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An Innovative Approach to Coloring Adhesives & Coatings

In the April 2003 issue, this column (Do You Really Want to Color That Adhesive or Coating?) explained that coloring adhesives and coatings often is not possible because adding the necessary amount of material to obtain the desired color can negate the necessary characteristics of the original adhesive or coating. One reader took exception to this statement and provided information on a unique approach to coloring an adhesive or coating.

The reader agreed with the premise in the earlier column that adding material to adhesives and coatings often changes their final properties. He noted the large amounts of pigment necessary to obtain a satisfactory color simply overwhelm the adhesive, cohesive, tack, sealing, etc., properties of most materials. What he wrote about is an approach that allows coloring an adhesive or coating using a new technique.

This novel approach still involves adding a precursor to a coating, adhesive, or ink but differs first because the amount of additive necessary is smaller than adding a normal pigment. The levels are sufficiently low that they do not change any properties. These precursors are concentrates or additives that dissolve in a material supplied as a solution in a solvent. The user applies the coating or adhesive with the normal application method onto the substrate to make the final product.

Up to this point, all the steps in the operation remain the same except for the addition of the precursor. All handling is identical and all properties are identical to the material without the precursor. The product exhibits no color at this point.

The second difference occurs when the user wants the color in the final product to appear. At that time, he simply exposes the product in its finished form to an intense light containing a UV component. The sun is an excellent example of a source of such light. This causes the color to appear. Unfortunately, a complete range of colors is not yet available; blue, orange, magenta, and green are the only colors possible today.

In addition to the fact that this is a new approach to adding colors to adhesives and coatings, the technique is an excellent example of an innovation that possibly could have other applications.

With the addition of other colors, perhaps one could make packaging materials that would not require the use of inks. Simply use the requisite precursors in an adhesive or coating and expose the product to UV light to achieve the desired color. Would it be possible to completely eliminate the printing process requiring an ink? Think of the savings that could result without the printing step in making a packaging material.

This approach to adding colors to a package is the perfect example of innovation at work. Such an innovation is a necessary step to achieve a quantum leap forward in the converting and packaging industries.

For too long, all the steps in making the necessary materials, all the ingredients, and all the final products have been the same year after year. This development shows smart people can make smarter packaging. Smarter packaging at some point in the future will entail “thinking” packages of all kinds. Packaging and converting in the future easily could become something we cannot even imagine today.

Perhaps the onset of smarter packaging is beginning now with this introduction of a novel technique to color adhesives and coatings. Take this idea as is, make an improvement on this idea, or develop an innovation of your own and run with it! That's progress.


David J. Bentley Jr. is a recognized industry expert in polymers, laminations, and coatings with more than 30 years of experience in R&D and technical service. Contact him at dbentley@unm.edu.



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