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Clear Coat Thickness and Paint Removal by Polishing


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#1 TOGWT

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 03:48 AM


Modern clear coat paint finishes are so good today that they lull people into thinking that vehicle paint has protection and shine when in reality there is not really much there, the clear coat that has a thickness of ~25.4 µ (micron). As a point of reference a sheet of copy paper is 89 µ.

A micron (µ) is a metric unit that equals one millionth of a meter, or 1/1000 of a millimetre. A micron is much smaller than a Mil. One (µ) micron is roughly 1/80th of the thickness of a human hair. There are 25.4 millimeters in an inch and a micron is 1/1000 of a millimetre. Using the micron (metric) measurement system gives you a much better idea of paint thickness as the numbers used are so much smaller.

There are two considerations; how much clear coat and how much ultra violet protection can be removed, they are not interchangeable. The following are the maximum allowable clear coat reductions the major USA car manufacturers will allow before the paint warranty becomes void; Chrysler- 0.5 Mil (12µ) Ford – 0.3 Mil (7.5 µ) GM – 0.5 Mil (12µ)
(Source - Automotive International)

Modern Isocyanate resins (clear coat ) finishes are so good today that they lull people into thinking that vehicle paint has protection and shine when in reality there is not really much there, the clear coat that has a thickness of ~25.4 µ (micron). As a point of reference a sheet of copy paper is 89 µ.

A micron (µ) is a metric unit that equals one millionth of a meter, or 1/1000 of a millimetre. A micron is much smaller than a Mil. A human hair is about 2 Mil (50 µ) thick and individual bacteria are 0.1 mil (2.5µ) in size. There are 25.4 millimeters in an inch and a micron is 1/1000 of a millimetre.

Using the micron (metric) measurement system gives you a much better idea of paint thickness as the numbers used are so much smaller. Most detailers are or should be aware of how thin clear coat paint is and it puzzles me why people over-polish paint causing it to fail prematurely

There are two considerations; how much clear coat and how much ultra violet protection can be removed, they are not interchangeable. The following are the maximum allowable clear coat reductions the major USA car manufacturers will allow before the paint warranty becomes void; Chrysler- 0.5 Mil (12µ) Ford – 0.3 Mil (7.5 µ) GM – 0.5 Mil (12µ) (Source - Automotive International) A single sheet of standard printer paper is ~ 7.5 µ ( 3 Mil) thick

The 0.2 Mil (0.5 µ) is the maximum paint that they are allowed to remove on the assembly line at the factory during their paint sanding and polishing process to remove dirt nibs. This number is based on testing carried out at both General Motors (GM) and Chrysler testing centres. Wet-sanding, compounding and polishing the amount of paint removed with a mild abrasive was ~ 0.1 mil (2.54 µ)

The clear coat provides gloss plus physical protection from the elements, including ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is in the upper level of a cured clear coat. Most car manufacturers will only allow ~ 25% of the clear-coat thickness to be removed without voiding the paint warranty and long-term durability problems becoming an issue. That means that if you started off with 50µ of clear coat (this will vary by vehicle manufacturer) you would only be able to remove <12µ without voiding the paint warranty and possibly having a re-paint (Note: this may vary by vehicle mfg).

Most light surface marring is ~1.27 µ (0 .05 Mils) a surface scratch that can catch your fingernail is ~1.01 µ (~ 0.04 Mils) Using a medium abrasive polish and a rotary polisher will remove approximately ~ 2.5 - 3µ (~ 0. 98 – 0.12 Mil) from the paint surface. To remove a scratch you need to level the paint to its lowest part, so if a scratch is 1 µ that’s the amount of paint (and UV protection) you need to remove to eliminate it. Note: 25.4 µ (micron) = 1 Mil

Using a medium abrasive polish and a rotary polisher will remove approximately 2.5 - 3µ (0. 1 Mil) from the paint surface, which is typically four passes at 1500-1800 RPM; however many variables such as polish/compound and speed / pressure used that may affect the paint removed)


PPG’s CeramiClear clear coat is the first automotive clear coat to use nano particle technology in the final coating applied to car bodies, protecting the colour coat while providing a durable, glossy appearance. With the help of the nano-technology developed at the beginning of the 1980s, scientists have been able to alter the molecular structure of the binding agent and integrate tiny, microscopic ceramic particles. These each have a diameter of less than 20 nanometers, which makes them tens of thousands times thinner than a human hair.

