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Color-Changing Coatings For Metal Wall Panels

By Shawn Zuver, DesignandBuildwithMetal.com

Lately I've been noticing an increasing amount of vehicles, typically collectible older cars and pickups but sometimes recent models, which have the ability to change colors as they drive past. It's a fascinating sensation to see a red Camaro suddenly morph to purple and then aqua, and then red again. Timothy Leary would probably have been impressed.

I found out online that these specialized auto paints, which are catching the eyes of people around the world, are offered by a number of suppliers and are typically applied over the top of a solid-color base. Depending on the amount of light, the color of the vehicle changes. I'd imagine this causes some interesting conversations when setting up a first meeting: "Just look for the green...um yellow...or possibly white...car."

In case you aren't already aware of it, you may be pleased to learn that something similar can be accomplished with metal wall panels by selecting paint finishes that allow colors to change depending on the angle of the sun or shadows that may come into play. It's amazing how the same building can demonstrate dramatically different looks depending on where a person is standing, the position of the sun, and the amount of cloud cover.

Color-changing technology has been used for a number of years in the metal design community through paints and resins offered by suppliers like Valspar, PPGBeckers and others. Here on DesignandBuildwithMetal.com, you can find several projects that feature color-changingcolor-shifting coatings that were selected by the building designers. These projects include high-end resorts, government buildings, airport terminals, residential towers and other facilities with innovative designs.

Is this color-changing coating technology for metal panels a passing trend or will it become a timeless design element? It' anybody's guess, but I believe that something this impactful will always have a place in the arsenal of building designers. The color changes I've seen are very pleasing to the eye, have the ability to blend well with surroundings and offer the incredible advantage of changing a building's appearance from moment to moment, without the need of renovation. There's a lot to like about color-changing metal panels for buildings.

Now I'd like to go back to the color-changing cars. I also found that auto artists are using thermochromic paints (please note that I'm deliberately avoiding any attempt at describing the science behind any of this). These paints allow different colors, and sometimes elaborate artwork, to be hidden so that they can only been seen when the vehicle's "normal" color is splashed with water. For example, German artist Rene Turrek created a purple Lamborghini that pays tribute to Marvel's Captain America via artwork that's only visible when water touches the car's sheet metal. If you haven't seen this yet, it's worth an internet search. The effect is stunning.

I understand that thermochromic technology is also used in building glazing applications, so here's my big question: How long it will be until we see technology like this used on metal wall panels? What could grab attention quicker than a sleek wall of flat aluminum composite material panels (ACM) in maybe a silver or steel-blue finish that, every time it rains, remarkably flips to a larger-than-life mural, inspiring quote or tasteful marketing message?

My guess is that it may already have been done somewhere. If that's correct, please send me a photo. I'd love to see it, and I'll be sure to add it to this article.

Shawn Zuver is editorial/content director for DesignandBuildwithMetal.com. He has been covering the metal construction industry, including residential and non-residential construction, since 1985. To contact Shawn, email shawnz@designandbuildwithmetal.com.

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