BASF offers a coating system to give surfaces a new look and feel
The new system offered by BASF the German chemical giant is based upon the use of a polyurethane dispersion with the brand name Steron® and is capable to combine the different characteristics of leather, artificial leather, fabrics and soft touch materials
The coating system permits the creation of surfaces with a structure and design unmatched up today, and by other means. The coating is very versatile and Steron can be used on a wide variety of substrates, such as leather and fabrics, as well as cardboard, paper and plastics, PVC and polyurethane might serve as substrate material. In addition, design freedom is almost unlimited, and regardless of whether technical, natural or soft touch structures are involved. Quick design changes also do not present difficulties. Textures from leather graining to the appearance of velvet and even geometric patterns and impressions can be achieved with a minimum effort and coating in any colour is possible.
The production of Steron is based on a transfer process, such process was refined over the past two years and automated. The starting point for the production is a silicone mold half into which the desired surface structure is engraved by a laser. A thin layer of the polyurethane dispersion is sprayed onto the surface, and in a manner similar to the technique applied when working with a casting mold and it assumes the desired shape. The top coat is followed by a base coat and adhesive. Finally, the substrate is laminated to the adhesive layer and pressed together. The finished product can be removed from the mold. Modern laser technology permits fast and economical production of the mold with any custom design. The benefit of silicone as the mold material, is that it can be engraved readily by laser, while the substrate with the Steron coating releases easily. The polyurethane dispersion is micro-porous, and, in contrast to conventional leather finishes, it can breathe, thus improving the comfort of such coated materials.
Thanks to all the qualities and possibilities mentioned, Steron is ideal for use in many fields. In automotive applications, leather and plastic serve as substrate material. New design structures can be developed for seats, headrests, steering wheels and interior surfaces, with a smooth, soft or velvet like, following the wish of the customer. Steron complements the trend to create a sense of well being when seated in a car and is the response to the increasing demand for more comfort. Designers of concept cars have already been inspired by the new options. Automakers are tending to bring the weight of a car down and the new material is very light, for instance compared to leather, which accounts for up to 25 kg in every passenger car, weight savings with the new system of more than 50 % are in reach.
There are many new fields of application for Steron, and its principle “one look – one touch” applies, meaning different products, but the same look and feel. Especially promising look application for clothing. Substrate materials there include fabrics, plastic film, and leather. Steron-coated leather in particular offers the benefit of being completely air permeable. The unique soft touch is likely to find create great interest among fashion designers and their customers for accessories such as hats, gloves, belts, wallets and handbags, but also for handbag manufacturers. A renowned fashion design house recently decided to use the new material, because it is lighter and less expensive than leather. The first handbags made from Steron will available in stores in the 4th quarter of 2013. Finishing and labelling offers no problem and make accessories even snazzier. If Steron is to compare to conventional soft touch products, those products do limit design possibilities, but Steron can be easily printed, embossed or laser engraved. In clothing, Steron opens up new opportunities for a wide mix of materials, as well as for the design of shoes. As mentioned before, substrate materials can be leather, fabrics and synthetics. In addition, Steron offers special characteristics to improve the functionality of furniture, such as scratch resistance and dirt repellency and it is air-permeable. The coating technology offers also completely new design opportunities for high quality packaging, whre new patterns and previously unknown sensory effects can be expected.
Currently BASF offers production and application of Steron as a complete package under licensing agreement. The package includes the chemistry, technology and joint development with the customer, as well as application oriented service. The first licensee for Steron is the medium sized Indian company AIM Filtertec headquartered in Pune, where also many automotive companies and suppliers are located in the city of six million. Steron production take up at AIM Filtertec is scheduled for coming September and the annual capacity will be around 1.7 million m2. For some time Filtertec has been supplying nonwovens to automotive use, where new synergies are possible. The machinery for the Indian Steron production is deriving from Venjakob in Rheda-Wiedenbrück (North Rhine Westphalia). Early in 2014 a similar sized production site in Germany will go on stream. Experts involved with Steron are convinced that cooperation with flexible, medium sized companies will foster a rapid development in the respective fields of activity.
More information can be had from the first link below and the others inform on the BASF licensee and BASF cooperation partners for Steron