The global market for coatings (solventborne, water-based, UV-cured, powder) used on wood furniture is expanding at a healthy 6.17% compound annual growth rate and will increase by $1.96 billion dollars from 2019 to 2023, according to market research firm Technavio. Brigitte Jacobs, furniture market segment manager for DSM Coating Resins, estimates the global furniture wood coating market to increase to $4.4 billion by 2021. The overall growth of the market for wood furniture coatings can be attributed to the rising global population and recovery of the housing market, which are both leading to increasing demand for chairs, tables, beds, shelves, etc., according to Raymond Bakker, global business director for Polymers at Stahl Holdings. “In addition,” he notes, “concepts for decorating the interior of homes, offices, and hotels change continuously, which drives a continuous process of innovation and development.”

The fastest growth is occurring in the Asia-Pacific region (including India, Korea, and Japan), which will account for nearly 60% of the expansion during that timeframe. This trend is not surprising given that this region accounted for approximately 55% (Europe: 26%, United States: 14%) of the global furniture market in 2015, according to market research firm CSIL, Milan. While there was a slight slowdown in the market at the end of 2018 and early 2019, Anthony Woods, AkzoNobel segment marketing director for Wood Coatings in Akzo- Nobel’s Industrial Coatings business, expects improvement over the rest of this year. “There is still some volatility due to impact of the recent U.S.-China trade impasse, with U.S. importers looking for alternative manufacturing locations other than in China. Vietnam has benefited, and the market there is still growing strong. There is also strong expansion in other Southeast Asia countries,” he observes. In addition, the market for products manufactured in Asia for non-U.S. destinations is stable, achieving expected levels of growth.

That growth is being driven by many trends in the furniture industry. Jacobs points to three key contributors: growing interest in more eco-friendly furniture and a shift to more sustainable solutions, including a move to coatings with lower VOC emissions and renewable raw materials; the move away from solid wood due to global wood logging bans; and increases in online ordering and expectations for shorter delivery times, which are driving just-in-time production and overall demand for more time- and cost-efficient processing. Bakker agrees with Jacobs that one of the main trends is the development of new water-based resins with bio-based content and low VOCs. “Manufacturers are looking for new sustainable processes and products that minimally affect the environment,” he says. He notes, too, that the rise of natural coating solutions is also increasing the prospects of the furniture wood coatings industry.

The overall growth of the market for wood furniture coatings can be attributed to the rising global population and recovery of the housing market, which are both leading to increasing demand for chairs, tables, beds, shelves, etc.

More flexible manufacturing processes and just-in-time business models, adds Woods, are also enabling much higher levels of customization, so manufacturers can offer more products without needing to increase their inventories. This reduces the pressure on working capital and lowers the total cost of ownership. Pressure on costs is also leading customers to move away from liquid coatings as they seek additional efficiencies, according to Woods. “In particular,” he observes, “this trend is leading to a growth in powder coatings in lower tier applications. In addition, innovations around aesthetic and soft touch in foil mean that higher-end furniture can now be coated with warm wood effect foils, which again helps to reduce costs.” Woods notes that the development of advanced curing technologies is another key driver that is helping to strengthen process effectiveness and deliver efficiencies, while at the same time improving gloss control and reducing energy requirements. He also points to ongoing growth of automation, which is continuing to reduce operating costs and strengthen efficiencies throughout the value chain, and an increasing focus on design, particularly in terms of services like enhanced color styling. “It is vital to stay on top of the latest design trends, to deliver leading edge solutions for customers that reflect the demands of modern lifestyles,” Woods asserts.

The dominant resin chemistries found in coatings used on wood furniture include polyurethanes, nitrocellulose, acrylics, and polyesters formulating as solventborne, water-based, radiation-cured, and powder coatings. Solventborne coatings predominate, but waterborne solutions are available that offer excellent performance without loss of properties or aesthetic features, according to Bakker. Globally, according to Jacobs, two-thirds of furniture wood coatings today are still based on solventborne resins. The remainder is split between waterborne technologies (1K/2K/WB UV) and 100%-UV technologies. She notes that, currently, powder resins for wood applications only have a small share in the total wood furniture coating market. “Because of ecological footprints, environmental legislation, and increased quality performance, there is a noticeable move from solventborne coatings to solvent-free or solvent-reduced systems.

The choice of coatings technology depends on the construction of the finished article and the capability and resources of the manufacturer, according to Woods. For assembly-type residential applications, traditional solvent-based lacquers still have their place in the market. In Asia-Pacific, there is a continued push towards waterborne chemistries, as has been observed with China’s move to waterborne technologies. In the automated manufacturing environment, which involves more flat-line operations, UV and waterborne UV technologies are becoming the leading technologies due to their improved durability and application productivity, Woods comments.

