking inquiry and inspiring the next generation of coatings formulators, manufacturers, and more.

In June, I attended the ACA’s CoatingsTech Conference in Cleveland. This year’s conference theme, “Coatings Technologies: Adaptation in a Complex World,” brought industry experts together for over 35 technical sessions on topics such as advanced resins and formulations; new application methods; functional coatings; novel additives, pigments, and colorants; waterborne technologies; curing studies; and more. You can see the full agenda and list of sessions here.

Sustainability continues to be a major industry focus, however, the term has evolved, and continues to do so. In addition to environmental efforts, the coatings industry embraces an interpretation of the word that also focuses on other drivers to increase sustainability, such as implementing technological advancements like artificial intelligence, and other automation and digitalization efforts.

Dr. John Gilbert, Chief Research and Development Officer, Behr Process Corporation, delivered the conference keynote with a focus on “What makes a coating sustainable?” Through a business model approach, Dr. Gilbert broke down the question, focusing on formulation advancements in waterborne technology, and also emphasized the need for adaptation and change in the research and development workforce in order to move forward.

As if by design, Dr. Gilbert’s call for innovative R&D was a topic later recognized and embodied by the conference’s recipient of the CoatingsTech Best Paper Award. This year’s recipient was Tahereh (Neda) Hayeri, Ph.D. candidate at Eastern Michigan University. Hayeri’s paper, “Thermally, UV, and Moisture Curable Novel Family of Versatile Oligomers,” was co-authored by Dr. Vijay M. Mannari, professor of polymers and coatings at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Engineering Technology. The ACA describes the paper as “detailed research on a family of new-generation oligomers developed that is not dependent on a single-cure mechanism but is capable of curing independently by multiple cure conditions.” According to the authors, “the research group has been working on this system to explore the best application for each curing technique and optimize ingredients, curing conditions, and all other variables in the coating systems.”

CoatingsTech's Mattiello Memorial Award Lecture was presented by Dr. Kurt A. Wood, Consultant in Coatings and Service Life Prediction, who spoke on “Visualizing How Coatings “Fail” – Service Life Viewed through the Lenses of Coatings Science.” His technical presentation, as noted by the ACA, “focused on several case studies where simple chemical, physical, and mechanical models were used to “picture” essential elements of particular coating systems, illuminating factors potentially critical in determining coating service life.” The overall theme, however, was tackling the question of whether or not there is a future for coating scientists in an AI world. Luckily for his audience and this coatings industry editor, he believes that, “yes, human intelligence is still necessary in an artificial intelligence world,” because “human minds will always need to supply meaning.” In terms of coatings, Dr. Wood explained that our scientists and coatings professionals will be able to generate meaning behind increasingly AI-generated R&D through the use of models and visual representation. Innovative coatings technologies can only become beneficial and impactful if humans can help represent to stakeholders the need to invest in and embrace these new technologies, and this, according to Dr. Wood, is something that AI cannot provide.

Product, Building

Another highlight was a panel discussion that featured three knowledgeable panelists: Stephen Zigari, Director of Business Development at Chemspeed Technologies; Jun Liu, Senior Marketing Manager, PerkinElmer Informatics; and Bill Buschle, Global Segment Director, Alchemy Technology Group. The bulk of conversation centered on measuring the need for R&D techstocks and other tools. Alchemy’s Buschle explained that the biggest challenges standing in the way of digital R&D investment are implementation, budget, and competing priorities. All three panelists agreed that the definition of laboratory is changing given new technological advancements, and that digitalization efforts are essential to the future. Some efforts showcased included workflow management software and fully automated lab journals. Jun Liu of PerkinElmer emphasized that “the future is here. What are we going to do with it? It will always be different.”

Lastly, the plenary address was titled “A Heat Map of New Technology in a Post-Pandemic World,” and was given by Victoria Scarborough, Ph.D., Vice President of Collaborative Innovation, The ChemQuest Group, Inc. This address stressed the need for tools that engage market intelligence in order to make sense of how certain market pulls such as sustainability, digital transformation, and others affect the coatings industry and key market players.

Scarborough’s presentation emphasized that coatings companies should be in tune with global megatrends in order to understand opportunities to plug in from a coatings perspective. Some of these megatrends are already being addressed by the coatings industry, but are there untapped opportunities that market players could take advantage of? One area of note was her focus on 3D printing and robotics as possible markets for coatings. 3D printing is seeing growth in both the manufacture of functional parts and in the architectural sector, as houses can now be built layer by layer. Implications for coatings are vast and include, possibly, an increased need for coatings for cementitious structures and a drive to more expensive resin systems such as epoxies, polyurethanes, etc. Overall, the message was that new technologies backing global megatrends should be approached by a business model that identifies market attractiveness, possible commercial success, and feasibility as companies decide where to place future R&D efforts.

Overall, the conference was insightful and engaging. This editor is anxious to see what conversations follow in the coming year! We hope to see you at PCI's CTT Summit in September for what promises to be an event that combines high-quality technical presentations, a resource-rich exhibit hall, and dedicated networking opportunities to connect scientific minds, foster innovation, and cultivate game-changing new ideas!