“About 80% of the resins we produce are used as a component in paints and coatings. Out of all the non-methane volatile organic compounds that cause air pollution in the world, 20% are emitted by coatings. Half of the world still uses harmful solvents, whereas we offer three alternative methods,” says Patrick Niels, President of DSM Resins & Functional Materials. “What we want is for solvents to be replaced by sustainable technologies. So if DSM as a major player increases its sales in sustainable products, it also speeds up the transition into non-solvent-based coatings.”
DSM aims to replace solvents by methods such as waterborne or powder coatings. With the latter, powder is applied to the object. It is heated and melts onto the surface. “Another method is UV-curing coating. Exposed to UV light, there is a chemical reaction that cures or dries the coating,” explains Mr. Niels. “Governments are pressing the industry to move away from solvent-based coatings, and there is a lot of innovation possible in the three greener methods.”
So this is the right approach for DSM, which is very much focused on being a R&D intensive company, as 250 to 300 of the 1,800 people of the Resins & Functional Materials business unit are active in R&D.
Since 2006, DSM has been concentrating mainly on resins for solvent-free coatings. “We decided that there would not be a future in solvent-based systems, and subsequently, we closed down or sold everything that focused on solvent-based systems,” states Mr. Niels.
This development is in line with international efforts to produce and use sustainable coatings, which is very much stimulated by governments. In recent years, DSM has even gone one step further by working on bio-based, or plant-based, products.
“We talk about waterborne and solvent-based coatings that incorporate our resins. However, there is still an active ingredient in the paint that is a chemical based on oil, thus based on fossil fuel,” stresses Mr. Niels. “We have developed a paint that is based on a fermentation process and not on fossil oil.”
As a next step, DSM is focusing strongly on reducing the value chain’s carbon footprint. Intrinsically waterborne, powder and UV coatings have a better carbon footprint compared to solvent-based coatings, but DSM is preparing itself for the next wave focusing on lower carbon footprint technologies like recycling and renewable raw materials such as bio-based alternatives replacing oil-based products.
“For us it goes without saying that these next-generation products need to bring extra features for our customers as just bio-based is not enough,” states Mr. Niels. “The fun part is that it creates a lot of innovation and new business opportunities. For example, together with our valued customer ICA, we recently received the Interzum award for a new waterborne bio-based furniture coating: an example where high functionality combines with a lower carbon footprint.”