Technology - Products, Technology - Products, Technology - Products

New Lexus Paint Inspired By A Butterfly

“Structural Blue” is the result of research into how technology can produce a finish that is deeper, more vibrant and “bluer” than anything seen before.

The Lexus research team’s inspiration for the new colour Structural Blue came from the American Morpho butterfly which is known for the deep, shimmering blue of its wings.

First presented on the Lexus LC grand tourer at the 2016 Geneva motor show, it has now been developed for production. Due to the intricate technologies and fine quality of the process, only two Structural Blue cars can be produced in a working day at the Lexus Motomachi factory, where the LC is produced.

The 15-year quest to develop Structural Blue was a collaboration between the company’s US and Japanese technical centres along with California-based VIAVI Solutions Inc., a provider of thin-film optical coatings and pigments.

Lexus said the creation of Structural Blue is an achievement that presented exceptional technical challenges. In the company’s search to create the new colour, the team studied the structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings to determine how a similar iridescent effect could be achieved with vehicle paint.

Despite their appearance, the wings are colourless. The blue seen by the human eye is created by light interference on the microscopic lattice surface structure of the butterfly’s wings.

Replicating such high luminance and colour saturation required unprecedented efforts to develop a new kind of multi-layered pigment. At first it seemed the challenge was simply too great; the desired quality could be secured only by using a pigment with 40 separate layers. But the team persevered, constantly improving the process until the effect could be achieved with just seven layers, making it practical for use on highly exclusive vehicles.

The pigment is used to produce a new paint in a production process taking eight months, including 12 production steps and 20 quality inspections. The paint is applied to the LC’s bodywork in a 15-micrometre layer between the primer and clear coats. Nano-structures – super-small flakes – in the paint generate iridescence, giving the impression of the colour constantly changing with the light.

Conventional pigment paints reflect less than 50 per cent of incoming light as a visible blue colour, but with Structural Blue the level is nearly 100 per cent. In total, 300g pigment with 300 billion pigment flakes are used for one LC.

LC models in Structural Blue will feature a cabin presented in the LC’s Breezy Blue colour combination, with a mid-blue semi-aniline leather for the upper door trims, steering wheel, instrument panel and centre armrest. This contrasts with white fine leather-accented seat upholstery and vivid orange for the shift lever surround and the draped Alcantara door panels. The headlining is also finished in Alcantara.

In Australia, Structural Blue will be offered in extremely limited numbers on the LC flagship from the first quarter of next year.