The future of automotive paints is changing. Environmental concerns have helped fuel the drive toward water-based basecoat paints. Over the past few years, technology for water-based products has been one of the main focuses in the paint and coating industry.

Although water-based auto paints have been around since the '80s, the quality and performance of water-based paints have made great leaps in recent years. New types of pigments, chemicals, and additives allow water-based paints to perform as never before.

Many of the popular colors and special effects once only available in solvent-based paints can now be found in water-based paints. Also, water-based binders are extremely clear, allowing for bright and vibrant finishes. Additives and chemicals have also advanced, allowing water-based paints to self-level and dry to an even finish, eliminating "orange-peel" effects.

Water-based binders polymerize when cured, aka cross-link, causing a durable film to form, allowing for better taping, sanding, and other techniques that were difficult with earlier-generation water-based paints. Water-base basecoats offer many performance advantages: Compatibility with most any urethane, virtually no time windows, they're non-flammable, offer easy clean up, and have no VOC concerns.

Auto manufacturers such as Ford and DaimlerChrysler have been using water-based basecoat paints at select foreign paint shops for several years and have plans to make all of their paint shops water-based facilities within the next few years. The replacement of solvent-based paints with water-based paints has resulted in a reduction of their volatile emissions, while improving the finish quality.

The switch to water-based basecoats also changes the technology and practices involved with automotive painting. Spray gun manufacturers have begun to develop water-based versions of their popular HVLP guns. By drilling the nozzle cap to allow for more airflow and adjusting the settings sizes, the heavier water-based paints are allowed to atomize as finely as solvent-based paints. Air dryers and infrared lamps are being used more frequently and are being developed to compensate for the extended curing time that water-based paints have in comparison with solvent-based paint.

The change to water-based paints is happening now. Environmental concerns have pushed technology within the paint and coatings industry to develop water-based paints that produce beautiful, professional, and long-lasting finishes.