During the electrostatic paint application process, it is sprayed just like a Melamine or Silane 2K clear; the key is what happens during the cross linking or curing of the clear. The hard "ceramic" particles rise to the top, just as the ultra violet (UV) inhibitors do, and concentrate there and the binding agent particles float around freely at first in the liquid paint.


Base Coat Clear Coat – two stage paint; base (colour) coat and clear coat were adopted as an automotive industry standard in 19982, clear coat paint was originally used to protect metallic paints and provide depth of colour. BC_CC paint systems do not oxidize in the same way as single stage paint does, but they are subject to clear coat failure. They are applied over the primer surfacer and covered by the clear coat layer to protect it from the environment. There exist three main base coat systems in the paint shops of the automotive industry worldwide: medium solids (MS) high Solids (HS) Water-based (waterborne) (WB). North America predominantly uses HS, whereas water-based clear coat is the preferred technology in Europe

The main purposes of the solvent are to adjust the curing properties and viscosity of the paint. It is volatile and does not become part of the paint film. It also controls flow and application properties, and affects the stability of the paint while in liquid state. Its main function is as the carrier for the non volatile components

Density (or specific weight) -
different materials usually have different densities; so density is an important concept as less dense fluids float on more dense fluids if they do not mix (we have Archimedes to thank for this discovery) If the average density of an object is less than that of water, which is 1.000 g/ml, it will float in and if it is more than water's it will sink. Most organic solvents have a lower density ~0.8 g/ml than water, which means they are lighter and will form a separate layer on top of water

There is ultra violet (UV) protection all the way through the paint, but the majority of it migrates to the top as the paint of cross-links along with the thinner solvents and particulates, the paint is also less dense (softer) below this level. The amount of migration will vary with the formulation of the paint, and which ultra violet protection chemical is used. Therefore removing clear coat ultra violet protection is not a linear process; by removing a small percentage of the clear coat paint tends to remove a larger percentage of the ultra violet (UV) inhibitors.

With a clear coat thickness of ~49µ and knowing that most of the ultra violet protection is in the top 50% (~24.5µ); therefore, limiting UV protection removal to ~25 % means that approximately < 6.125µ can e removed before the ultra violet protection is compromised. Once you remove too much clear coat you'll have no paint UV protection other than what you apply with a LSP (providing it contains ultra violet inhibitors).

Be cognizant that ultra violet protection removal is not a liner process; and the first paint renovation will remove the most UV protection, therefore the above are probably conservative estimates. Two variables need to be established; how much clear coat is available and how much clear coat can be removed without compromising the paint systems ultra violet protection, its long-term durability and / or the paint warranty

A paint thickness reading of > 100 µ (Microns) is reasonably safe for polishing. 80-90 µ, I wouldn't use anything stronger than< 2000 grit polish, 70-80 µ <2500 grit polish and under 70 µ use a glaze. The readings tend to vary from panel to panel and are thinner towards the panel edges and any seams.

• 200µ + can be expected on older cars that have been hand painted or a re-painted vehicle
• 100 – 200µ - average paint thickness
• 80 – 100 µ - thin paint
• < 80 µ - very thin paint


Paint Removed by Polish or Compound

Using a medium abrasive polish and a rotary polisher will remove approximately 2.5 - 3µ (0. 1 Mil) from the paint surface, which is typically four passes at 1500-1800 RPM; however many variables such as polish/compound and speed / pressure used and etc that may affect the amount of paint and ultra violet protection removed

If you have reservations about the amount of paint surface removed or the amount of paint remaining the use of a paint thickness gauge (PTG) is arbitrary. There comes a point when you must judge wither removing a scratch will compromise the clear coat and / or UV protection, if so you’ll have to ‘live’ with the imperfection
.
Paint thickness will often depend upon the OEM paint specification, which can vary by vehicle assembly plant. It’s interesting to note that painters must now demonstrate proficiency with an electronic paint thickness gauge in order to become certified to perform paint refinish warranty work for General Motors Corp. (GM) vehicles



These numbers are offered as a guide only, as there are too many variables to provide any more than an approximation.

