PPG Industries says it has developed a new coating process that can shave the time it takes to paint a vehicle, as well as significantly reduce the square footage of a conventional automotive paint shop.

Ray Schappert, PPG’s global director-product management for automotive coatings, says BMW has reported energy savings of up to 30%, a 43% drop in carbon-dioxide emissions, and a 7% decline in volatile organic compounds since implementing the coating process.

“The largest energy user in an auto plant is the paint shop, so saving a significant portion of energy makes a big impact,” he tells WardsAuto in an interview.

The B1:B2 system takes a number of steps out of the conventional painting process, Schappert says. In the traditional procedure, the application of pretreatment and electrocoat is followed by a primer layer.

After the primer layer is cured, a topcoat layer of basecoat and clearcoat is applied and cured, a process PPG says is costly and time-consuming.

With B1:B2, which PPG describes as a “compact” process, the primer application is moved into the topcoat booth, eliminating the need for a dedicated primer booth.

“In the basecoat booth we put down B1, which has a color coat on it, but provides chip performance and durability to the coating,” Schappert says. “We follow that with B2, which has an effect on pigment and appearance color, and that gets topped off with a topcoat and (then) baked.”

Skipping steps in the traditional painting process is made possible by PPG’s patented polymers, which allow for a higher film build, or the amount of paint that is able to be put on a vehicle.

The polymers also allow water to escape during the process without sacrificing paint quality, the supplier says.

Other versions of compact paint processes have been developed before but were limited in their applications, Schappert says, noting that creating the high-quality finishes found on luxury vehicles was difficult to replicate with earlier processes.

But B1:B2 allows for bright whites or pearlescent coatings, which go over well on premium cars, he says.

By reducing the number of booths and ovens used in a conventional paint shop, an auto maker gets clear-cut cost and environmental benefits. The process also reduces the time it takes to paint a vehicle by up to 15 minutes, depending on the throughput of the plant.

Schappert says several auto makers, which he declines to name, are taking steps to adopt the technology.

However, there are obstacles to deploying the new process.

“You can put it in an older plant, but it takes some retrofitting” he says. “You have to get rid of the primer oven and move robots from the primer booth to the basecoat booth. You get more value with a greenfield (facility), but it can be done in a brownfield.”

Because of this, PPG expects much of B1:B2’s growth to come from emerging markets, such as China and India, where new car plants are being constructed at a much faster pace.

bpope@wardsauto.com