Magic-Paint™


5-10 minute read.


Magic-Paint™ is a very special innovation. The finish looks like a regular paint or powder coat, but is based on 100% natural pigments in a cellulose and mineral binder. It's basically made from wood and clay 🪴.  

 

 

It’s especially relevant for anyone working on BREEAM, WELL, LEED or SKA certified projects because it’s VOC-free, plastic-free and environmentally benign.

❌ No harmful chemistry

❌ No microplastics  


We developed Magic-Paint™ for specifiers and projects that need sustainable lighting with a conventional looking surface finish and colour. It's good for low-wear, interior projects, but not suitable for high-humidity or applications that require significant levels of handling or cleaning. Stone-Rumbled™️, which has an even smaller environmental footprint, is our alternative high-durability option.


 

Closed-loop Circular Economy:

The natural ingredients in Magic-Paint™ have revolutionary technical characteristics

✔️ Removing it is easy, inexpensive and energy efficient
✔️ No extra chemicals or heat are required
✔️ All material and processes are benign for humans and the environment
✔️ No limit to the number of times it can be removed / reapplied


This is closed-loop Circular Economy, it’s the cornerstone of our 'closed loop' reuse program. 'Closed loop' means that any Factorylux product can (and should) be returned to our own factory to be disassembled and reprocessed into 'new' components. This methodology removes the cost, energy, pollution and efficiency failures associated with traditional 'open loop' recycling.

 

Closed-loop Circular Economy - explained

 

The reusable bottle schemes operated by some brewers and milk producers (specific bottles return to specific producers, often for a deposit) are examples of closed loops. Connecting manufacturers directly to their own waste is a very simple idea. It incentivises them to work out how to make less of it and reuse what's left more efficiently. 

Manufacturers have unique insight, ingenuity and resources, closed loops ensure these get applied where they're needed the most - solving the waste crisis, instead of just making more of it. 

 

Open-loop Circular Economy - explained

 

‘Open loops’, such as WEEE, work differently They're often promoted as 'Circular Economy' but in reality they function more like regular, ie. linear, waste processes. A small per-kilo levy is applied on new products. This is redistributed to 3rd party companies who collect as much waste as possible and convert what they can back into raw materials.

High-value materials that are easy to recover (eg. steel) fare better than low-value plastics, adhesives and the like, but no materials achieve anywhere near a 100% recovery rate.

Keeping materials
 'in use' (closed loops) will always be infinitely more sustainable than this. Factorylux exists to prove that open loop methodology can work for architectural lighting and Magic-Paint™ is part of how we do that. 



 

 

What’s so bad about regular paint and power coatings?

Paint is everywhere, it’s easy to not think about it at all. Wood, metal, concrete and most other substrates in the built environment tend to be painted. It’s so common, things that are not painted look and feel a bit naked. From walls and ceilings to appliances and furniture, the application of surface colour is an aesthetic habit that became a trillion dollar concern. 

 

 

Now take a look at paint labels in your local DIY store. You'll likely see a dizzying cocktail of chemicals and health warnings, but these are mild compared to the industrial paints and powder coatings used by most lighting manufacturers. These are even more poisonous, more carcinogenic, more linked to serious neurological conditions and more harmful to the environment.

 

Warning label that isocyanates in paint are the biggest cause of workplace asthma



Isocyanates, for example, are used to produce polyurethane polymers (liquid plastic) in industrial coatings. They’re also the single biggest source of UK work-place asthma, affecting thousands of technicians a year in the UK alone.

The upsides of these chemicals are huge. Better adhesion, durability, resistance to abrasion and temperature, deep rich colours, glossy finishes, faster curing times. Of course there’s a case for using them on materials where oxidisation is a problem (such as rust on exterior iron and steel) but using them on interior manufactured products (such as architectural lighting) is unnecessary at best and criminally short-sighted at worst.

 

Ingredients found in industrial paint & powder coatings:

acetone, ammonia, antimony, arsenic, benzene, borates, cadmium, carbamates, cerium, cobalt, copper, ePa + latex, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, glycols, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride, nickel, phenol, quaternary ammonium com- pounds, toluene, trimellitic anhydride, triglycidyl isocyanates, xylene, zirconium.

Effects they are known to cause in humans:

allergies, anemia, asthma, bone marrow damage, cancer, cardiovascular disease, colour vision loss, confusion, death, dermatitis, excessive bleeding, fatigue, headaches, heart complications, immune system, impaired memory, irregular menstrual periods, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, leukemia, light- headedness, loss of appetite, lung cancer, lung disease, memory loss, nausea, organ damage, ovaries, skin allergy, sleepiness, tiredness, unconsciousness, visual disorders, vomiting, weakness, hearing loss.


The whole product lifecycle

This toxic chemistry can affect anyone who comes into contact during the whole product lifecycle, not just workers who apply it at the beginning.

VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) are used to transfer pigments onto a surface because they dry more quickly than water. They're carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate into the air at room temperature, even long after a light fitting has been installed. When VOCs evaporate, the chemicals are released (‘off-gassing’ or ‘out-gassing’) which can be inhaled. You’ll know about VOC’s and their relationship with end-users if you've worked on projects using next-generation building codes like BREEAM, WELL, LEED and SKA.

The terrible footprint of paint and powder coatings is an uncomfortable truth that, for cultural reasons beyond the scope of this article, is allowed to live in plain sight. The chemistry is scary, but not a surprise. Most people think about it on some level, often when applying or removing paint for a DIY project.

What’s less well known is how regular coatings are also terrible for the environment, for example, they’re so ubiquitous and contain such high quantities of the wrong kinds of plastics that Swiss scientists behind one major report ('Plastic Paints the Environment', Paruta et al 2021) have highlighted their potential as the single biggest source of ocean microplastics.

Magic-Paint™️ speaks to this growing awareness of product chemistry and the harm it can cause. 

 

Closed-loop Circular Economy

When paint is applied to a substrate, it creates a composite (two or more materials, not easily separated). This is the nemesis of closed loop Circular Economy because ‘used’ painted products invariably show signs of general wear, tear, scratches, UV discolouration and so on. It results in the value of the product being reduced, often to less than zero. The cost of making a new version is less than the cost of reprocessing them.

Landfill or incineration?

The coating on any regular end-of-life product is mostly destined for landfill or incineration - directly or via 'open loop' processes like 'WEEE' which try to recover higher value materials before sending what’s left to landfill or incineration. If any metals that are recovered, the coatings are incinerated in the recovery process.

Like any other matter, paint cannot 'disappear', it can only either remain itself, or become something else. At the end of the recycling process, paint enters the environment either as smoke gasses or a solid that leaches into the earth or ocean. It really is that simple (and grim).


Second-user

‘Second user’ programmes do offer an alternative to landfill (such as our ‘Worn Lighting’ for pre-Magic-Paint™ Factorylux products). They're good and important but they’re not closed-loop Circular Economy because they're not viable at scale and they're not infinitely repeatable.


Paint removal

In theory, paint can be removed, but if you've ever tried this, you know the reality is different. Paint is designed to be difficult or even impossible to remove, whatever the substrate.

Even if you could remove the paint, what then? Whatever is removed, plus whatever is used to remove it (eg. paint stripper) must also be disposed of. Paint manufacturers don’t want it back (they know what's in it) the only options are still landfill or incineration.

How does Magic-Paint™ work?

Magic-Paint™ is a three stage system:

1 - Surface preparation

Getting Magic-Paint™ to form a durable bond with a substrate requires meticulous preparation. Surfaces are blasted with natural media (aluminium oxide) in a stream of compressed air. The microscopically pitted surface is cleaned with alcohol. The process is infinitely repeatable. All waste produced is natural and non-toxic.

2 - Application

Components are fixed to a highly controllable turntable with holding jigs. The object is rotated at a relatively low speed. Multiple fine layers of a liquid Magic-Paint™ 'mist' are applied using a HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) system (similar to what you see in a vehicle body shop) moving on up/down or left/right axis.

3 - Curing

Once all the paint layers have been applied, the surface is fully cured which, due to the natural ingredients, can take up to two weeks. ‘Cross cut’ and ‘scrape / pull-off’ tests are used to measure the adhesion and durability of cured Magic-Paint™.
 

What does Magic-Paint™ replace?

We invested more than 10 years researching and testing more or less every possible surface finish from powder coating and regular paints, right through to electroplates, electrophoretics, microplasma oxidation and even carbon nanotubes. Magic-Paint™ outperforms all of them on closed-loop Circular Economy, that's why we call it magic.

Conclusion

Magic-Paint™ is not really magic, it’s just a better, more equitable compromise between the immovable limitations of science.

Developing the technology needed to deliver closed-loop Circular Economy is achievable. Changing perceptions is more difficult. We absolutely believe government regulation is the only way to ensure Circular Economy issues are addressed at start of the product life cycle, not the end.

Regular paint and powder coatings are engrained as a quick, easy, cheap route to surface perfection, but they’re based on false accounting. In reality, a high percentage of the work and cost is back loaded on whoever has to unpick this toxic baggage at product end-of-life. Without regulation, the trade-off between current convenience versus future cost will always lead to bad choices. 

Get in touch if you'd like to know about our CPD program for architects, designers and building engineers.

 

 



The essays:

 

1 - Introduction 

  • What's it all about

2 - Closed-loop Circular Economy 

  • The how and why of our manufacturing methodology.

3 - Stone-Rumbled™ 

  • The most sustainable surface finish ever - explained.

4 - Make-Unmake™ 

  • Single-materials are what make a closed-loop possible.

5 - Magic-Packaging™ 

  • Measure everything that leaves a factory, not just the product.

6 - Magic-Paint™ (you are here!)

  • Don't read this if you want to continue using regular paint.

7 - Factorylux Mission

  • Why we exist. Where we are going.