Notes:

1. The elongation (elasticity) of paint enables it to move in tandem with the metal as it expands and contracts due to environmental temperature fluctuations; for this reason note the paint temperature when taking readings as they can vary in accordance to the surface temperature.
2. Measure your paint thickness in a very cold environment, then measure it when the paint surface is hot to the touch, you may find it varies by as much as a 2µ (microns)


Paint Insurance

The newer coatings available like synthetic polymers are a cross-linking thermoplastic, its cross-linking process attaches the polymer with covalent bond that becomes part of the surface of the material it is attached to, which in effect becomes a secondary protection for the clear coat, in fact a relatively inexpensive (when compared to repainting) renewable sacrificial coating.

Silica (AQuartz) or reactive resin hydrophobic coatings (OPT Opti-Coat™); think paint sealant that has greater durability and scratch resistance (9H) something that also provides a self-cleaning protection, with a durability on a timescale measured in years rather than months, these coatings add a measurable protection of 2-3 µ microns to the clear coat.

Opti-Coat™ is not a nano particle; it is rather a pre-polymer that cross links and forms a continuous film on the surfaces it is applied to, similar to a single component isocyanate that forms a clear coat finish. It is very resistant to alkaline car wash concentrates as used by car wash spas and tunnel wash companies

The coating is very low maintenance and requires cleaning less often than conventional paint protection products. Provided the surface is kept free of abrasive grime, bird excrement or other acids, the coating should last for around two years. Coating longevity will be improved if the paint surface is cleaned on a regular basis, and only with either normal pH car care concentrate shampoo or a citrus degreaser.


After Care

To enable a vehicle to maintain its value original paint that is in good condition is an asset. People are keeping their vehicles an average of nearly nine years. Making you client aware of how to wash and dry a paint surface while inflicting the least amount of damage will help to avoid the need to overly polish the clear coat to remove scratches and the subsequent loss of both clear coat and ultra violet paint protection. Providing this kind of value added-value services will enhance your reputation and enable you to become the source for both ethical service and high quality work. As with the successful sale of any product, educating the customer is the key.



http://www.autopia.o...ml?daysprune=45



[Edited: 12.08 Paint measurements added]

Edited by TOGWT, 08 December 2011 - 09:43 AM.

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#2 JohnAkko

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 06:30 AM

Good post ... Thanks for the info

#3 RaskyR1

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 06:34 AM

Jon,

I was curious about the UV in the clear coat when I saw this posted on MOL a while back. Looking for clarification I reached out to Dr. G of Optimum to get his opinion on the matter, mainly the part of the UV protection being in the upper part of the clear coat, as I feel this is something we need to be certain on. Below was his reply...



Chad,

UV absorbers are distributed throughout the clearcoat paint. They are not just on the top 1-2 microns. The main effect of the UV absorbers is to block UV light from oxidizing the pigments and colorants. Removing more than 0.2 mils can cause clearcoat failure, not because of the removal of UV absorbers, but because most factory clears only have 1.5 mils of clearcoat (to reduce paint costs) which is just over the minimum film thickness for the paint to be stable. With refinish paint where there is more clearcoat, you can sand and polish more paint off without any issues.

With ceramiclear type paints on the other hand, fumed silica does migrate to the top of the paint and removing the top 0.2 mils will remove the hardness and the clearcoat will become very soft. I think most people confuse the fumed silica migration to the surface with the UV absorbers migrating to surface but you have to remember that UV absorbers are in the molecular range (0.0000000001 nm) and fumed silica is in the nano range (0.1 nm).

