An interesting new set of colors using a leafing aluminum flake has recently emerged and created some excitement in the refinishing community. One of the most popular colors is Mazda 46G, Machine Grey Metallic. It is worth noting that this is not the only color using this flake, Mercedes has used the same thing in their Alubeam Metallic for a few years. Many manufacturers have developed special procedures for the application of this aluminum flake, so let’s look at some of those recommendations.
46G is a multi-step translucent color in that it requires a specific ground coat be applied and sometimes blended out before applying the flake. 46G requires a black groundcoat, which most technicians will find unusual for a translucent color. The top or mid coat, in this case, is a dark, transparent coating that contains a high amount of aluminum flake. This flake is smaller and smoother than most metallics, which is why it’s application is a bit different. It was described to me by a color-lab tech in terms of aluminum foil. If you took your standard metallic flake it would be like spraying on a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil, it wouldn’t make a large difference in how it was orientated. With this flake, it’s like spraying while it still laying as a flat sheet so it needs to be orientated correctly.
Most manufacturers tend to all make the same recommendation with sanding. It is generally agreed that a finer than normal scratch is required for finishing, usually something like P1000 rather than something like P600. This gives us the optimal surface to apply the flake uniform.
All manufacturers seem to be on the same page with the application and blending out of the black ground coat, which can be either a basecoat or sealer.
Orientation Coat / Clear Coat
So this is where the recommendations seem to go a bit sideways. Some manufacturers are recommending a clear orientation coat be applied next, then allowed to dry, and then paint is applied as normal. Some procedures are instead calling for the application of a 2 part clearcoat, which then needs to be dried and sanded back down flat. This would add a considerable amount of time to a paint job.
The application of the flake has some ranges. Some manufacturers are suggesting a smaller tip size or drier application, while some suggest applying like any other basecoat. Most seem to be suggesting the effect/drop coat is key to creating a uniform look free of mottling. Some companies suggest an X pattern to achieve this, some do not make these specifications, but many note that it may take a few more effect coats than normal to get this color to look right.
One recommendation made on this color is to apply a light coat of clear or grip coat to create a barrier before applying your next two. This is to prevent the flake from shifting and giving off a blotchy look. Many other companies make no such recommendations.
I have seen this color applied like any other color without an issue, it does tend to want to mottle and the importance of the fine prep and effect coats do prove to be very important. Have a look here as we take on this color for the first time:
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