Pittsburgh Technical Council

Stirring Up Innovation: PPG has the recipes for industry-leading coatings and materials

Stirring Up Innovation: PPG has the recipes for industry-leading coatings and materials

Article Published: October 20, 2014

With more than $15 billion in sales and operations in 70 countries, PPG Industries has firmly established itself as a world leader in coatings and specialty materials. Leadership, innovation, and sustainability fuel this unique status. But, it is PPG’s passionate and smart people that make it all happen.

And many of those people call western Pennsylvania home.

“I’m living a dream being here!” exclaimed Chuck F. Kahle, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer and Vice President, research and development, coatings at PPG Industries. “I wanted to be a scientist all of my life, call me a nerd!”

Living that dream means Kahle oversees PPG’s state-of-the-art Allison Park campus with more than 300 people—almost a third have Ph.D.s—with a singular focus of developing new products and making current ones better.

As CTO, Kahle balances his innovative “nerd” side by also going deep into the business side of PPG. After all, innovation drives new business and growth every day.

“In a world dominated by environmental concerns, PPG has solutions to every regulatory law on the globe,” he said. “And PPG coatings are everywhere—from circuit boards to beer cans, there is a different technology for different problems.”

According to Kahle, Pittsburgh is a great city for PPG to center its operations because of the network of technological capabilities within the region, including unmatcheduniversities, companies and technology talent.

Accordingly, PPG has its Coatings Innovation Center in Allison Park, Coatings Development Center and Plant in Springdale, Business and Technology Center in Monroeville, Architectural Coatings North American Headquarters in Cranberry and Glass Business and Discovery Center in Harmar.

PPG has more than 42,000 employees around the world in 70 countries with 2,700 in Pennsylvania. PPG employs 2,200 in the Pittsburgh region with 650 of that number being R&D associates. PPG made 160 new technical hires adding more than 300 technical and non-technical jobs to Pennsylvania this year.

PPG invests three percent of its sales back in to R&D, according to Kahle. Last year, PPG introduced new products expected to generate global sales of $3.7 billion in their first 60 months. At the same time, PPG pumps out about 80 patents a year to lock down its discoveries. That’s almost two a week!

Kahle said PPG is focused on several megatrends to drive its coatings business, including Energy, Environment, Asset Protection, Security/Safety and Customer Experience.

Here’s a look at some of the newest innovation coming out of PPG and its Pittsburgh-area facilities:

One of PPG’s most successful innovations was unveiled more than 50 years ago from its Springdale facility, when it pioneered electrodeposition coating technology (Electrocoat) to vastly improve corrosion resistance and eliminate rust on vehicles. 

Thor Lingenfelter, a Technical Supervisor who has been with PPG for 18 years, explained that Electrocoat is also used in aerospace and industrial settings, too, because of its consistent results. Companies worldwide, like Whirpool, rely on it to make the longest-lasting home appliances. 

A great paint job starts with Electrocoat and PPG has developed primers, paints and coating systems to create some of the most durable, shiny and colorful surfaces around. Its latest automotive coating technology, CeramiClear Clearcoat, is a topcoat that is nearly scratch resistant and is being deployed by the likes of Mercedes Benz.

Taking coatings technology a step further, PPG’s B1:B2 automotive paint technology eliminates a step in the coatings process and the need for separate paint booths and oven dryers, resulting in better paint jobs and noticeable energy savings for automakers around the world.

PPG’s lightweight coatings and sealants can significantly cut the weight of an aircraft, saving airlines fuel and money. For example, some aircraft can save up to 1,300 pounds alone by using PPG sealants.

Besides weight savings, PPG technology is making aircraft more comfortable for crew and passengers. Its electrochromatic ALTEOS interactive window systems reduce cabin cooling requirements while PPG’s cockpit windows help improve safety by reducing glare and repelling rainwater.

According to Kahle, color is core to PPG—especially when it comes to residential coatings. PPG products are sold under a vast number of retail names (such as Glidden and Olympic) through home centers, independent dealers and company-owned stores. PPG has developed a number of on-line tools, including the Voice of Color and ColorClix, to help customers find the right color for their home improvement and design projects.

From home use to industrial settings, it’s easy to see that PPG Industries’ innovations cover practically every aspect of our lives. Western Pennsylvania was the cradle for PPG and 130 years later remains a driving force in its innovation engine, making it a  perfect place for the region’s brightest minds to live out their dreams—just like Chuck Kahle.

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