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Specialty chemicals company Lanxess have introduced a water-based transfer coating process for finishing leather called Aquacast. Unlike most conventional processes, Aquacast requires no solvents. There are numerous advantages to be gained from the good physical properties of the treated leather, the versatility of surface design and the materials the coating can be applied to, as well as the simple and robust process itself. The more compact size of the machinery involved also helps to save space.
Sustainable and environment-friendly
“Increasingly strict environmental regulations are limiting the use of solvent-based coatings for a growing number of applications. This is what prompted Lanxess to develop the Aquacast system,” says Dr. Marc Hombeck, Head of New Business for the Leather Business Unit at Lanxess. “This patented transfer coating technology uses water-based instead of solvent-based products.” The process involves the coating of a negative surface (release paper or mold) with several layers, which are then joined with the leather substrate by means of a thermal press. After removing the substrate from the mold the desired surface pattern becomes visible.
Coating is an important step in the leather production process, in which a special finish is applied to the fragile surface of the crust to protect it against external influences and to apply decorative finishes.
The exceptionally good physical characteristics of leathers that have been coated using the Aquacast system mean they can be used for numerous purposes – even under the strict requirements of the automotive sector.
The superior surface adhesion, the flexing values and the exceptional softness of these leathers is quite remarkable. Conventional technologies can only achieve such characteristics with the use of solvents in at least one of the layers of coating – often the adhesive layer.
Using Aquacast enhances the opportunities for use in respect of surface design and base material. High-throughput processes for standard surfaces using release paper are just as suitable as those that use laser-engraved molds for designing customised surfaces. One of Aquacast’s specialties is a patented, nubuck-effect surface structure that combines a velvety suede feel with outstanding physical properties. Furthermore, the process can be applied to a wide range of materials – from splits to highly buffed leather – and successful test results have already been achieved on further materials.
Intelligent process technology
“The Aquacast process offers notable benefits in terms of handling and the machines it uses,” explains Hombeck. “The machines can be far more compact than conventional coating machines that use solvent-based systems, which can often be quite important for tanneries with limited space.”
The Aquacast process is also simpler, more robust and more reliable. Its airless spray application requires less monitoring than blade systems, which tend to attract more dirt. The one-component system used for the adhesion coat also helps to simplify the handling procedure. Furthermore, avoiding the use of solvents means there is no need for costly waste air treatment.
The Leather Business Unit is part of Lanxess’ Performance Chemicals segment, which achieved total sales of €2.13 billion in fiscal 2013.