Kürten, Germany - Colour and speciality lacquers paste manufacturer ISL sees the 75th anniversary of the invention of polyurethane an opportunity to look back over its own more than 40-year history, which it says is closely linked with this innovative material.
Soon after the company - a family business at the time - was established in Cologne in 1968, it began developing individual shades for polyurethane products. Inspired by the colourful fashions of the 1970s, ISL says it was the first to offer rapid development of colour pastes to suit customer requirements, focusing mainly on the footwear industry, with its constantly changing fashion trends.
As further applications for polyurethane developed, ISL's product range also broadened, as the company established itself in the sector as a colour specialist. The products that were mainly black to start with, such as steering wheels in the automotive sector or armrests for furniture, shifted more towards bolder, coloured products by the late 1980s. This was a trend that ISL was able to react to by providing a rapid service, developing shades directly at the customer's end.
ISL met the constantly changing demands from the sector and extended its product range with innovative solutions.
Adaptations in technical equipment (for example changing from low to high-pressure systems), together with mixing-head and colour-dispensing technology, demanded more and more advanced developments in colour pastes so as to improve manufacturing processes for the customers.
New technologies such as cast skin, direct skinning or SkinForm called for tailor-made colour products. IMC lacquer technology made it possible to use aromatic cast skins in vehicle interiors. To achieve this, ISL offered the appropriate combination of colouring and additional IMC lacquering. Then as now, ISL was available to put its comprehensive understanding of manufacturing processes in polyurethane production to work on a wide range of projects for its customers.
Environmental aspects have been a constant factor for innovation in the company's many years in business: for instance, the switch to environmentally friendly blowing agents in the 1990s set new challenges for ISL.
It countered the greater whitening effect caused by water-blown foams by producing products with greater colouring power. Loss of skin formation meant that the moulded PU surfaces no longer satisfied tough demands in terms of abrasion and UV resistance. Specially developed IMC lacquers enabled ISL to offer a solution for surface protection that met the increased demands of the automobile industry, while also opening up new design opportunities in terms of both the range of colour shades and haptics (feel).
The variety offered by polyurethane as a material demands a variety of colouring solutions. Consumers are becoming bolder and are starting to prefer coloured accessories and interiors, since colours have a powerful effect on people. Designers use them deliberately to increase product and component attractiveness. As a manufacturer of high-quality colour products for plastics and lacquers, ISL is actively involved in this area, as it has been for over 40 years now.