Leader in the production of chemical auxiliaries for tanning and finishing leathers, reference supplier of the best Italian and foreign tanneries, GSC Group is also increasingly active in the automotive seg,ment. The abatement of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in leathers intended for car interior upholstery is one of the research fields that has seen the Veneto chemical-tanning group at the forefront for years, offering the market today an interesting product portfolio for finishing that can improve the leather performance and at the same time meet the stringent technical requirements of major car manufacturers, ensuring low VOC emissions. By aiming for the Zero Emissions goal, the research team has achieved important results.
One of the problems in the finishing phase is for example the spreading of the topcoat which without the help of solvents can be uneven and give rise to defects in the formation of the film, especially when polymeric opacifiers are used. GSC Group has managed to overcome this obstacle by optimising the application and levelling of its topcoat while keeping VOC emissions below 2%, thus obtaining excellent results even in dark colours. GSC’s R&D staff recently also developed a new 100% active matter opaque isocyanate crosslinker (CRX A 100), designed to replace current solvent crosslinkers in automotive leather finishing formulations. The result is supported by the development of BTX-free silicones with zero VOCs such as SYNTAL 3214 and SYNTAL 45 CONC. which help to achieve high wear resistance and SYNTAL 5336 which contributes to stick slip.The Venetian company’s proposal of innovative solutions also includes a range of polyurethane and acrylic resins that are easy to use in any application scenario that meet the stringent requirements of automotive brands.GSC Group’s environmental commitment was also confirmed by the European Life GOAST research project of which it was lead partner. In this research it was able to demonstrate the validity of an innovative alternative tanning system to chrome for the production of sustainable leathers.
Thanks to the strong investments in research, the Venetian group now appears to be in a good position to become the number one supplier of chemical products for automotive leather which are at the same time efficient and sustainable. To meet the demands of this specific market segment, GSC Group recently strengthened its “Automotive team” by integrating three new highly specialised international technical and commercial figures with a long experience in the specific sector.
We are talking about Daniela Matyk, Mark Chatwood and Steve Clarke. We asked them a few questions to understand the orientation of the automotive segment from various points of view.
What is the automotive leather market asking for today?
“In addition to products with low VOC emissions, today we look with interest at biodegradable leathers, which represent a particularly demanding technical challenge in terms of finishing due to the stringent technical requirements desired by car manufacturers. The market demand is also oriented towards increasingly green tanning agents, deriving from renewable sources other than food. More generally, we are working on all fronts that could be useful to lower the environmental footprint of the entire leather production chain, starting with the reduction of water consumption and waste”. The automotive industry has suffered a lot in the past two years due to the pandemic.
What predictions can be made for the future from your observatory?
“Mass production has suffered, it is true, but the high range has performed quite well. More than the pandemic, it was the semiconductor crisis and the disruption of the supply chain that had a strong negative impact on the sector. The pandemic has also shown inequalities in the distribution of profits; the ‘just in time’ revolution could last a long time, while competition as we knew it, does no longer exist and we do not know when we will get back to normal”.
Do you expect changes in demand?
“The focus is on high-end leathers. We believe that the large productions of China and Mexico will remain largely unchanged because they are well established. Some orders will perhaps return to Europe but global distribution is not expected to change significantly”.
Some car manufacturers have declared that they no longer want to use leather for the interior upholstery of cars, but we certainly cannot speak of sustainable choices. How do you counter this trend that strongly damages the leather image?
“Leather will remain the first choice for high-end cars. The truth will eventually prevail when the failure of alternative materials becomes evident. We will hear increasingly more often about problems/complaints related to the use of synthetics for car interiors and their negative environmental impact because they are more polluting and because they require more water and energy resources. We must all work together to identify fake news”.