BASF 'Liquid Metal' as an automotive paint

Coatings lends car a metallic appearance

BASF's Liquid Metal basecoat immerses the car in a radiant deep gloss, making it look as if it were made of chrome rather than painted.

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Joseph Skurka says the new Mercedes-Benz with Alubeam paint looks like “a solid piece of liquid steel cutting through space.”

The manager of OEM and Industry Relations for BASF Automotive Refinish was talking about Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz division and his company joining forces to develop the Alubeam paint that lends a special fascination to the F 800 Style by Mercedes Benz.

BASF's Liquid Metal basecoat immerses the car in a radiant deep gloss, making it look as if it were made of chrome rather than painted.

The research vehicle's latest appearance was at the Geneva Motor Show this spring, but it premiered on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL 65 AMG 40th Anniversary Edition, a 604-horsepower, $295,000 luxury coupe in which only 40 were made. The paint job, usually reserved for auto show concept cars, cost additional $10,000.

The F 800 Style's appearance was a key factor in the sensation. The new coating gleams like liquid metal. Alubeam stretches around the body like a metallic skin, lending the F 800 Style coated in gray metallic a highly dynamic note. The successful integration of a special-effect pigment into a waterborne paint system is the key to the unique metallic look. This makes the system environmentally friendly, complying with all environmental legislation.

Liquid Metal paints use aluminum flakes as effect pigments. The flakes in the standard metallic paint measure from 100 to 300 nanometers, and this special paint has flakes that measure from 30 to 50 nanometers, thus like spraying liquid metal. The most important task for the painter is to make sure that all the aluminum flakes lay down flat so when the light hits the car's body it will reflect uniformly creating a mirror like effect.

For the latest generation of Liquid Metal paints, BASF uses so-called PVDA pigments (physical vapor deposited aluminum). As a result, the paint has a more uniform appearance and seems to stretch across the car’s body like a metallic skin, emphasizing the important lines and contours of the vehicle design more significantly. The surfaces can reflect the light with greater intensity and are given additional gloss. The resulting metallic look has an intensity that could not previously be achieved with conventional metallic paints.

BASF Coatings’ Liquid Metal is available today as an environmentally friendly waterborne basecoat and complies with the required specifications for adhesion and weathering. Add-on parts can be painted in the color of the vehicle, too.