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Material Research: Coatings

Guide explaining the different types of materials and manufacturers.

Overview of Coatings

Contemporary paints and coatings fulfill a variety of requirements in their application: they range from environmentally-sound latex for home application, to translucent coatings that line the interior of food containers, to the chemically-complex finishes that automobile manufacturers apply on the assembly line. 


Architectural paint is the largest segment of the coating industry. Over the last few decades, healthy innovation has resulted in changes to base properties, VOC reduction, chemical removal, improved coverage, more resistance to dirt and rain, and more easy-to-apply properties. With emerging environmental and safety regulations and the discovery of new raw materials, the industry continues to evolve.

The American Coatings Association provides a good overview of the industry, including history, emulsions. bio-based paints, environmental concerns, antimicrobial additives, low emission products, and more.

Scion tC designed by Kei Miura, 2016


Coatings applied during the manufacture of products are known as industrial or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) coatings. They are engineered to be protective as well as functional.

Powder coating is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. Applied electrostatically and then cured under heat or with ultraviolet light, the end result is a very hard, tough finish. The powder may be a thermoplastic or a thermoset polymer.

Marine coatings protect submerged materials from sea water. Their anti-corrosive qualities make them ideal for commercial cargo ships, yachts, and smaller boats.


The coating process is very complicated when it comes to cars. Automotive paint is not delivered as a finished end product. The paint does not acquire its properties until the various coats have been applied, one after the other, under precisely defined conditions. That is why for automotive OEM coatings, the application process is especially important. 

For a brief history of the technology of automotive coatings, click HERE.

College for Creative Studies website