Is There a Future for Self-Healing Automotive Glass?

Though self-healing automotive glass is in a very early stage of development, NanoMarkets forecast a lot of market potential for such a product. 

“[I]t is important to recognize that the terms ‘self-healing’ or ‘self-repairing’ glass rather overstates what can be expected from such glass,” writes Lawrence Gasman, a principal analyst at NanoMarkets in the company’s report called “Smart Glass Opportunities in the Automotive Industry.”

“The idea here is not that glass that has, for example, been shattered in some accident, will magically repair itself. Rather, the idea is that scratches in the glass will self-heal, producing better aesthetics, safer driving (through clearer windows) and perhaps putting off the need for replacing a windshield for some time,” he writes.

Lawrence lists some reasons behind his company’s prediction that self-healing glass could be a viable product in the market in the future:

—Some self-healing paints are already on the market for automotive bodies;

—Some early self-healing glass products have been developed for cell-phone displays; and

—Self-healing windows, especially windshields, can help reduce the cost of vehicle ownership and could be priced as a premium product.

“There are good reasons why such a product might sell. Aesthetics is one reason, vehicle owners don’t like having cracked mirrors and windshields and may not want to pay for replacing them if they are minimally damaged; exactly the kind of situation in which self-healing glass could make a difference,” Lawrence writes in the report.

The company pointed to two key ways self-healing glass coating are being developed:

—Autonomic self healing materials, which are able to trigger a self-healing mechanism autonomously, without the need for external intervention; and

—Non-autonomic self-healing systems that must be “told” by an operator to begin healing. Basically, the operator must expose the material to a stimulus, such as an electric field, to trigger the self-healing process.

“Self-healing materials are getting the attention of firms that have the resources to make products appear on the market, albeit not for automotive applications,” according to the report. “It is quite possible, NanoMarkets believes, that some of this work will eventually spill over into the world of automotive glass.”

Some of the key players in the development of self-healing materials are Bayer, 3M, PPG, BASF and Dow Chemical. Nissan has launched a self-repair coating on a consumer product with its Scratch Shield, though Bayer MaterialScience has a similar product. NTT DoCoMo is putting Scratch Shield on its phones in the Japanese market with the help of Advanced Soft Materials, a private company.

“[A] coating-type of glass that would heal small cracks, scratches and so on may be very commercially attractive if it actually does the job in an effective way. And as our estimates suggest, quite large revenues can be generated from self-healing coatings just assuming modest penetrations, but once again, it seems unlikely that penetrations will increase until late in the forecast (2021); the technology just isn’t up to it yet,” Lawrence writes in the report.

So how much money does NanaMarkets forecast such an offering could bring? By 2018, it predicts more than $50 million. By 2019, this figure jumps to more than $100 million. By 2020, NanoMarkets predicts this figure could hit $200 million. And by 2021, the company forecasts the self-healing automotive glass market could be worth $300 million.

In addition to reviewing other trends, NanoMarkets reports the companies to watch in the smart-windows market include 3M, Gentez, NSG Pilkington, RFI, Saint-Gobain and Switch Materials.

For more information on the report, click here.

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