Subsequent to the Three-Layer Wet Paint System that realized one of the world's lowest levels of CO2 emissions, Mazda developed the Aqua-Tech Paint System in 2009, which realizes amongst the world's lowest emission volumes of both VOC and CO2, and completed implementation of the new system into the painting process at the Head Office Ujina Plant No.1 by the end of 2012.
The painting process emits significant levels of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and CO2, and improving this situation has been a major challenge. Although the ideal method for VOC reduction is water-based painting, this process emits increased levels of CO2 gas due to energy consumed during the water evaporation process. Mazda first explored ways to simultaneously reduce VOC and CO2 using the existing oil-based painting method, and developed the Three-Layer Wet Paint System*1. Implementation of this system commenced in 2002, and was completed at all domestic plants in 2005*2.
However, for Mazda, which aims for high quality and a reduced impact on the environment, this was only the first step. In 2006, Mazda started its quest to establish a water-based painting technology that further reduces VOC without increasing CO2.
First, Kanda and his team members went on an observation tour to Europe, which has taken the lead in water-based painting. On this tour, they became confident that by applying the technology acquired during the development of the Three-Layer Wet Paint System, they would surely be able to resolve the CO2–increase issues that typically arise when switching to water-based painting. The tour also clarified some of the specific issues to be tackled.
One of those issues was color — the "vividness" that makes Mazda vehicles sparkle — as well as abolishing the primer, which would maximize the VOC–reduction effect while reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. In addition to color vividness, what was needed was to somehow assign the functions of the primer, such as weather resistance*3 and the anti–chipping quality that prevents scratches from gravel, to the base and clear coats.
This is Kanda's view of designing paint film: "When creating something new, it always starts with gaining a deeper understanding into why the conventional method has been introduced and used until now." According to Kanda, studying the current status and segmentalizing and analyzing the current scheme of functions reveal the "absolute essentials."
Kubota says that "when we adopt a new technology, we must continue to provide to our customers quality that is either equal to or better than before." All engineers spent days and weeks facing various factors and seeking optimum solutions so as to aim for number one in all indices including quality, the environmental aspect and cost. To realize "Mazda-unique colors," Nakano spent three years analyzing optical transmission and reflex ions according to each wavelength of light in many samples with varying pigment composition and film thickness.
Not only the development of paint materials and re-examination of the painting process but also extra details such as the particular areas to paint and film thickness were all minutely deliberated and explored through substantiative experiment, transcending division borders and with complete cooperation from our suppliers. This is how the Aqua-Tech Paint System, which boasts amongst the world's lowest level of both VOC and CO2 emissions, came to be. The quality of the finish and coating functions is even better than before when a primer was used. Implementation of this system commenced in June 2009, and was completed at the Head Office Ujina Plant No.1 by the end of 2012.
Mazda painting engineers are striving to further reduce the impact of the painting process on the environment, such as by lowering the baking temperature. "I now have an understanding of the role and the scheme of each of the elemental technologies. I would like to make use of this understanding to move on to the next step," says Matsuda. Accumulation of experience and knowledge yields and cultivates new technologies.
- *1The painting method where the primer, color base and clear coatings are layered while still wet, eliminating the conventional drying process after the primer.
- *2Implementation at major overseas plants completed in 2008
- *3The ability of a coating to endure a combination of degrading elements such as light, heat, and water, when used outdoors.