Over the past few years, a close cross-value chain collaboration between DSM, ADLER and DKG has enabled the latter to successfully leverage waterborne coating technology to create high-quality, sustainable kitchen furniture. Each of the parties involved offered its unique expertise: DSM provided the resin technology, ADLER’s experts formulated the waterborne coatings, and DKG Group created the sustainable kitchen furniture. The result? Not only is the final kitchen furniture eco-friendlier, enables lower carbon footprints and contains fewer volatile organic compounds, but the furniture coatings’ durability, usability and functional performance are top of the range.
Sustainability: A challenge and an opportunity
The regulatory demands of the coating industry are continuously evolving – and generally becoming stricter – but in the mid-2000s, in particular, a series of European regulations were introduced to limit the types and quantities of solvents that could be used in consumer furniture. “It was around then that ‘sustainability’ began to be taken more seriously by furniture manufacturers around the world,” says Francois Elst, Manager Quality & Engineering, DKG Group, the company behind the kitchen brands Bruynzeel and Keller.
“At DKG Group, we’ve always seen the development of eco-friendly kitchens as an opportunity to deliver on our social responsibilities, as well as a way to differentiate our product lines. Over the past decade and more, then, we’ve been working with partners throughout the value chain to develop kitchen furniture that excels both in terms of function and sustainability.”
Moving forward through collaboration
As with any fundamental shift of direction, integrating higher levels of sustainability into their kitchen furniture was not something that DKG could do alone. “We’re lucky to have been able to work together very closely with two great partners: DSM and ADLER,” explains Francois. “Above all, they’ve been able to offer their expertise and service as we phased out solventborne coatings, and introduced waterborne and waterborne UV-cured coatings, across all our lines and products.”
“Adler is very much used to working with partners throughout the value chain,” says Christian Schütz, Key Account Manager, ADLER. “First of all, we took into account the requirements of the customer, and made sure the aims were clear for all partners. In addition, the test methods for these coatings had to be fully validated. During the development process, an agile approach was crucial – and, after some sprints and working in the lab together, the ADLER and DSM teams created a strong understanding and made fast optimization steps.
Time for market awareness to grow
Above all, the three-way collaboration was put in place to address the end user demands of kitchen furniture coatings. “There is, perhaps, a certain prejudice against waterborne coatings in the kitchen furniture market,” says Francois. “There is a feeling that waterborne coatings cannot perform as well as solventborne coatings – but this is simply not the case. Waterborne coatings can meet – and exceed – all customer demands, without a problem.”
“Waterborne coating technology resins developed by DSM are highly adaptable and can be used in a wide range of applications within the kitchen segment,” adds Christian. “Whether it’s their durability or usability, our waterborne coatings, that are based on these resins, can deliver top performance – and that’s exactly what we’ve shown at DKG over the past few years. Now the market has to understand that their specific demands can be met reliably and consistently.”
Stronger than ever functional performance
Of course, for the end market to fully appreciate the value proposition of waterborne coatings, it is crucial for the kitchen furniture itself to deliver excellent performance. “By Q3 2019, all of our kitchen furniture will be coated with waterborne UV coatings,” says Francois. “And I’m fully confident of the functional performance we can offer our customers with these products. In part thanks to their coatings, DKG furniture pieces can withstand the most exacting challenges of kitchen everywhere.”
“Thanks to our close work with DSM, we’ve been able to develop coatings that can deliver the high functional performance levels required by the furniture segment,” says Christian. “Specifically, these waterborne UV coatings have to be fast drying, and have a very wide processing window, which means solid workmanship of the varnish. In addition, these coatings have to deliver consistent quality, and fulfill all the requirements for chemical and mechanical resistance. In short, our waterborne UV varnishes can offer the same functional performance as solventborne varnishes – and in some cases can even surpass them.”
A greener reality for kitchen furniture
If there is one area, though, where waterborne coatings can clearly and significantly outperform conventional coatings, it is in terms of their sustainability value. “By developing furniture with these sustainable coatings, we’re really offering our customers the opportunity to have kitchens that look good and are good – for people and the planet,” says Francois. “We’re very pleased to be addressing the growing consumer demand for sustainable kitchen furniture – and we can only see this demand growing further.”
Indeed, DSM and ADLER are equally intent on enabling a more sustainable future for furniture. “At ADLER, we pioneered waterborne varnishes for the furniture industry. Our motto has long been ‘clean work – clean environment’. Environmental protection has driven the profile of our company, and – like at DSM – it is part of our DNA. Thanks to the unique qualities of DSM’s resins, our coatings have significantly lower carbon footprints and contain fewer volatile organic compounds. As such, this is a great step toward a greener future.”
A bright, bio-based horizon ahead
And, while DKG’s transition from solventborne to waterborne coatings has already improved the sustainability profile of their kitchen furniture, a new point on the horizon is in place: bio-based coatings. “We were one of the first kitchen furniture manufacturers to embrace waterborne coatings – and, moving forward, we’d be keen to see how we could integrate bio-based coatings,” says Francois Elst.
“Indeed, perfection is impossible to achieve,” says Christian. “But, for sure – bio-based approaches are the focus of the future. And sustainability includes a lot more than renewable raw materials: high-end products with long lifetimes, as well as material efficiency and the possibility to close the material cycles are firmly on the agenda moving forward. Together with partners like DSM and DKG, I’m confident that our contributions to sustainable kitchen furniture are only just beginning!”
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