"Conversion with confidence" is PPG's catchphrase for change. While change in the long run is usually a good thing, the process of changing from a familiar way of doing things to a totally new one is something that we look upon with trepidation. While we may not be able to instill the level of confidence that the PPG Training Center can, we certainly hope to convince aspiring painters and skeptical veterans that this new way of painting is not really new at all. Training and education on waterborne technology and application, however, is a fairly new offering to the automotive refinishing industry. In an effort to bolster interest at the college level on how the refinishing industry is coordinating efforts with the OE's clean-air manufacturing methods and technology relating to paint, PPG established the industry's first paint training center dedicated to waterborne paint technology at China's Shanghai Communications Polytechnic in April of 2009. Since then, PPG training centers across the U.S. have adapted a similar curriculum.
While a trip to the orient might not be such a cost-effective expenditure even in the interest of furthering our car-building skills, you'll be happy to know that education on waterborne painting is available at various centers here in the United States. So to find out first-hand what this relatively new paint technology is all about, Chevy High Performance went directly to the source for an informal but very informative private session with PPG Technical Sales Instructor Frank Ramos. Frank, a veteran painter of 25 years, and I started the session off reminiscing about the good old days of custom painting with acrylic lacquers and single-stage acrylic enamels that flowed out so smoothly.
While most painters around the U.S. are still allowed to paint without restriction or regulation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), here as well as in certain other counties of California, several states in the Northeast, all of Canada, and most of Europe are required to meet specific VOC limits by painting with waterborne basecoat materials. In order to help painters meet these requirements, companies like PPG provide training services to help painters adapt to their new system of Envirobase High Performance waterborne refinishing products.
Current and future legislation concerning VOC emissions for automotive refinishing will only reduce the amount of solvent-based paint products that we can use. One of the more popular arguments by those resisting the change to waterborne-based paints is that since the final clearcoat and many of the undercoats are still solvent-based, why change at all? The answer to that is simple. While it is true that clearcoats and many undercoats are solvent-based and will most likely continue to be so for many years, the VOCs of those coatings have been reduced by as much as 50 percent. Combined with the ultra-low VOC numbers of the waterborne basecoat materials under the clear, and you have a very clean system compared to the high-pressure, high-volume, high-VOC refinishing materials of yesteryear. Clearcoats are still solvent based due to the superior gloss characteristics and ultraviolet protection of the solvent formula.
Atmospheric benefits aside, do-it-yourselfer painters and pros alike want to know what exactly has changed and how it will affect them in terms of cost, technique, materials, and equipment. Chevy High Performance will address each of these issues here with the novice painter in mind. The answers may not be so short as to fit in a nutshell, but you'll be happy to know that the news is good; this change is fairly painless which is a good thing since, like it or not, you'll have to deal with it sooner or later if you plan on painting your street machine. But before we get into discussing what has changed, it's important to have a basic understanding of what we're getting into.