As if by Magic a Perfect Finish

There is more to color than color.  Paradoxical but true.  Colors can feel soft, look old, appear to be metal, or persuade you they are crocodile skin.  It’s not magic, it’s just a little skilful creativity in our technical departments. 

Special effect paints are not new but they are currently a big growth area as businesses look for new ways to differentiate their products from the competition.  “People are using them to make products more attractive and add value,” says John Ring, Director of Research & Development.  “For example, Whirlpool want to offer their customers more than plain white washing machines.  We’ve been working with their designers on a range of colours that ‘sparkle’.  We add a fleck into the powder, such as mica or aluminium pigment, so the finish can still be achieved in one coat.” 

Similarly, Ikea, the Swedish-based home furnishings company, have asked us to create a range of paints that can make basic wooden furniture look convincingly like chrome, copper or stone. 

AkzoNobel’s advantage, in this area, is that we can draw on the technical expertise of the rest of our Group, such as the Industrial Finishes or Car Refinishes Business Units, as well as our designers within Decorative Coatings. 

One of the most interesting developments is in IT.  Forget the days of either matt black or chrome laptops; now you can choose from colors like lipstick pink or swimming pool blue.  “We’ve created a Trend range of colors specifically for the IT industry.  People are no longer choosing on product spec but on how it looks,” says Ring.  “In certain stores, they no longer display laptops open to show the screen, but closed to show how ‘good’ its casing looks.”  Or, in some cases, how it feels.  Part of the Trend range is a ‘soft touch’ paint; a subtle combination of the visual and the tactile that feels a bit like stroking silk.

The place to watch for design creativity is China.  “It’s really pushing design flexibility to the limit,” says Ring.  AkzoNobel’s Powder Coatings division in China teamed up with the Group’s Industrial Finishes division to create an ‘antique finish’ or ‘handpainted’ effect for furniture customers.  Consisting of a three-in-one, powder base, glazed pattern ‘effect’ and protective liquid top coat, it was launched in September 2009 at the Chicago Casual Furniture Show, the biggest show of its kind in North America, to great acclaim.  “The color cards ran out on day two!” says Haidi Wang, Global Marketing Segment Manager, Furniture.  “Until now, customers have had to go to small specialist paint suppliers if they wanted to create this effect,” she explains.  “Not only can customers get the total solution from us but they also get the benefits of powder  -  toughness, durability, low environmental impact.”  Most interest has come from outdoor furniture manufacturers who work in cast iron or cast aluminium. 

AkzoNobel can also tailor-make a specific ‘effect’ for individual customers.  One of our biggest challenges came from a car manufacturer who wanted a crocodile skin look for a car’s luggage compartment.  After trialling combinations of different pigments and different curing temperatures in our China plant, we achieved the desired result.

What next? Leather look? Zebra skin? Watch this space…