Recent advances in wood furniture coating technology have focused on the development of resins with high performance and bio-based content that will allow the formulation of sustainable and low VOC coatings with a top quality and high level of properties, according to Bakker. Renewable resources are starting to replace petrochemical products in wood coatings, improving their sustainability value, agrees Jacobs. She adds that “this process is slowly evolving and will take some time to become mainstream, but the technology offers a new horizon for the development of eco-
friendly coatings around the world.”

Important properties include:

  • Excellent stain and chemical resistance
  • High scratch resistance
  • High impact resistance
  • High gloss and transparency
  • Very good blocking resistance at high coating thicknesses
  • Low dirt pickup
  • Low water absorption
  • High water vapor permeability
  • Easy and quick sandability
  • Very good exterior durability with high UV and humidity resistance for outdoor furniture
  • Non-yellowing after UV exposure

For Woods, the application of UV LED coating technology, which has been talked about for many years, is now occurring and having a measurable impact. “The use of UV LED coating technology is being adopted now because the total investment costs for UV LED equipment have come down, making the technology more affordable, and furniture manufacturers are more aware of the value of energy savings and the reduction in total cost of ownership,” he says. Another important development, according to Woods, is the trend for coatings suppliers to take a more holistic approach to product development. “Rather than developing solutions in isolation without considering how other stages in the process, like application or curing methods, may change, coatings suppliers are partnering with other players in the value chain,” he explains. “By collaborating and sharing knowledge with application equipment manufacturers, machinery suppliers, and software developers, for example, they are able to develop total process and product solutions that deliver greater cost efficiencies and productivity improvements for furniture manufacturers,” Woods states.

In the coming year, Jacobs expects the wood furniture coating market to continue showing strong growth in line with the increasing consumer demand for wood furniture and the world’s expanding middle class. Beyond that, she believes there will continue to be long-term growth, especially within more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. “There is a growing awareness among consumers for the need to adopt sustainable living practices. I can only see this increasing in the coming years,” she states. Bakker agrees: “There is a huge potential market for water-based coatings thanks to the increasing awareness of eco-friendly products. This trend creates an opportunity for the market today and into the future.”

With respect to specific furniture segments, Woods expects in the residential market that overseas imports will increase their share in mature markets over the mid- to long-term due to their strong cost-competitiveness. In the office market, the move towards more open office concepts with fewer items of furniture could change the market landscape, according to Woods. Digital technology and agile working strategies will also continue to reduce the need for storage in the workplace, while customization and just-in-time delivery will become more established features of the market in the near to mid-term. In some hospitality markets, such as international hotel chains, AkzoNobel anticipates that Asia will become an ever-bigger player due to the increased cost-competitiveness it can offer in situations where the global footprint of the customer can be leveraged to provide economies of scale.

Product Highlights

AkzoNobel: AkzoNobel has worked with the North Carolina State University Materials Science Department to develop a unique spray stain system called PurTone™. According to Woods, PurTone is a multi-step process that delivers the aesthetics of hand-wiped stains through a spray application. As manufacturers continue to search for efficiencies, the PurTone stain system is another way to lower costs by delivering a consistent, high-quality finish, while still reducing waste and labor costs, observes Woods.

DSM Coating Resins: DSM has introduced a range of wood furniture coatings based on its renewable Decovery® plant-based resins for the formulation of coatings targeting the growing segment of sustainable furniture consumers that offer high-performance with reduced environmental impact. The resins, which are appropriate for both for indoor and outdoor applications, contain nearly 50% plant-based content and are manufactured with the use of green energy, enabling a carbon footprint reduction of up to 34% compared to alternative coating systems, according to Jacobs. Notably, Decovery resins are low in VOCs (less than 5%) and odor and compliant with Ecolabel, Nordic Swan, The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel), and AgBB labelling, keeping coating formulations in line with—and in some cases ahead of—the demands of regulatory authorities, notes Jacobs.

Stahl Holdings: Stahl recently launched Relca HY-288, a new water-based, APEO-free and self-crosslinking acrylic/polyurethane hybrid with excellent stain resistance (coffee, red wine, mustard) in one-component white pigmented coatings for wood, according to Bakker. The resin allows the formulation of high-performing coatings without the use of crosslinkers, thereby enabling simpler, more efficient, and less costly solutions, he notes. It is ideal in furniture and interior joinery coatings with high chemical and scratch resistance, good early block resistance for faster line speeds and overall good appearance.

Relca Bio PD-814 is a water-based matting polyurethane resin containing biobased material and is considered a next-generation resin for the formulation of coatings that provide a matt or satin effect without the use of standard matting agents like silica or waxes, according to Bakker. It can be used on plastic, wood, or metal, and provides a long-lasting matt surface with gloss levels down to one at 20º or 45 at 85º. Bakker notes that it is also possible to achieve a warm soft feel and a pleasant touch effect with high flexibility using this binder.

CoatingsTech | Vol. 16, No. 8 | August 2019