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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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Henkel’s pre-treatments for automobiles wins prestigious Altair Enlighten Award


Pre-treatment is key in controlling corrosion.

Pre-treatment of metals before painting improves adhesion, corrosion protection, and long-term durability on everything from cars and appliances to office furniture and aluminum cans.

Henkel is a leading provider of pre-treatments for automakers and other industries, and it is committed to environmental sustainability. Our researchers work tirelessly to create high-performance solutions that have a low environmental impact.

The Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, a global consortium of key automotive industry players, recognized Henkel's PALLUMINATM thin-film process on the 2021 Toyota Tacoma and Tundra (a process that also earned the prestigious Altair Enlighten Award in 2021) with an award in October 2022.

The importance of Pre-treatment
Whether you prefer fire-engine red or basic black, pre-treatment is essential for extending the life of your car's paint.

Pre-treatment is a multi-stage process that removes oils, soils, and lubricants from the auto body before depositing a coating that helps provide corrosion protection. Pre-treatment also aids in the adhesion of paint to the vehicle's body.

Following pre-treatment, the first layer of paint is typically applied via "electrocoating," in which the entire vehicle body is immersed in a tank of paint. The paint bath is electrically charged, causing the paint to adhere to the vehicle body; the electrocoated unit is then cured in an oven.

"During this process, the electrocoat cross-links and bonds the paint to Henkel's PALLUMINA thin-film zirconium coating for a very strong layer of paint adhesion," said David George, Surface Treatment Technical Manager, Henkel Adhesive Technologies.

The use of electricity in the traditional electrocoating process, as well as ovens used to cure paint, makes the vehicle paint shop one of the most energy-intensive parts of the auto manufacturing process.

Pre-treatment: Then and Now
While new car models are introduced every year, the auto industry's traditional zinc phosphate pre-treatment process has remained virtually unchanged for decades.

However, as the auto industry's sustainability requirements began to take shape in the early 2000s, Henkel investigated pre-treatment alternatives that would reduce reliance on heavy metal phosphates and support "light weighting." This is an important industry strategy for incorporating more aluminum and other lightweight metals into vehicle design in order to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Henkel discovered the more sustainable zirconium oxide-based thin film coating after years of research. This novel thin-film zirconium-based pre-treatment speeds up the traditional pre-treatment process and eliminates the need for regulated chemicals. In 2007, the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota, became the first in the United States to convert to Henkel's TecTalis TMthin film process, and TecTalis is used on the all-aluminum Ford F-150 Truck.

This marked a pivotal and promising change for the industry in terms of cost savings and environmental benefits, but adoption has been slow.

“After decades of using an established process, many manufacturers were reluctant to move away from zinc phosphate,” says George. “Cost benefits and increased aluminum capability led some companies to transition; but in recent years, sustainability has been an influential force in the adoption of TecTalis and PALLUMINA.”

Every year, Henkel's thin film pre-treatment process is used to pre-treat over 6 million vehicles under the PALLUMINA and TecTalis brands. This figure is expected to rise as sustainability pressures increase.

Henkel's thin-film process allows automakers to use up to 100% aluminum on vehicle bodies because it performs well across metal types. This is a significant advancement over the traditional zinc phosphate process, which limits automakers to approximately 30% aluminum.
Henkel's thin-film pre-treatment reduces sludge generation by up to 90% by eliminating heavy metal phosphates. This, in turn, reduces the need for chemical cleaning of the tank and special waste handling.

Furthermore, because TecTalis does not require heat during the coating stage, energy consumption and costs are greatly reduced. In addition, the thin-film process uses 5 to 20% less water than the traditional zinc phosphate process.

Manufacturers who convert a site to the TecTalis/PALLUMINA thin-film process stand to save between 20 and 40% on overall process costs due to lower energy, water, labour, and disposal costs. The streamlined thin-film process also requires significantly less capital investment for companies looking to build new production sites.

Thin-film pre-treatment is a game-changing innovation in terms of cost savings and environmental benefits. And the Henkel team is constantly working to improve its thin-film technology suite.

“We’re currently on the third generation of TecTalis thin film technology, and we are exploring completely new technologies as well,” says George. “Sustainability and performance are the main drivers as we continue to innovate and introduce new products and technologies.”