The color of a car is an essential element of its design, but it's very hard to retain the vibrancy and richness of the original paint color over time – whether it's on the road or in a parking lot, a car is constantly exposed to ultraviolet radiation, causing gradual color fading through paint oxidation. This is a major concern for car owners and paint manufacturers alike.
Asahi Kasei Performance Chemicals Corp. (Asahi Kasei, Nantong) adopted a special process to produce paint-curing agents that are impervious to oxidation, thereby solving the problem of discoloration.
The Vaisala K-PATENTS® Process Refractometer PR-23-GP plays an important role in monitoring the core production processes.
Founded by Japan's Asahi Kasei Group in November 2005 as a foreign-invested enterprise in the Nantong Economic and Technological Development Area (NETDA), Asahi Kasei, Nantong primarily specializes in the production of curing agents for polyurethane coatings – one of the important raw materials for automotive and water-based paints.
According to the Global Automotive Color Popularity Report, released by a leading global paint manufacturer, 35% of vehicles on the road today are white, making it one of the most popular colors.
However, white cars are particularly susceptible to discoloration caused by paint oxidation.
Image 1: An example of oxidized paint on a car
"Car paints produced with our products do not fade or turn yellow, no matter how long they are exposed to the sun," states Mr. Yuan, Electric Instrument Manager at Asahi Kasei, Nantong.
"However, the production processes are relatively complex and involve thousands of instruments and devices, including Vaisala’s process refractometers."
In line with the Japanese tradition of rigorous thinking, Asahi Kasei, Nantong implements intensive management of instruments and devices by categorizing them by importance into five grades: A+, A, B, C, and D.
A+ indicates the highest grade of importance, and instruments that fall into this grade account for only about 0.5%. Mr. Yuan notes: "The Vaisala process refractometer is used to measure the refractive index during the hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) synthesis process, monitor the progress of the reaction, and detect its endpoint. The refractometer is categorized as an A+ instrument, indicating that it is an important unit and indispensable to production."
The synthesis reaction is at the core of the production process, and real-time measurement of the refractive index assures quality throughout the synthesis process. Therefore, the accuracy and reliability of the process refractometer are critical.
Vaisala’s process refractometer adopts the critical angle light refraction approach, digital signal processing technology, and the unique CORE-optics module, so its measurements are not affected by particles, bubbles, or colors. Recalibration and mechanical adjustments are not needed, even for long-term operation in demanding process conditions.
The Vaisala K-PATENTS Process Refractometer PR-23-GP has always maintained the best accuracy and reliability over the past decade or so since it was taken into use in plant operations at Asahi Kasei, Nantong, which Mr. Yuan finds very impressive:
"Vaisala’s process refractometers meet our production needs, allowing continuous real-time measurements with the same high accuracy as in a laboratory environment."
A reliable and professional aftersales service has played a very important role in the decade or so that Vaisala products have been in use at Asahi Kasei.
"Vaisala arranges on-site visits, responds to queries promptly, and always tackles customers' concerns as if they were their own," declares Mr. Yuan in hearty approval of the value-added services provided by Vaisala and its partners.
"Of all our suppliers, Vaisala's account managers are particularly professional and demonstrate great dedication to their work.
On one occasion, the process refractometers at Asahi Kasei, Nantong needed to be replaced and upgraded without affecting production. This involved extremely complicated communication and coordination, leaving very limited time for the renovation itself.
Vaisala's account managers actively communicated and coordinated with personnel in different departments in China and abroad, organized related logistics operations, delivered products and spare parts well ahead of schedule, and successfully completed debugging in one go. Their efforts ultimately won the management's recognition.
In addition to dedication, the account managers also, unprompted, helped us iron out many details in advance to eliminate potential risks for the upgrade, substantially saving time and economic costs."
Asahi Kasei, Nantong will relocate to a completely new factory in 2024. It is expected that the two companies will continue to write a new chapter of win-win cooperation, adding luster to their existing success stories.
From design and testing, and through production, products used in the automotive industry are required to withstand the most challenging conditions. Vaisala's trusted humidity, dew point, and liquid measurements offer valuable measurement data and help to optimize production.
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