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Waterborne vs. solvent

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 - 06:00
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In a world that is continually changing and evolving, it seems that if you don’t get with the modern era, it will pass you by before you even realize it. Tomorrow’s iPhone 6 is yesterday’s iPhone 5. Technology is advancing at a rate that most have a hard time comprehending, which for us runs parallel to the equipment and development of newer vehicles and repair processes. 

With these modern times comes new ideas in paint technology. If you take a moment and do a search for the process of making the new Lexus color Structural Blue, it’s quite fascinating to say the least. We are seeing more translucent colors coming available, more chromatic colors becoming available and quad sage colors coming from the factory, with no slowing down in sight. Yet, for some reason we have a collision repair industry that holds back and is reluctant to change. All over what can be quite simply the easiest thing they will do — converting from solvent to water. Why is that? Let’s talk about.

Tools have improved greatly over the past decade, but in my experience, I had a harder time matching solvents than waterborne.

For many shop owners and even painters, it seems that they are hellbent on holding onto solvent for their collision work. With excuses such as “there’s nothing wrong with it;” “I don’t have any paint issues;” or “I don’t want to slow down waiting for it to dry,” tends to sound much like the same thing heard by the previous generation when the introduction of basecoat/clearcoat systems came into the market and the old days of lacquer and enamel were being phased out. Most times the biggest issue tends to be not the swap itself, but education about the differences and actually understanding of the advantages of a water system. 

About 10 years ago, most of the OEMs had made the transition to water and vehicles in production were now coming with waterborne paint jobs. Those still spraying solvent began to start having more issues in matching the colors (myself included here!) Waterborne can give a lot cleaner, more vibrant color than the solvents. I remember having a hard time working some of the solid blacks from Toyota because the newer water version of the color tended to have a brown cast on the side. Many of the colors I came across were becoming harder to match in solvent, but the one thing I had continually heard was about the color match being so much better in water. And it wasn’t just in the line I was spraying, I was hearing that from users of all paint lines. The color match tools available today in the water systems are far superior to what was/is available in solvent lines today. For the longest time the deck of color chips seemed to be a waste as it was a representation of the color and not an actual spray out. Or the color that was sprayed out for one line was actually another line. As absurd as that sounds, it was a not-so-quiet secret that many paint reps would tell you. The spectrophotometers are more adapted to water technology and are being updated and fine-tuned each year for helping in color match.  As with anything, these are TOOLS and not a crutch, folks. Know your basics first, and use the tools provided to add value to your worth.

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