What is innovative? Sometimes our companies have surprisingly simple answers to this question. An example: the pigment manufacturer ECKART. Being innovative also means tapping into new applications and unknown markets with tried-and-tested technologies, says Dr. Mark Stoll. As the new Global Head of Marketing and Technical Service, the former Chief Technology Officer of ECKART is now pushing ahead the expansion of the portfolio to ensure that in the long run the company is more independent of rapidly changing color trends.
WE INVEST SIX PERCENT OF OUR SALES IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. HENCE OUR PIGMENTS ARE USED IN EVER-NEW APPLICATIONS.
Function Instead of Aesthetics
Effect pigments are extremely small particles usually based on metals that make paints, coatings, and plastics shine and glitter. This is a proven fact. But the particles can do much more than just create a good appearance. “They can take over chemical or physical functions and thus optimize construction materials and plastics, as well as coatings and adhesives, considerably,” says Dr. Mark Stoll, Global Head of Marketing and Technical Service at ECKART.
For instance, when aluminum particles are added to a mortar mixture containing quartz sand, this creates hydrogen gas that produces many small bubbles. The result is aerated concrete, which due to its good insulating properties is regarded as an especially promising building material. ECKART has participated in this growth market for some time now – worldwide and with great success.
In 2016, the company is opening a new facility at its Hartenstein site. With it, ECKART not only can significantly increase its manufacture of effect pigments for the production of aerated concrete, but above all can deliver even better quality to its customers because the new plant works with state-of-the-art technology. As a result, the aluminum particles can be processed much better. “They are free of mineral oil and show good water wettability,” explains Dr. Stoll. “Both of these properties are extremely important for manufacturers of aerated concrete.
Pigments Refine Adhesives
Spurred on by their success with aerated concrete, the pigment specialists started looking for other applications in which their small particles could play a key role. “That was our guiding question,” says Dr. Stoll.
”The first resulting product innovation is based on the pigment coating technology developed by ECKART. “This innovation will offer the worldwide electronics industry cost advantages of up to 30 percent,” says Dr. Stoll. The new pigments consist of a copper or aluminum core covered by a fine silver layer. Hence the small particles improve the conductivity of adhesives used, say, to glue together housing components of cell phones or tablets. They also ensure electromagnetic shielding in the housing’s protective coating.
The new technology means a considerable cost advantage for manufacturers that have used pure silver so far. That is now no longer necessary, and so there is a keen interest in the new development around the world. “We are currently developing specific applications together with our customers,” says the chemist. “One objective is to adapt our pigments to the flow properties of their adhesives.”
The second innovation reduces energy consumption in interiors. Aluminum-based IREFLEX pigments create heat-reflecting wall paints. With them, heating costs can be reduced by 20 percent.
The third innovation caters to crop protection. “Here, too, we are working with a proven technology,” says Dr. Stoll. It is already used in plastics. The ingenious thing about it: synthetic pearlescent pigments reflect the warming infrared rays of the sun.
Agricultural films that are refined using the new AGRO pearls remain translucent. Heat, however, does not penetrate. Thus, there is no heat buildup and the plants’ growth is not impeded. “Particularly customers in southern Europe and Asian countries ask about these pearls,” says Dr. Stoll.
Dr. Mark Stoll, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, has worked at ECKART in various capacities. As Chief Technology Officer he was responsible, among other things, for developing new coating technologies for pigments.
As of recently, he has begun pushing ahead ECKART’s portfolio expansion with great élan. “We adapt our products to meet the exact needs of our customers and the markets.”