As for waxes, the statement that they do not offer UV protection is correct. That is why we add the same UV blockers that is in clearcoat paint to Optimum Car Wax to add UV protection to paint. Let me know if this helps. Thank you.

Best Regards,
David Ghodoussi, CEO
Optimum Polymer Technologies, Inc.



#4 TOGWT

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 01:36 AM

I don’t profess to understand 1.5 Mil thicknesses [...the minimum film thickness for the paint to be stable] Perhaps someone with auto paint experience can explain this for me (RonK, et al)

But the removal of 0.3 Mil does concur with most major OEM recommendations

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#5 Ron Ketcham

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 06:41 AM

The good doctor is not addressing one thing on the clearcoat and it's migration of the UV blockers.
Yes, they are even thoughout the clear when applied, however, as part of the curing process, the majority of the UV Blockers end up in the top .5 mil (1/2 of a mil).
This is why many often start to observe a "softening" of the clear when they abrade over .5 mil off either by sanding or buffing.
Simply put, the clear is not as "dense", IE "hard" below .5 mil of the clear-part of the curing process, however is what creates that high gloss of the clearcoat.
This also why the vehicle manufacturers (based upon the technical input of the paint vendors to them) insist in their technical information publications, that "no more than .3 mil may be removed or reapplication of the clearcoat must be performed", as the paint engineers are aware of the migration of the UV blockers during the curing process of the clear.
Once that "density" is violated, premature failure of the clearcoat is most often the result within a few months.
Grumpy

#6 Mush-Mouth

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 05:02 AM

Great info here. How many times can you lightly polish a vehicle before jeapordizing the clear? I know there are tons of variable with this, but say with light polishing to remove light wash marring. No deep scratches.
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#7 Accumulator

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 07:56 AM

... the vehicle manufacturers (based upon the technical input of the paint vendors to them) insist in their technical information publications, that "no more than .3 mil may be removed"...


Huh, I thought it was 0.6 mil :think: And I would've gotten that number from you ;) Anyhow...

.. or reapplication of the clearcoat must be performed..


What about that reclearing? It is as simple as reshooting the panel with only clear (no basecoat)?
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#8 Peachstate Detail LLC

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 07:57 AM

At least 80% of the readings that I have taken with my Advanced 200 PTG show the clear makes up approx 2/3 of the total thickness. This of course only covers composite, plastic or other non-metal panels. So if I show 5 mils total, 3 mils of that is usually clear. As always YMMV!

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#9 Accumulator

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 08:09 AM

At least 80% of the readings that I have taken with my Advanced 200 PTG...


I'm feeling PTG-envy ;)
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#10 Ron Ketcham

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 08:51 AM

Not recommended.
Check the websites of DuPont, PPG, etc and their tech advice for this.
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#11 Accumulator

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 08:53 AM

Not recommended.
Check the websites of DuPont, PPG, etc and their tech advice for this.
Grumpy


That's Re the reclearing, right?
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#12 Ron Ketcham

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 08:55 AM

At one time, on the old Automotive International/Valugard web site, there was a series of photos with verbage of a fender that the Ford Body/Paint Technical Center did for us.
It showed each layer, starting with the Ecoat, then surface primer, base coat and clear coat.
Each photo had a ProMotor Car ETG taking a reading of the build up of the layers.
The clearcoat is NOT 2/3rds of the total film build on a correctly finished OEM automotive panel.
It may be possible to contact Beth at AI and she can email the set of photos if you would care to see this.
Grumpy

#13 TOGWT

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 10:17 AM

Great info here. How many times can you lightly polish a vehicle before jeapordizing the clear? I know there are tons of variable with this, but say with light polishing to remove light wash marring. No deep scratches.


