soft touch automotive plastic coating on brown leather

Automotive plastic coating for looks, protection and comfort

In the automotive industry plastics are being used more and more to make vehicles safer more efficient and more attractive. The average vehicle today is 8% plastic parts by weight, and given that plastic can be up to 50% lighter than alternative materials this represents a high number of plastic parts. Coatings provide these plastic parts with decorative effects, protection, a soft touch, durability, easy-to-clean qualities, and more, depending on the needs of the substrate. Automotive plastic coating gives a vehicle interior its “feel”, affecting the character and quality of the drive experience, and so automotive companies invest in getting the perfect interior coating.

In this article we will look at the types and applications of OEM automotive plastic coating and its benefits, as well as the manufacturers and companies that supply the automotive industry.

The reasons to use automotive plastic coating

Much of the general automotive coating industry is based on paints for metal substrates, but many of the interior elements of a vehicle are either coated plastic or use a plastic coating. While the exterior of a car may sell based on a combination of looks and performance, the interior is sold on “feel”- comfort, noise level, aesthetic appeal, ergonomics, durability, and touch which all affect the comfort and choice of a potential buyer. The benefits of interior plastic coating go beyond feeling good, they are also:

  • Aesthetically varied:
    Naturally, the appearance is important. Plastic coatings need to match colors to their surrounds, heighten gloss and color depth, as well as providing different aesthetic effects like matt, pearlescent, metallic, and high gloss.
  • Resistant to abrasion:
    Vehicle interiors need to be durable and scratch resistant, and automotive plastic coating is used to provide these qualities to a substrate and keep them looking shop-new for as long as possible.
  • Resistant to the elements and temperature fluctuation:
    Though automotive interiors may not be directly exposed to UV radiation, weathering resistance is still an important aspect of automotive plastic coating. They need to prevent damage from all the hours of sunlight a car might face in its lifetime, as well as the thermal cycling damage from dealing with temperatures from high outdoor heat to air-conditioning cooled interior air.
  • Chemical resistant:
    Sunscreen, bug spray, oils, cleaners, all of these substances come into contact with vehicle coatings everyday. Whether arm rests, mirrors, radio bezels, or steering wheels, without the proper coating chemical substances can cause plastic to stain, discolor, wear, or even bubble.
  • Eco-friendly:
    By using plastic parts, automotive manufacturers are decreasing the overall weight of the vehicle. This increases the fuel efficiency of the vehicle, but also reduced consumption at manufacture. Plastic coatings are lightweight, low VOC, and low odour, adding to the eco-friendliness of using plastic as an alternative.

Paints and application methods of automotive interior coatings

Not all the plastic elements of a car interior are made from the same plastic. The dashboard may be PVC, the door handle EPDM, while other parts may be another plastic type, and each substrate may have different requirements in terms of preparation or paint formulation. In response to this, there are different coatings and coating processes for different plastic substrates.

The most used coatings

A big part of interior coatings is formed by polyurethanes which come in 1K or 2K systems (though 2K is far more common), as well as water- and solvent-based varieties. Next to polyurethanes, acrylics are traditionally used. Paints are typically applied in layers, with some variation on a primer/basecoat/topcoat combination.

Application and curing methods

As with the paint varieties, there are different application methods too. Brush, dip, flow, spray, vacuum metallising, and in-mould formed coatings are just a few of the methods. In-mould coatings involve spraying the inside of a mould with the coating before filling it with plastic and forming the entire part as one piece, coating and all. Energy-curable coatings are another growth area, where UV radiation or visible light is used to cure a coating rather than thermal or evaporative curing. This removes the potential damage to a substrate from heat.

automotive plastic coating applied on beige interior leather

An automotive plastic coating not only looks good but als feels comfortable.

The haptic end result

“Haptic” means related to the sense of touch and, while it may not be something you often think about, how something feels is an important factor in purchase-making. A plasticky-feeling door handle, a hard armrest – these influence the perception of quality in vehicle interiors. A key area in automotive plastic coatings is making vehicles feel as good as they look. These soft touch coatings are made of polyurethanes, and provide a surface that is soft, warm, smooth, and pleasant to the touch.

Automotive plastic coating companies in Qatar

If you are looking for automotive plastic coatings for interiors in Qatar then you are in luck: Manufacturers like AkzoNobel and Axalta (DuPont) supply the Qatari automotive market. For more information, or if you have a project that needs automotive plastic coating, get in touch! Our experts are here to help and, in cooperation with our coating partners, we can connect you with a coating solution. Simply take advantage of our 100% free quote service by clicking the “Request a quote” button below.

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