The surface coatings industry has progressively changed over the past couple of years, due to increasing economic and regulatory pressures.
Since the European Union’s introduction of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation in 2007, there has been controls on the use of certain chemicals throughout Europe.
In particular, this regulation classifies a number of commonly specified components in the surface coatings industry as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), which are considered to be dangerous to human life and/or the environment.
All such harmful chemicals are placed on a candidate list, which details when the substances can legally be last used and the purposes for which they are authorised. Significantly affecting the manufacturing of surface coatings, the list now includes chromium trioxide, which is widely used for its powerful oxidising properties.
To be removed from all production by December 2017, chromium trioxide is particularly key in the ‘Plating on Plastics’ process, a term used to describe the decorative or functional application of metal onto plastic substrates, incorporating the procedure of electroplating. Plating on Plastics technology is often specified on components in markets such as plumbing, appliance and, in particular, automotive, to provide both technical and decorative benefits.
In response to the new legislation and increasing global environmental pressures, MacDermid Enthone, a leading international surface finish provider, and Italian electroplating company, Galvanoplastica Srl, have worked together to create a new chromium-free etching system called evolve®.
Through years of R&D, the process has been specifically designed to meet the increasing requirements of the high performance decorative Plating on Plastics market. The innovative technology completely removes the stage of using carcinogenic chromium trioxide etching.
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Providing similar performance benefits as the traditional process, evolve® enables manufacturers to reduce the environmental and safety liabilities that come with using the toxic chemical, while enhancing its technical capabilities.
evolve® has excellent adhesion strength and meets the demanding performance requirements of industries such as automotive, plumbing other industry segments.
In addition, yield can be further improved as the process eliminates voids and skip plating. In conjunction with decorative trivalent chromium electroplating process, evolve® offers the end-user the first totally hexavalent chromium-free system for decorative Plating on Plastics.
With more than €1m of investment in the process, the research has led to the creation of Galvanoplastica’s cutting-edge ‘evolve’ hexavalent chromium-free plant, which is set to open Q3 2017.
This new facility not only provides a healthier environment for workers, but also offers a more efficient production process, ensuring the company stays competitive in the marketplace.
Since the first introduction of the project in 2015, the wider evolve® process has seen interest from a range of renowned global companies to produce parts, as well test samples of ’total green’ products, including IKEA and many major Tier 1 Plating on Plastics platers, molders and OEMs.
Reacting to elimination of chromium trioxide in the surface coatings industry is vital, due to the number of impending regulations and the constant need to advance technology. In fact, specifying a chromium-free process, such as evolve®, will be crucial to facilitating the continuation of effective decorative plating in Europe. Over the past 20 years, MacDermid Enthone has significantly increased its efforts to eliminate dangerous and hazardous substances from plating production.
As the REACH deadline fast approaches, demand for innovative surface coatings with superior performance capabilities continues to grow. Across the industry, applicators are increasingly looking to specify ‘green’ and sustainable components that comply with the strict impending EU regulations.
To stay ahead of competition and meet the growing restrictions, innovation and technology development is key in driving forward the surface coatings industry.