Living on the Edge at ECOAT14

Electrocoaters and U.S. automakers work closely on corrosion issues at the ECOAT14 show in Orlando in April.
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Maureen Midgley has met the enemy, and the enemy is the edge.

The senior vice president for Henkel Corp. was a keynote speaker at the ECOAT14 conference in Orlando in April, and she presented a riveting look at what lies ahead for finishers all over the world, but especially here in the U.S.

Midgley came to Henkel after a long career at General Motors, where she was the executive director of the Global Paint and Polymers Center, in charge of all of GM’s electrocoating and paint shops around the world.

“Corrosion is still a problem,” she told the 250+ electrocoat experts and applicators in Orlando. “The edge is the enemy.”

The edge is where most coating failures occur, and it’s where the automotive industry is focusing a lot of its research. In fact, almost all the major U.S. automakers are sharing their knowledge about corrosion and light metals as part of the U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP), a consortium of Chrysler, Ford, GM and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Midgley says the challenge for e-coaters will be to increase edge protection while also maintaining appearances. This all must be accomplished while the auto industry keeps using lighter-weight metals to try to reduce bulk and increase fuel economy. And that’s why Midgley’s talk was so vital for the e-coaters to hear.

“Surface technologies play a central role in introducing lightweight materials,” she said.

Tyler Dennison, an electrocoat process engineer for the BASF Electrocoat Group in Southfield, Michigan, and Lisette Maloney, the assistant director of research at Magni Industries, in Detroit, also presented at the conference, addressing the challenges of using lightweight chassis components without sacrificing corrosion performance.

“These materials do, however, bring their own set of unique challenges when it comes to design, engineering, safety and corrosion resistance,” Dennison said.

“Traditional methods of fabricating and coating chassis components will no longer meet the upgraded corrosion requirements without significant changes in coating methodology,” Maloney said.

The chassis and the underbody—the main parts of the cars that get the e-coat treatment—make up about 25 percent of a car’s total weight. Every time a car can shed 100 pounds, it usually generates about a 2-percent increase in fuel economy.

That’s why the ECOAT14 conference was a way for great minds in the automotive industry to meet with like minds in the electrocoating field.

“The combination of zinc-rich basecoat and electrocoat will enhance corrosion protection of chassis and underbody components, further enabling vehicle lightweighting,” Maloney said.

That sentiment was further echoed by Ford Motor Co.’s Joy Forsmark, who presented the keynote address on the second day of the conference, which was sponsored by the Electrocoat Association and Products Finishing magazine. Forsmark is one of Ford’s main representatives on the USAMP program, and her talk also focused on the research currently going on in the field of lightweight metals—particularly aluminum and magnesium—and continued corrosion protection.

“A key challenge in many cases has been corrosion mitigation strategies at both the component and systems levels,” said Forsmark, who added that it was important for the OEMs to talk to people throughout the supply chain, and especially to coaters.

The numbers Forsmark presented on lightweight metals didn’t lie: aluminum offers a weight reduction of almost-50 percent over steel, while magnesium offers almost a 60-percent savings. Magnesium also has a strength/density ratio that is 3.7 times that of steel, so it is both light and strong.

“Galvanic corrosion is still a huge issue,” she said. “Lightweighting is a multi-material issue, so we need effective coating strategies.”

The two-day conference—which is held every other year and will converge next in 2016—was both a wake-up call to the e-coating world and a positive statement that the coating industry is working closely with OEMs to make the best products possible.

In addition to the technical presentations and excellent case studies, the conference also allowed the Electrocoat Association to honor its own with leadership awards. The George E.F. Brewer Awards were presented to Henry Austin from PPG Industrial Coatings, Terry Giles from Henkel Corp. and Jim Blankemeyer from MetoKote Corp. The best end-user paper award went to Jesse Taylor from F&P America. Congratulations to everyone.




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