the history of coatings and paints

We lack a great deal of reliable information regarding humanity's first "painting efforts". We are, however, certain that the desire to enhance our living spaces is as old as humanity itself. The Stone Age cave paintings at Lascaux in Southern France and Altamira in Northern Spain attest to the earliest works of art in human history

The colours made from animal fats and coloured earth, as well as lard used as a bonding agent and yellow earth (ochre) used as pigment in those days are, in principle, similar to today's methods. Animal products could not attain a high ranking as raw material for lacquer production, although the word ‘lacquer’ is certainly related to shellac, the resinous metabolic product of a scale insect found in India. The word, which comes from the Sanskrit, means ‘100,000’ and represents the large number of insects required for the resin production.

Much younger than the 15,000 years old Stone Age paintings are the oldest lacquer paintings from China (500 BC). This technology was developed in East Asia to its highest level and achieved perfection in Japan. The Japanese made their lacquer from the bark of the lacquer tree, and it was applied in 20 to 30 layers. Works of the highest artistic level were attained.

The Portuguese, who first landed in China in 1515, brought those lacquers back to Europe. The Old World began to take an interest in the development of lacquers, and by 1610, the ‘Compagnie van Lackwercken’ came into being in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Further lacquer manufacturing companies followed in other countries.

Knowledge of the then almost 2,000 year old Chinese art reached Europe in the 16th century. Strong demand on the one hand, and the sensitivity of the lacquer tree which resisted transportation on the other, soon had a fruitful effect on the development of local lacquers made of readily available raw materials. Plants remained the most important basic raw materials for the manufacturing of lacquers, which by the beginning of the 20th century, demanded quicker processing technologies and raised quality standards for innovative painting materials.

the history of powder coating

The concept of applying an organic polymer in powder form can be traced to the late 1940s and early 1950s when powders were flame-sprayed on metal substrates. During this time Dr. Erwin Gemmer, a German scientist, developed the fluidized bed application for thermoplastic resins on metal as a more efficient and faster alternative to flame-spraying. Here the powder is placed in a container with a porous bottom and air is blown into it so the powder mix is suspended in the air and turns into a fluid-like state.

Between 1958 and 1965, virtually all powder coatings were applied by the fluidized bed process. Most applications were functional in nature providing film thickness of 6-20 mils (150-500 microns). These thick film applications were generally for electrical insulation, as well as for corrosion and abrasion resistant purposes. Coating materials consisted of nylon 11, CAB, polyethylene, plasticized PVC, polyester, and chlorinated polyether, among others. However, thermoset epoxies (dicycandimide, or anhydride-cured) also began to make an appearance during this period. Typical applications included dishwasher baskets (PVC), motor iron insulation (epoxy), marine hardware (nylon), and metal furniture (PVC, CAB), to name a few.

In 1960, Pieter g. de Lange, a scientist in Amsterdam, began to research non-polluting, environmentally friendly industrial coatings that could compete with traditional liquid paints. He focused on substitution of solvents with air, which led him to the development of thermoset powder coatings. He sought suitable solid resins, hardeners, pigments, etc. and blended them together in dry form. The blend was then ground to a suitable particle size. The fluidization technique used for fluidized bed coating was used to create a ‘liquid’ state in the material. Electrostatic spray techniques were then adapted from wet paint applications.

The commercial use of the electrostatic powder spray (EPS) process was introduced in the U.S.A. and Europe around 1962 to 1964. EPS offered two major advantages. First, substrates could be coated cold (no preheat). Secondly, the film thickness could be reduced to 2 mils (50 microns). EPS is the most commonly used application in the powder coatings industry today.


  1. Association of the Austrian Chemical Industry, ‘Unser Lack und seine Zukunft’ (Our Coating and Its Future).
  2. Principles of Powder Coating ‘Grundlagen der Pulverbeschichtung’, Edition, March 1991; updated 2 C. Herrmann, April 1999, internal training documents, TIGER Coatings GmbH & Co. KG.
  3. The Powder Coating Institute, ‘Powder Coating. The Complete Finisher's Handbook’, Second Edition, 1999.
  4. Industrial Powder Coating, ‘Industrielle Pulverbeschichtung’, J. Pietschmann, JOT reference, October 2002, p. 1
  5. Industrial Powder Coating, ‘Industrielle Pulverbeschichtung’, J. Pietschmann, JOT reference, October 2002, p. 1, updated.
  6. Industrial Powder Coating, ‘Industrielle Pulverbeschichtung’, J. Pietschmann, JOT reference, October 2002, p. 2.
  7. BASF Coatings Technology Manual ‘BASF Handbuch Lackiertechnik’, A. Goldschmidt/H. J. Streitberger, BASF Coatings AG, Münster, Vincentz Verlag, p. 596, 2002; partially updated.