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Science of Automotive

History of Electrocoat

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The technology behind electrodeposition is not new. The first adaptation was the advent of the electroplating process, where an inorganic coating is electrodeposited onto metal. Examples of this process are the cadmium, nickel, chrome, silver, and gold plating of iron or steel to improve appearance, corrosion resistance, and value.

The first use of electrodeposition to apply an organic coating to metal occurred in the 1930’s. The process was used to apply an organic emulsion coating to the inside of steel food containers. In this adaptation, known as coil coating, the coating was applied to a flat sheet or coil of steel, which was later forced into individual containers.  The outside surface was usually covered with a paper label.  Coil coating continues to be widely used for can coating and architectural coating application, such as enameled aluminum siding. 

The use of electrodeposition to apply anti-corrosion primers to complex metal configurations, such a fully assembled automobile bodies originated in the early 1960's.  A group of Ford Motor Company scientists experimented with the process using coating formulated for anodic deposition.  The successful commercialization of the electrodeposition primer process occurred in 1963 with the launch of the world's first automotive electrocoat tank at the Ford Motor Wixom Assembly Plant.

In the mid-1970's, cathodic electrodeposition primers became available to the automotive industry, and the first cathodic electrodeposition tank was installed at Ford-Oakville in January 1977.  The advantages of the cathodic process and materials caused the rapid conversion within the automotive industry from the anodic electrodeposition and conventional spray application to the cathodic electrodeposition.

During the 1980's, and continuing today, advancements in technology and processes have resulted in electrodeposition primer with lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lower lead levels, better throw power, improved edge protection, and enhanced resistance to ultraviolet light degradation.