Removing clear coat ultra violet protection is not a linear process; by removing a small percentage of the clear coat paint tends to remove a larger percentage of UV inhibitors. So once you remove too much clear coat you'll have no paint UV protection other than what you apply with a LSP

Using a medium abrasive polish and a rotary polisher will remove approximately 3µ, from the paint surface (typically 4 passes at 1500-1800 RPM) in contrast an orbital polisher with an LC Black pad and a mild abrasive polish at seed # 5 will remove 1 µ, but there are many variables such as the abrasive grade of the polish or compound and speed and pressure used, the density (hardness) of the paint and etc that may affect the amount of paint removed)

These numbers should be checked with a paint thickness gauge (PTG) There comes a point when you must judge wither removing a scratch will compromise the clear coat and if so you’ll have to ‘live’ with the imperfection.

A paint thickness reading of 100 µ (Microns) is reasonably safe for polishing. 80-90 µ, I wouldn't use anything stronger than > 2000 grit polish, 70-80 µ > 2500 grit polish and under 70 µ I would recommend the use of a glaze. The readings tend to vary from panel to panel and are thinner towards the panel edges.
If you have reservations about the amount of paint surface removed or the amount of paint coating remaining the use of a paint thickness gauge (PTG) is arbitrary
These numbers are offered as a guide only, as there are too many variables to provide any more than an approximation.

Note: 1 µ (micron) is 1/1000th of a millimetre or 0.0393700787 Mil or 0.001 of an inch

• 200µ + can be expected on older cars that have been hand painted or a re-painted vehicle
• 100 – 200µ 4 – 8 mil - normal paint thickness
• 80 – 100 µ - 3 – 4 mils, thin paint
• 80 µ < - less than 3 mil, very thin paint








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#14 Accumulator

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 09:35 AM

Mush-Mouth- Nobody can really say what you can get away with, too many variables. How thick was your clear to begin with, how much do you remove when correcting "light wash marring, how much UV exposure does the vehicle get, etc. etc.

But just FWIW, I've never had any problems from removing light marring as needed, even on vehicles that I kept for a long, long time. But that's just me. Gets back to my opinion that if you're polishing (as in, performing any correction) more than once a year then you're taking chances, and I'd hate to polish that often.
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#15 Peachstate Detail LLC

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 04:06 PM

At one time, on the old Automotive International/Valugard web site, there was a series of photos with verbage of a fender that the Ford Body/Paint Technical Center did for us.
It showed each layer, starting with the Ecoat, then surface primer, base coat and clear coat.
Each photo had a ProMotor Car ETG taking a reading of the build up of the layers.
The clearcoat is NOT 2/3rds of the total film build on a correctly finished OEM automotive panel.
It may be possible to contact Beth at AI and she can email the set of photos if you would care to see this.
Grumpy


Interesting. I guess my $2600 PTG could be wrong. :help:

Ron, I would love to see the pics. Always willing to learn.

Just to clarify the folks from the Ford paint tech center painted and measured each layer or the factory "robots" painted and each layer was measured?

Very nice place that Ford has:

http://www.motorcraf...t_Spring_09.pdf

Thanks!

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#16 Ron Ketcham

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 05:29 PM

Not in plant application, was done by Gerry Bonnani and John Hughes (John is no longer at the Tech Center) to the mil specs that an assembly plant is to provide for the application of the paint system.
The panel is off a E-150 van, replacement part.
It is not on the Ford website of MotorCraft.
For those who wish to see the photos and verbage, I suggest you contact bethb@autoint.com and request that she send you the set of photos.
Grumpy

#17 David Fermani

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 06:18 PM

Ron - Is this the plant in Ypsilanti/Inkster right off of Michigan Ave? We (Travelers Ins) use to go there for Chief training for several years in the mid to late 00's. Those guys used to have a ball doing all the experimental refinishing. Seemed like a great hideout from the Corporate guys.

As far as doing a "light polishing to remove wash enduced marring", I'd take a guess that you could do it several dozen times before even thinking about harming the clear. This being done with a final polish (85rd) and a finishing pad. Microscopic leveling IMO.

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#18 Bill D

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 06:22 PM

Hey, I have Travelers car insurance :xyxthumbs
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#19 David Fermani

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 06:36 PM

Then you have Santa Claus in your corner! :biggrin2:

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#20 Bill D

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 06:38 PM

:woot: :rockon1:
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