Lacquer is a very generic term applied to a variety of coating systems. It indicates a surfacing system, where a film forming substance has been dissolved in or diluted with a solvent. On application the solvent evaporates leaving a thin film on the surface.
The lacquer, on evaporation of its solvents changes the phase from Liquid to Solid, but does not convert itself into different substance. Lacquer films are soluble in the (original) solvent. Lacquers are also thermoplastic (will soften with an increase in heat) materials. The film forming substances of lacquers are linear polymers high in polymer weight with good solvent releasing property. Such substances are often very hard and brittle, so require addition of plasticizers to achieve better adhesion, flexibility and durability of the gloss.
Commercially the term Lacquer is applied to Solvent-based Coating systems (against water-based systems) that offer hard, glossy and durable film. In this sense, there are Two basic varieties:
1 Thermoplastics type: Nitro cellulose, Acrylics, Chlorinated Rubber, Vinyls, Epoxy.
2 Thermosetting type: Acrylics, Epoxy Resins, Polyurethanes, Vinyls, Alkyd, Melamine.
Cellulose is the most widely occurring, a natural polymer, available in almost all plants. Primary sources of industrial cellulose are cotton fibres and wood. Cellulose is a polyhydric-alcohol, and forms esters with organic acids. It also forms reaction products with inorganic acids. These cellulosic derivatives used in production of various types of lacquers are classified as:
1. esters of inorganic acids -nitro cellulose
2. esters of organic acids -cellulose acetate
3. others -methyl and ethyl cellulose
Lacquers can be classified into two basic groups:
NC Lacquers and Acrylic or Plastic Lacquers.
Nitro Cellulose Lacquers
NC Lacquers consist of Nitro cellulose as the main raw material to which a variety of plasticizer and resins are added, to provide wide range of film properties. PLASTICIZERS increase elasticity and extensibility of the film. Commonly used Plasticizers are, blown-castor oil, dibutyl phthalate, dioctyl phthalate, dibutyl sebacate, butyl stearate, chlorinated diphenyls. Additions of RESINS increase gloss and adhesion of the film. The resins are coconut and castor oil alkyds, maleic modified ester gum, cyclohexanone (ketonic) resins, acrylic resins, toluene sulphonamide formaldehyde resins.
NC Lacquers are produced by dissolving or diluting lacquer and suitable plasticizers in a mix of solvents. The SOLVENTS act in three ways: Active solvents are (ethyl acetate, butyl acetate), Latent solvents (ethyl alcohol, butyl alcohol, diacetone alcohol), and Dilutents (toluene, xylene). A suitable mix of these basic three types of solvents is known as `Thinner‘. A very specific quality of Thinner is required for each application and weather condition.
NC Lacquers do not become yellow with ageing. It has no peeling problem. Lacquers provide very ‘water-white’ (no colouration or tinge) film. NC Lacquers are re-coatable and removable substances.
NC Lacquers are used on wood, metals, metals like gold, silver and copper, plastics, leather, paper, fabrics, as hair-fixers, and Nail-polishes. Lacquer is one of the best surface sealing material for wood products and so forms the primer coat for melamine, etc.
Acrylic or Plastic Lacquers
These materials are called Lacquers because the film is ‘water-white’. Acrylic lacquers of thermoplastic type are characterized by a transparent water white film, very good resistance to decolouration from temperature and UV light, good electrical properties, outdoor durability, excellent resistance to mineral oil-greases, resistance to chemical fumes, resistance to water based alkaline substances.
Acrylic lacquers convertible coating that is on drying covert to a different product, which is non-dissoluble and non-removable. These are used for: wood items, clear coating for brass, copper, and aluminium, as a top coat for final gloss and protection air-crafts, automobiles, toys, auto-parts, industrial components, consumer durables, TV cabinets. These are used as clear-invisible coating for exposed surfaces like bricks, stones and concrete. Acrylic lacquers with soluble dyes form transparent glass coatings. One of the major uses is for internal coatings of food and beverage cans.
Thermosetting Acrylics provide a hard and scratch proof coating, good colour retention, better water and detergent resistance, better gloss and chalking resistance.