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Automakers Seek Payoffs from Paint-free Technologies

SpecialChem / Sep 20, 2005

Automobile manufacturers are slowly adopting new in-mold plastic decoration technologies that may allow them to eliminate some of the expensive painting stations in their factories. These stations, which can cost up to several hundred million dollars apiece, consume vast amounts of space on factory floors, and are the source of much of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are heavily regulated by government agencies. Of course, achieving the required Class-A exterior finishes without the use of conventional paint requires the replacement of stamped-steel car body parts with molded plastic substitutes that can be processed with paintless surface decoration technologies. This substitution, which is being driven by automakers' goals of weight savings and greater design flexibility, is taking place at a gradual pace. One reason for the modest progress is that automotive OEMs have already invested considerable capital in conventional painting stations geared to metal surfaces and do not want to spend more to convert to the paint-free coloring technologies.

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