BASF has announced its investment to build its first regional Automotive Application Centre in Asia Pacific, to be located at the BASF Innovation Campus Asia Pacific (Shanghai), China. Start of operations is planned for the end of 2018, pending relevant approvals by authorities.

As an integrated part of BASF’s existing research and development (R&D) facilities for coatings solutions within the Innovation Campus, the EUR33.7m (US$37.9m) investment will include an automotive application centre – equipped with a spray booth for electrostatic applications, a physical testing lab, and the 3-D robot – as well as process catalyst research and development laboratories. These facilities, occupying a combined floor space of 5,000 square metres, are designed to enable customer oriented R&D activities, and perform an accurate simulation of OEM paint shops.

With 48.6m light vehicle units produced in 2016, Asia Pacific is by far the world’s largest automotive market, covering 52% of global production. China is already the world’s largest car producer, with 27m light vehicle units produced in 2016. “This investment is a significant milestone in our effort to strengthen our R&D footprint in Asia Pacific and improve our proximity to customers in the fastest growing region for our automotive coatings solutions,” said Dirk Bremm, president, Coatings division, BASF. “With this new automotive application centre, we aim not only to continue our successful investment in automotive OEM coatings in China, but also to address long-term competitiveness in this important automotive market.”

“Our R&D capabilities in Asia Pacific will be further strengthened by integrating the new facilities and teams at the Innovation Campus in Shanghai,” said Harald Lauke, president, Advanced Materials and Systems Research and Regional Research Representative for Asia Pacific, BASF. “Technology leadership is a key enabler to support growth in China and to increase our competitiveness in the long run.”

In addition to the new facilities for automotive coatings solutions, this investment also includes the new Process Catalyst R&D Centre, focusing on the development of new process catalyst to meet specific needs in Asia. With strong research competencies in catalyst preparation, scaling up and performance evaluation, this R&D Centre will further strengthen the collaboration with partners in the region, and provide support to BASF’s world-scale process catalyst manufacturing site which is under construction in Caojing, Shanghai.

The 3-D robot can simulate nearly any situation at a paint line anywhere in the world, which enables the new centre to optimise application processes and products. It can apply the automotive coatings not only on horizontal and vertical surfaces, but also on three-dimensional objects, for instance, car doors and bumpers. The 3-D robot will allow BASF to develop new products for its automotive customers, and will also provide design solutions for OEM products as well as new developments specifically to the automotive coatings industry. The application unit of the robot consists of control software which is specifically designed and developed only for BASF. The 3-D robot will be in housed in a large state-of-the-art spray booth and will have its own oven room.