Julie Voisin, product marketing manager — Aerospace & OEM Automotive Interiors, Sherwin-Williams, sat down with AMT to discuss some of the recent trends in aircraft painting. Sherwin-Williams and AMT partner to conduct an annual paint survey, asking MROs a variety of questions to gauge the state of the painting industry. The highlights of those results can be found in the March/ April edition of AMT, along with an article on the first-hand experience of aircraft painters since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AMT: From a paint standpoint, what have Sherwin-Williams’s customers been asking for and what trends have you noticed developing over the past few years?
Voisin: The trend is going more and more towards a base coat, clear coat. It’s not for everybody, it’s not for every paint job, but we’re definitely seeing a shift coming away from just single stage into more base coat, clear coat jobs. And it depends on the shop. It depends on the scheme sometimes of whether it makes sense for that paint shop or in that paint scheme.
We’re getting a lot more requests for semi-gloss or flat clear coats. We’ve done some really successful trials lately and have taken our A5180, and we can now convert it into a semi-gloss and a flat. We’re seeing trends from the automotive industry where people are seeing flat grays or flat silvers, and they’re wanting to do that with their aircraft. Brings a whole new set of fun, a whole new set of challenges with it, but we’ve done some really successful aircraft and are really happy to be able to deliver something for our customers that are looking for that kind of unique look.
And then trying to really push the needle on chrome-free primers. We’re going to hopefully be bringing out some new things related to that, trying to make it safer for the environment, safer the people applying it. That’s all really important…we want to help and be involved with the sustainability aspect of our products.
AMT: What has the impact of the pandemic been, and where are we headed as the pandemic, hopefully, now subsides?
Voisin: I have been really impressed with how the aviation industry has just rebounded. I think people are trying to get away from flying commercially and more and more looking at could they own their own airplane or could they be part of a fractional ownership?
AMT: What is Sherwin-Williams’s current focus on?
Voisin: We’re really focused on trying to make environmental improvements, trying to drive color, trying other color spaces, other effects, and how can that be done in efficient ways? And looking at mil thickness, what can be done to drive down the mil thickness of the plane, i.e., the weight. And then trying to do things efficiently, whether how it’s applied or ways it’s applied. We have those cores that we’re always going after. And it’s honestly a little bit of a distraction right now with all the global supply chain things that we’re chasing and spending a lot of time on every day, just trying to make sure that we have all the things that we need to support customers.
AMT: You mentioned the supply chain, what have those disruptions looked like for you as a paint supplier?
Voisin: I would preface it by saying our team has been more creative, more collaborative than I think we’ve ever had to be going through some of these raw material availability issues. It’s been pretty impressive, some of the things and solutions that we’ve come up with. And we’ve spent a lot of money overnighting things, trying to do whatever we can to keep our customers in stock with materials.
AMT: Aside from your focus on sustainability, what are some of the other new products and offerings from Sherwin-Williams?
Voisin: We have been working on an improved version of our SKYscapes General Aviation that we launched with a major OEM last fall. We’re going to be moving that out into the marketplace beginning in April this year. Our SKYscapes General Aviation, we made some improvements to it where we’ve improved the mixed ratio, the toner capabilities. That’s got some improved performance properties. Anyway, we’re really excited about that.
We also have some new colors that we’re going to be bringing out in the second quarter. One of the things that’s been pretty cool that we brought out in the fourth quarter last year was our new aircraft color visualizer – acv.sherwin.com.
It’s pretty neat, there’s six different styles of aircraft you can go in and our aerospace color palette is on there and you can pick and choose the colors and it has some predefined schemes. It’s just supposed to give customers the digital experience of playing with our colors(We’re) not trying to design it for them, just trying to let them play with color. And then once they have some things they like, they could use work with a designer.
AMT: Julie, thank you for taking a few minutes to speak with us. Before we wrap up, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with our audience?
Voisin: I think when selecting the [paint] shop, I think it’s so important to look at their reputation. Talk to people that have used the shop and what they thought of it, because it’s not about the cheapest quote. It’s about understanding the quality that you’re going to get, because this is a long-term game. You want to get a shop that you’re going to have a long term, you have an asset you need to treat appropriately and make sure that you’re picking one that you’re going to feel good about the long-term performance of the coating. Because details are everything when you’re painting a plane and you need to make sure you’re picking a shop that really is paying attention to the details.
And a paint product – you also want to pick a paint product that’s there for the longevity and the durability. And I mean, we’ve been in it for nearly a hundred years. Durability is the cornerstone of our product lines.
For more insight into the current state of aircraft painting, check out the March/ April edition of AMT.