Coating mavericks

MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions helps automotive OEMs to specify higher performance standards for their coatings, courtesy of its innovative ZinKlad programme that pairs manufacturers with a select number of world-class applicators

MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions is a company that insists on doing business on its own terms. The global specialist in chemical process solutions and materials that improve corrosion and wear resistance, and enhance surface aesthetics, has developed a unique operational model, which enables it to cover the supply chain in a way no other company in the electroplating industry does.

“It can often be a challenge for an outsider to understand exactly how the model we have set up, works in practice,” claims MacDermid Enthone’s Director Global QPS, Lammert de Boer. “We created a Quality Performance System (QPS) called ZinKlad to help OEMs in the automotive industry specify ever-higher performance standards without the use of hexavalent chromium, for their coatings. Essentially, we match applicators in our programme with OEMs looking to have components coated to meet their specification. This is a unique way of linking the entities on both ends of the supply chain, including every supplier in-between.”

It is an ambitious commitment that MacDermid Enthone aims to continuously deliver with the ZinKlad programme. The company takes pride in offering global consistency at a local level, which is not without its challenges, given that the applicators the organisation are working with, are located all over the world.

Lammert comments: “Different countries have different local laws and regulation. For the ZinKlad programme, however, we have a very clear global requirement that we only want to work with businesses that have a clear commitment to best practices for factors such as waste water treatment, chemical waste management and health and safety policies. This being said, where there is desire to implement these, we will support and coach an applicator to develop such capabilities, in order to stay in line with the global standards we promote. The end goal is to ensure that wherever our applicators are based, we supply the same high-performance products and operational best practice to fulfil the requirements of the OEMs,” Lammert discusses.

“Another major factor for the consistency in the standard of our products, is the regular auditing we carry out in collaboration with our applicators,” he continues. “Four times a year we carry out inspections and test production output to make sure they meet the pre-defined ZinKlad standards and agreed technical requirements. We follow exactly the same processes globally and when a correction needs to be introduced, it is implemented across each and every applicator in the network.”

In addition to the regular auditing, the ZinKlad system, and all approved applicators are also certified to the ISO 9001:2015 standard with the scope: ‘Validating and monitoring applicator processes worldwide to make sure they consistently meet pre-defined ZinKlad, DecoKlad and XMAPP standards and agreed technical requirements’. This is yet another example of MacDermid Enthone’s approach to continuous improvement, with the company actively looking to upgrade its offering whenever possible by adhering to the most stringent of international standards.

The final element of the business model followed by MacDermid Enthone for ZinKlad that merits mentioning, is the meticulousness with which the company picks its applicators. MacDermid Enthone chooses quality over quantity, focusing on growing the business by collaborating only with the best applicators.

“Working with the minimum amount of applicators necessary to meet the local demand for ZinKlad coatings helps to maintain the consistency in our performance. Of course, as demand for coating grow, we want to continue growing as a unit where everybody delivers the same quality, regardless of their location,” Lammert explains.

It has been nearly two decades since ZinKlad was first introduced to the market. During that time, the automotive industry’s coating requirements have changed considerably, which has led MacDermid Enthone to develop a range of products based on their performance level. “Starting from ZinKlad 72, which is typically recommended as a pre-paint or oil retentive coating used when storing steel parts, in the warehouse. As the number of the level increases, so does its corrosion resistance. For example, the ZinKlad 500 is a zinc-iron finish and features a TriPass ELV passivate coupled with HydroKlad SI and Torque ‘N’ Tension topcoats, while the ZinKlad 750 and ZinKlad 1000 include zinc-tin and zinc-nickel deposits respectively, and are at the very top end of the technology. As well as being adopted in today’s internal combustion engine vehicles, these ZinKlad levels are finding particular use in hybrid and full electric vehicles,” Lammert clarifies.

“We are currently working in multiple areas where we can apply our ZinKlad programme. One such discipline is hydraulic fittings that are extensively used in agricultural applications such as tractors. Going forward, another challenge for us will be to understand the implications of using lighter components in the automotive sector,” he adds. “We have observed that the design of the steel fastener is changing to help make the car lighter. This then puts pressure on electroplating companies to find a way to address these new requirements.”

The coming into play of the EU’s End of Life Vehicles Directive in 2000 shook the metallic finishes landscape to the core. Prior to this milestone year, cars contained components treated with finishes containing metals such as cadmium, hexavalent-chromium, and lead. With ELVs generating between seven and eight million tonnes of waste in the EU1, the directive pushed producers to manufacture vehicles without these hazardous substances, switching instead to zinc alloys, trivalent chromium, and lead-free coatings.

“Today, specifiers require ever higher performance and MacDermid Enthone leads the change for plating from trivalent chromium electrolytes to high-performance zinc-nickel coatings,” Lammert notes. “We are working hard to respond to new demands, particularly from an environmental standpoint. Most of the OEMs in the world want to be sustainable and this is a fundamental part of the ZinKlad programme. We invest a lot of resources in understanding their environmental and market demands alike and putting those together in a QPS like ZinKlad.

“Last but not least, we are characterised by our brave approach to challenges. For example, we embrace change created by the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation. This addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. We readily comply with the directive and supply products that meet its requirements.

“Challenges and changes are inevitable in our industry and I would even say that the most certain thing in this sector are the constant changes that happen around us. It is how we face them and adapt that makes us one of the biggest players in this business,” Lammert concludes.

1 https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/elv/

MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions
Products: Chemical compounds for surface coating applications