Focus on wood coatings: Asia Pacific region leads growing sales and innovation in wood coatings

18 June 2024
Kathryn Wortley, Keith Nuthall, Andreia Nogueira and Ahmad Pathoni report for PPCJ on the reasons behind rising sales of wood coatings in the world’s largest coatings market

The Asia Pacific region is a key driver of the world’s wood coatings market, accounting for 44.7% of worldwide sales in 2022, according to US-based Allied Market Research [1]. These in total are significant and expanding, with USA and India-based market researcher Fact.MR projecting financial year 2022 global sales of US$9.7bn, rising to US$17.7bn by 2032 [2]. Said Allied Market Research: “Wood has long been a preferred material for furniture and interior decor in many Asian cultures due to its natural beauty and warmth. As disposable incomes rise, consumers are willing to invest in wooden furniture, creating a sustained demand for coatings to preserve and beautify these products.” Increasing urbanisation has fuelled home renovation and interior decoration, it added.

The Philippines gets the tropical treatment

The Philippines is a case in point. Its tropical maritime climate is characterised by relatively elevated temperatures, high humidity and abundant rainfall, so new wood coatings that are durable and water-resistant while also supporting a green approach to the environment are a game-changer, according to industry experts.

To meet market needs, Amsterdam, Netherlands-based paint and performance coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel, in recent years, has undergone extensive research and development to “tropicalise” its Sadolin Paints line for the Philippine climate, according to wood coating distributor WoodCareTech Marketing Philippines. Sadolin’s wood preserver can be applied to bare timber to provide a base coat and protects wood from insects, moulds and deterioration caused by extreme weather.

Meanwhile, Cavite province-based Asvesti’s limewash paint, which can be applied directly to surfaces painted with matte or semi-matte water-based paint, allows surfaces to breathe and prevents moisture buildup, making it well-suited for wood or cement walls (and add a sealer for exteriors), said the company. This non-toxic coating also absorbs carbon dioxide, improving air quality and lessening ecological impacts.

“As technology continues to advance, the future of waterproof paint [in the Philippines] looks promising. Innovations in formulations may lead to even more eco-friendly options, further reducing environmental impact,” said Asvesti. “Additionally, advancements in colour retention and UV resistance are likely to enhance the aesthetic appeal of waterproof coatings, making them an attractive choice for both functional and decorative purposes.” [3]


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Indonesia looks to bio-based resin

Wood coating innovation is also being sharpened in Indonesia. Researchers at Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional – BRIN) are exploring the use of keruing tree oil residue as a natural, eco-friendly wood coating resin. This is sourced from ‘dipterocarpus’ trees found throughout south east Asia.

Agency researchers have released a paper ‘Oleoresin Keruing: A Natural Coating from Kalimantan Forest’, which explores the potential of this resin as a sustainable alternative for industrial coatings [4]. Oleoresin is milky white, opaque, sticky and viscous.

Akbar Hanif Dawam, head of BRIN’s Biomass and Bioproducts Research Centre, highlighted the chemical components of keruing oil, including β-bisabolene and compounds from the phthalic acid group, that make it suitable for wood treatment. He said Indonesia’s rich biosphere offered significant potential for developing wood coating products: “We have several products that can be tested from forestry products,” he said.

The need for effective wood coating protection is all too clear in humid Indonesia, where environmental conditions can reduce wood’s resistance to various bacteria and fungi, especially increasingly unpredictable fluctuations that degrade wood. Traditionally, local communities have used keruing oleoresin as a coating and putty for boats, torches, wound medicine, and diuretic. BRIN is collaborating with Indonesian manufacturer and exporter of furniture and home decoration CV Nugroho Aneka Piranti to research and develop keruing resin as a natural wood coating.

Akbar further explained that BRIN is undertaking biorefinery research utilising a wide range of sustainable materials, helping biomass and bioproduct research run optimally, including in collaboration with industry. The goal is sourcing resins, plastics and polymers, that can be used to make coatings, said Akbar: “We hope there are several variants that can be optimised. Hopefully through this partnership we can develop products,” he said.


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Singapore focuses on fire-resistance

Wood coating innovation is also being explored in neighbouring Singapore, in a time when rising temperatures worsened by climate change is increasing global demand for greater fire resistance in buildings. In addition, considering the “popularity of mass engineered timber” over the last decade due to lower costs and faster construction, despite its flammability, since when untreated timber or wood can burn and combust easily, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in Singapore, launched in 2022 an invisible and fireproof coating that “allows for natural beauty of timber to shine” while protecting it from flames, according to a university note [5].

NTU explained that the coating is 0.075 millimetres thick, but “when heated up by a hot flame, a series of complex chemical reactions happens, causing the coating to become a char that expands to more than 30 times its original thickness”. This translucent coating has aesthetic potential given it could replace “fire-retardant panels (typically, gypsum and magnesia boards) or timber [having] to be coated with paint-like fire-retardant coatings”, it said. Competing products are “either extremely prohibitive in cost or are unable to pass international standards required for industry use”, said the university. The coating costs around Singapore dollars SG$2 (US$1.50) per square metre coverage, and the university expects it to be in high demand “as timber buildings need to meet specific fire codes for buildings set by regulators”.

Commercial partners exploring work with NTU on this project include Singapore-based Venturer Timberwork [6], whose Managing Director Kevin Hill said: “If you want to bolster [timber’s] fire-retardant properties, then these sorts of solutions are really important…” He added that such coatings could strengthen timber’s “physical properties in order to displace more carbon-producing products”.

That includes increasing demand for wooden furniture, driven especially by urbanisation in Asia, especially in China, said Fact.MR, where government house-building programmes have allied with the expansion of major retailers, such as IKEA, in the country to boost demand. The market researcher predicted compound annual growth rates (CAGR) for wood coatings sales between 2022 and 2023 of 6.1% in China, predicting that 25% of global demand would be found in east Asia.

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