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For those involved in applying pigmented coatings there are important differences to consider in the way zirconium interacts with the coatings and the way traditional resins behave.

The accompanying animation illustrates this very clearly. It demonstrates how resins film-form on the surface of coatings but zirconium stays where it’s put and reinforces the coating throughout the body of the coating.

The resin mechanism

Traditional resins are fully dispersed in the coating mix, but as heat is applied from above, the coating dries and the resin migrates to the surface where it crosslinks with itself forming a hydrophobic film on the surface of the coating. Because the individual resin particles have coalesced into a single entity the coating becomes water repellent - this can lead to printing problems such as ink refusal.

The zirconium mechanism

Zirconium works in a very different way. Zirconium does not migrate towards the surface as heat is applied, instead it stays in the body of the coating and crosslinks with binder molecules close by.
This different mechanism makes the coating water resistant not water repellent with a much less chance of ink refusal problems.

Ammonium Zirconium Carbonate (AZC)