Diversity in the Realm of the Giants

BASF and Volvo celebrate 30-year cathodic e-coat partnership in Sweden.


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At BASF Coatings’ Truck & Bus Europe headquarters, small red and yellow flags mark a number of locations on the large map of the world–from Northern Europe right across to the Middle East and through to the Asian part of Turkey.
The map hangs in the office of Monika Heithorn, the head of Truck & Bus Europe at BASF Corporation Coatings, and she quickly points to a red dot right in the north of Sweden.
“There in Umeå, we celebrated our long-standing partnership with Volvo in late 2010,” says Heithorn. “Thirty years ago, we supplied the plant for the first time with cathodic e-coats. Volvo was actually one of our first customers for this product.”
Whether this means special colors for sightseeing busses or services for major commercial vehicle manufacturers, virtually every customer request is catered for by Heithorn and her staff. Some even reach out of Europe and into other parts of the world.
For example, in South America, paints from BASF Coatings help ensure that the bus used for the Brazilian national soccer team gleams with new splendor. In cooperation with the Spanish bus manufacturer and long-standing BASF customer, Irizar, special colors have been developed to emphasize the characteristic green and yellow bus for the soccer players from Sugar Loaf Mountain.
In addition to the basic white color, two special yellow and green colors and a blue color were required. According to Marizeth Pádua de Carvalho, sales and marketing manager for Industrial Coatings and Commercial Transport Solutions in South America, the partnership has proved a tremendous success.
“We are extremely proud that our work here in Brazil can make a contribution to the national passion for soccer,” de Carvalho says.
E-coating is an electrochemical application technique. For this technique, the body, rims and axles are completely immersed in an electrically conductive, waterborne paint to protect against corrosion.
BASF Coatings has made its reputation on covering the entire product and service portfolio for high-quality refinishing of busses and trucks, ranging from corrosion protection to basecoats, which provide the color, as well as glossy clearcoats.
The company also supplies Volvo Trucks in Blainville, France, in addition to the plant in Sweden.
Heinrich Johnen was one of the first people present from Day 1 at Volvo in Umeå. Back in 1980, Johnen was responsible for customer Volvo in Sweden at BASF Coatings, accompanying the product launch.
“The cooperation with Volvo's employees was outstanding,” Johnen says. “All of us were aware that we were introducing something entirely new. Over the past 30 years, we have of course always improved the technology. Corrosion protection in particular and most of all, environmental protection, have constantly improved.”
The next step is just around the corner. The newest generation of CathoGuard 800 is to be launched in Umeå in 2011. It is lead and tin free, and meets the latest standards in environmental protection legislation. The solvent content is less than one percent, which helps BASF contribute to environmental protection.
Heithorn says that in the Truck & Bus business, requirements of individual customers differ in the various countries.
“In Turkey alone, with MBT Truck, MBT Bus, BMC, Otokar and Ford Otosan, there are five plants from BASF customers which differ greatly in terms of their structure,” she says.
But there are also interesting collaborations in Germany. For example, in Essen—the European Capital of Culture 2010—a bus for sightseeing tours has been painted with a special blue color. The color ‘Sightseeing Blue’ was developed in close cooperation with the city tour company Münsteraner Stadtrundfahrten GmbH and the color designers from BASF.
BASF colleagues from Spain supported the team in the material production and application. Stefan Tigges, managing director of the city tour company, is delighted about this cooperation.
“Most sightseeing busses tend to look rather boring,” Tigges says. “Ours was meant to be something special, not just on the inside but also on the outside, and this is precisely what we have achieved with BASF’s assistance.”
Heithorn also cites a successful project involving colleagues from South America, where in Argentina BASF is the main supplier of coatings for the Italian commercial vehicle manufacturer IVECO. An eight-strong service team provides comprehensive customer support on site.
But it is the variety of colors, above all, that plays a significant role in the Truck & Bus business of BASF.
“When ordering a truck, customers can choose their color from thousands of colors that already exist,” Heithorn says. “Anyone who likes to be individual can have their own truck color created, for example, as a fleet color.”
It is a complex process for which BASF Coatings has the corresponding equipment in the form of its ColorCARE Toolbox, (Color Controlled Accuracy and Reliability) a control and early warning system that ensures perfectly matched colors.
New software permits continuous checking of the color coordination between bodies and attached body components. The color can be adapted in line with BASF customers’ particular requirements, avoiding subsequent corrections and the respective costs, which BASF says is a great advantage for truck and bus manufacturers and their suppliers.
Whether in Argentina, Germany, Turkey or the north of Sweden—the range of projects is vast. In the future, one can certainly expect to see a few more little flags popping up on Monika Heithorn’s map of the world.
For information on BASF, please visit basf-coatings.de.
Bulk E-Coat Has Arrived
Ever wonder how do you finish all those small parts with e-coat? Read Rodger Talbert’s article at pfonline.com/articles/bulk-e-coat-has-arrived.