How Engineers Develop New Paint Colors

It’s obvious how ancient my truck is. Its 18 years spent on this planet are evident in its rusted undersides, fractured bumpers, and scratched body. But if you look closely, the Eucalyptus Mica paint still has that distinctive shine, its brilliance intact after 200,000 challenging kilometers. That fact is not a coincidence; rather, it is the outcome of decades of advancements in the science of paint. People are still trying to improve it almost 20 years later.

People like Samantha Thobe and Ibrahim Alsalahi are in the forefront. They are Honda engineers working on the newest paint hues in Marysville, Ohio. And if they execute their jobs well—which is difficult to deny after having a thorough discussion with either of them—Honda and Acura owners will be as impressed as I am now 20 years from now.

Welcome to The Professionals, a Road & Track section where we interview the fascinating individuals who hold some of the most fascinating professions in the automobile industry.

Honda Integra. Paul Vernon.

According to Thobe, color development head at the Marysville car plant, “my role is to take a conceptualized color and make it manufacturable inside an automotive manufacturing system.” “Our design teams traverse the globe to get inspiration for the new hues and develop that idea,” they write. My task is to determine how we can make this lab-created dream hue using the materials, tools, and procedures designed to produce over 230,000 units per year on our line.

Creating low-volume paints for expensive cars is a far simpler task than making that. Hours spent in the paint shop, hand finishing, and the assurance of a responsible owner all benefit a Rolls-Royce. An Accord must leave the assembly line in a fraction of the time, remain unattended for weeks on an open dealer lot, and endure decades of use by a person in the Rust Belt who handles it like an appliance. The paint needs to be created with this in mind from the beginning.

Toyota Corolla 8.JPG

It was a painful lesson for Honda. Because of the famous dependability of its Nineties and early 1980s models, all of them survived long enough to see the clear coatings peel off their roofs and hoods, which damaged their reputation as cars that would last forever. It is Thobe’s responsibility to create a paint that can be manufactured, bonds well, is thick enough to endure for years, and maintains its brilliance.

For an engineer with a flair for the imaginative, it is a natural role. Thobe, a 25-year-old native of St. Henry, Ohio, earned a degree in chemical engineering from the Ohio State University. With Honda’s substantial manufacturing presence nearby OSU’s campus, she was able to use her degree and some artistic talent to help make concept car colors like Tiger Eye Pearl look just as gorgeous in reality as they did in concept drawings.

Honda of America Manufacturing/Paul Vernon

“I really really appreciated the details of the process when it came to chemical engineering. That you can trace what’s happening back to the atoms and molecules,” explains Thobe. The secret to creating paint that sticks effectively, arranges its crystals correctly, and reflects a depth and quality that people perceive as expensive is making sure they all behave themselves.

It’s not always the case that something is simple to produce and long-lasting, which is where Alsalahi comes in. Alsalahi, a Palestinian paint durability engineer who is 24 years old, plays a push-and-pull function in Thobe’s position. His responsibility is to ensure that the paints Thobe and her team are developing withstand the salt, sunlight, and scuffs of everyday life.

Sam occasionally brings me a new hue, the man added. “It’s my responsibility to make the customer happy. My responsibility is to ensure that there are no problems on the work.

In order to test for weather resilience, peel resistance, chip resistance, and other properties, the team paints samples of bare metal and other materials. The team determines how thick the paint needs to be, how hot the paint drying ovens need be set to, and how to assure glossiness using these tests, which replicate over 10 years of real-world damage, but Alsalahi can’t specify how long. Contrary to popular belief, each hue is unique, and thicker isn’t necessarily better.

When the projects are finished later this year, the refurbishment of the vehicle body painting activities at Honda’s auto plant in East Liberty, Ohio, would reduce co2 emissions by around 3,800 metric tons yearly.

“There must be a balance. Therefore, using thicker material will eventually result in quality problems for us, such as sagging or pinholes, he stated. He claimed that thicker paint requires more heat to cure. If you turn up the thickness too much, paint will naturally flow away from the heat and leave those tiny pinholes that will gradually turn into larger issues.

The position represents the conclusion of Alsalahi’s lifelong passion.

“Because I love cars, I’m constantly curious about what goes on inside them. I become more interested in my job as I learn how things operate and what goes on inside everything, he claims.

He was hired by an automotive supplier that works with several manufacturers after receiving his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Wright State. He claims that Honda possessed the strictest quality standards, which is what motivated him to take any measure necessary to join the company.

“As soon as I saw that, all I wanted to do was work for Honda. Alsalahi stated, “I wanted to be a part of the highest standard, finest quality [manufacturer].” He didn’t hesitate despite not knowing until the day of the event that he would work in the paint department.

“It was unique. I wanted something that may be challenging and that I could face every day. Because of this, I’m sticking with it and clinging to it with both hands. Its complexity appeals to me. We tackle a challenging problem every day, and solving it and appreciating the outcome is really satisfying.

He asserts that an important aspect of engineering is creating durable products. You better believe him if the Honda in the driveway is still gleaming after 18 years in the sun.