The automotive industry has set itself tangible sustainability goals in response to the ongoing challenge of climate change – but these targets can only be achieved by continuously innovating and adapting its products, processes and plants. At Volkswagen’s automotive coating plant in Navarra, the collaboration between Volkswagen Navarra and the Surface Treatment business unit of BASF’s Coatings division, operating under the Chemetall brand, is a prime example of how to reduce a company’s carbon footprint.
The Navarra plant consists of two twin units with two identical paint lines N2A & N2B. Each line has four painting stations with four paint robots per station. With the exception of clearcoat, which is solvent based, only waterborne coatings are applied at these stations.
The plant operates in line with VW’s “Think Blue. Factory.” strategy. However, at the beginning, several challenges were involved, including cleaning the robots after each change of paint color. This required using large quantities (more than 100 tons per year) of a product with a very high content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of more than 98%. In 2019, VW Navarra entered a new collaboration with Chemetall, with the two companies agreeing on the following objectives:
"Think Blue. Factory.": VW’s sustainability strategy aims to reduce energy and water consumption, non-recyclable waste, solvents and CO2 emissions by 45% for every car manufactured by 2025.
To meet the specific VOC emissions target, Chemetall’s Gardostrip® P7964 technology was introduced at Volkswagen Navarra to achieve the expected efficiency with a VOC-free product. As part of the gradual roll-out of the cleaning product, the main cleaning parameters were thoroughly tested on one of the paint application robots. The product met all predefined quality requirements throughout the entire test. Given these good results, the test was expanded to include a greater number of robots until it reached 100% of production on the two lines in May 2020. Only a few months after its introduction, a huge milestone was achieved: VW Navarra had gone a whole year without any VOC emissions at the plant, reducing its consumption of cleaning product by more than 85%.
Francisco Rodríguez Funes, Paint Manager at Volkswagen Navarra, said: “The success of this project highlights the benefits of collaborating with technology partners such as Chemetall. Their product developments help us achieve our sustainability goals.”
Gardostrip® P7964 is a VOC-free product. All raw materials are based on a high-quality, water-soluble technology that is extremely effective at very low concentrations of between 1% and 2%. It can be used for both one-component and two-component waterborne basecoats.
Chemetall’s Gardostrip® P technology is primarily suited to waterborne basecoat systems. The benefits of the product range include effective cleaning at low concentrations, VOC-free products that meet highest environmental standards, no foaming at room temperature (since the product does not contain any surfactants), no effect on paint flocculation, while being highly-cost efficient.
The latest developments in the VOC-free Gardostrip® P line meet the new requirements for cleaning application equipment and robots, while unlocking environmental, economic and quality-related benefits.
As David Espinos, Chemetall’s Key Account Manager, put it: “Reducing VOC emissions in the primerless process introduced at VW Navarra in 2010 was a highly complex challenge. We are very proud of the extensive collaboration with VW and that we succeeded in achieving the environmental goals together, in line with VW’s Think Blue strategy.”