Ceramic coatings are the latest revolution in the world of auto-detailing and care. But what exactly are they and where do they fit in regards to the market? The term “ceramic” encompasses a broad range of products, from homeware to electronics, to medical equipment and beyond. But first, lets define what they are and how they are applied in the auto-care sector.
In brief, a ceramic product is something that starts out as malleable material such as a liquid or clay, and is hardened into shape via heating. In its most basic form, this is how we get things such as kitchenware at home. The core concept is ancient, but over the last century it has been modernized and improved upon. With materials being researched that have a broad range of applications.
This brings us to the automotive sector, and the rise of the “ceramic coating” over the last two decades. As we know, a ceramic coating is liquid that coats a car, before being hardened under IR lights. Effectively baking the coating into place, and binding it to the underlying paint. This approach has been nothing short of revolutionary in how it can protect a car. Ever since the days of the Ford Model T and the baked enamel “any colour as long as its black” approach, the automotive industry has been looking for ways to protect and seal the paint on cars.
The main approaches of waxing and polymer sealants, developed between the 1940s-60s, have been largely how the industry has protected cars. But the main issue with the sealing and waxing approaches is that they are still vulnerable to various types of damage. This is where the release of the first ceramic coatings in the 2000s was a major turning point. Instead of using a basic sealant and wax approach, a ceramic coating physically covered the paint to lock it in place and protect it.
As a product it is hard, transparent, and highly glossy. This is also where the benefit of the material as a ceramic comes into play. The approach of using sealants and enamel paint still leaves the paint vulnerable because it is technically a type of glass. Something that is still fragile, and prone to damage. Where hardening carnauba waxes help this issue, the finished product is still quite soft. This problem is avoided as a ceramic coating bonds as a hardened mineral layer, which is significantly harder and less prone to damage. As a ceramic, the coatings are able to cover the car completely, while then hardening into the protective shell. It also provides the benefit of a melting point of 600°C (1100°F), which makes it perfect for coating hot surfaces such as the hood, exhaust, or engine components. Which is also ideal for car owners in hot environments, as carnauba wax melts at 65°C.
Not only does this provide the benefit of protecting the underlying paint, but it also reduces the need for maintenance to maintain the shine of the car. Going from the quarterly waxing, to a yearly maintenance check. While also keeping the car looking glossy and new for years at a time. Including by providing unparalleled UV and chemical protection, and producing beading to avoid water stains for the lifetime of the coating. Attributes which the standard processes cannot match.
In the market, ceramic coatings do not “fill a gap” as such, but instead stand as the next evolution of already existing methods. Taking the approach of hardening and coating a paint to protect it to the next level. Building from the work of the industry’s forebearer to provide a better, longer lasting, and stronger product.
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