An AIMPLAS-coordinated project has lead to the development of a conductive gelcoat that would tackle two major challenges facing composites: VOC emissions and long curing times.
With respect to CO2 emissions, the automotive industry is stringently legislated. Composite materials play a key role in tackling CO2 emissions by facilitating lightweighting without compromising on rigidity or mechanical performance, but there are obstacles facing manufacturers.
The AIMPLAS-coordinated ECOGEL CRONOS project centred on the development of a powder gelcoat with electrical conductivity properties by incorporating carbonaceous fillers. Whereas conventional coatings of this kind have limitations such as VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions and long curing times, applying the ECOGEL CRONOS coating to the mould reduces curing times to just minutes, while reducing VOC emissions and styrene emissions during the coating's polumerisation.
Furthermore, its electrical conductivity eliminates secondary painting stages for the final finish with electrostatic paint, thereby reducing manufacturing costs and raising the production ratio.
Another benefit of using powder coatings is the reduction of storage and energy costs, as the catalytic systems do not require refrigeration, while the recyclability of the coating means excess applied on the mould can be recovered by a vacuum system and reused downstream.
In addition to the automotive sector, the coatings could also be applied in the construction, leisure and sports, and aviation and wind power industries. In construction in particular, the coating's antistatic properties could be applied to fuel tanks and pipes.
The project, funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union (FP7/2007-2013), under grant agreement no. 609203, has the participation of other 12 European organization: ECOINNOVA and CIDETEC (Spain); Composite Integration, AXON, FAR- UK, and NetComposites (United Kingdom); CLERIUM (the Netherlands); Indupol International N.V. (Belgium); e-Xstream engineering (Luxembourg); University of Bielefeld (FHBI) (Germany); KETEK (Finland); Megara (Greece); and Steel Belt Systems Powder Coating Division (SBS) (Italy).