This technology opens up a wide spectrum of possibilities for the surface coating of diverse carriers, especially in matters of design. Whether smooth or velvety, glossy or matt, a suede finish or a hint of elegant embossing – the BASF technology imparts a high-quality surface finish and can be produced cost-effectively, even in small amounts. A unique property of the Steron coating is its breathability. This ensures that coated materials offer more comfort – on surfaces ranging from car seats to tennis racquet grips.
Steron was developed by the inventor Philipp Schaefer. The new coating process can be used on a wide range of carriers including fleece fabrics, woven fabrics, leather as well as wood or plastics. The result: different materials bear an optically uniform design. This holds an advantage for designers of vehicle interiors, who work to incorporate all elements, from seat covers to the interior surfaces of the doors, into a homogenous look. ‘We are pleased to be able to include Steron in BASF’s service portfolio’, says Dr Jürgen Weiser, project manager new technologies at BASF’s Performance Chemicals.
‘With BASF’s research and development expertise and infrastructure and its partnership with Philipp Schaefer, we can unfold the full innovative potential of this very promising new technology.’
BASF are planning to use their pilot facility to further develop the Steron technology and work with customers to modify the process for individual applications and needs.
In order to coat a carrier using the Steron technology, an aqueous formulation of pigmented polyurethanes is first sprayed upon a silicon matrix. Most of the water evaporates, leaving a gossamer-thin membrane with micro-fine pores.
While still on the matrix, the membrane is then adhered to the carrier and the finished product lifted from the matrix. Since the fine pores of the coating ensure breathability, the Steron technology creates a robust yet comfortable surface. The silicon matrixes allow for a great versatility of design because, similar to a casting mould, they structure the surface.
Depending upon the pattern set by the matrix, the coated material can, for example, be made to look like the finest smooth or embossed leather or velvet. Since the matrixes can be exchanged within a matter of minutes, even small amounts of coated materials can be produced cost-effectively with a certain design. This had not been possible before and is thus a decisive competitive advantage in the face of ever-shortening product cycles and ever faster-moving trends. Steron-coated materials enable versatile processing. This is what the luxury automobile segment is asking for with regard to the interior design of vehicles. However, Steron can also be used in the production of upholstered furniture and in the fashion, shoe or electronics industries, one application being the coating of mobile phones and joysticks.