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The New Impregnating Varnish Range


of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH

Dipl.-Ing. Michael Glomp


Application Engineering
Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH
Hamburg

Introduction
The future of impregnating varnishes was already in discussion at the 75th anniversary of
Beck Elektro-Isoliersysteme. The discussion at the time was based on the experience
gathered up to then with solvent-free electrical insulation impregnating agents and the
move towards preferring these to impregnating varnishes. It was predicted at the time
that insulating resins would gain increasing importance and today, 25 years later, that
forecast proves to be just as correct as the forecast that varnishes would not be com-
pletely displaced by resins. In fact, insulating varnishes give benefits compared with
solvent-free impregnating systems, making them indispensable in many applications and
giving them a firm position among insulating fluids.
Fig. 1 compares the sales of insulating varnishes and resins in the German market since
1969, showing the drop in the market share of insulating varnishes. It also shows the
limits of current varnish sales, in a range of 10 to 15%.

Impregnating varnishes Impregnating & trickle resins

Fig. 1 – Shares of insulating varnishes and resins as percentage of total impregnating agent sales
in Germany
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Continuous research work has made it possible for impregnating varnishes from Altana
Electrical Insulation not only to fulfil market requirements, but also to set standards in
new applications. This paper will give some fundamental insights into insulating varnish
technology, followed by presentation of the products in the new impregnating varnish
range of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH.

Requirements for modern electrical insulating varnishes


Electrical insulating varnishes as such are not constituent materials of the components
and assemblies. A better description of their function is to call them “enhancers of
electrical systems”. This characterisation emphasises the requirement not to assess
varnishes in isolation, but always to see them in the context of the other components
within the system as a whole. The quality with which they perform their functions in the
system is characterised by interaction between the electrical component and influences
from its environment.
The requirements for electrical insulating varnishes may be distinguished into
mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, commercial and environmental requirements.
Their weighting in the specific situation is dependent on what the user wants to achieve.

Mechanical
Thermal

Elmotherm Electrical

Chemical


Environmental
Commercial

Fig. 2 – Requirements for modern varnish systems

Due to the need for drying, the requirements are also distinguished into requirements for
the varnish in fluid form and requirements for the dried varnish coating.
From the viewpoint of the user, the varnish must first meet the basic requirements for
application and drying capability. Both of these demands are very much dependent on
the technical facilities available and the overall situation in production. Application capab-
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ility is only ensured if the performance of existing plant is sufficient for processing the
system and the characteristics of the workpieces to be impregnated are in harmony with
the varnish system.
It is important to maintain stability of the liquid varnish when in constant use, and to be
able to restore the specified processing tolerances by simple and practicable measures.
Repair shops often have large impregnating tanks and relatively low turnover, which
makes the requirement for high stability particularly important. Compared with insulating
resins, varnishes give clear benefits here in electrical insulation. Adjustment measures
rarely include more than measurement of viscosity, expressed in terms of run-out time
and possible addition of dilution agent.
Despite their description as electrical insulating varnish, the main function of impregnat-
ing varnish is not electrical insulation of current-carrying conductors. Their main function
is rather to fill voids and to provide mechanical reinforcement of the loose grouping of
conductors, even at high temperatures. Their bonding strength is the most important
yardstick for mechanical characteristics of the cured varnish. The methods set out in IEC
1033 and IEC 290 as thermo-mechanical long-term test permit direct comparison
between different varnishes in terms of their mechanical and electrical properties, in
combination with enamelled wires, and permit assessment of their suitability by means of
a practically relevant specimen shape.
The filling of voids not only gives mechanical strength, but also hinders or prevents
penetration of extraneous substances from the environment. This gives the component
improved resistance to chemical attack, to moisture and to abrasive media, thus
extending its service life.
Important environmental factors are the varnish components that are released on drying,
in particular the solvents contained in them. These can be fully assigned to the group of
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are subject to the VOC Directives specifying
the quantities that may occur in processing.
These requirements permit the definition of characteristics that can be used for
comparison between different varnishes. It is evident from the complexity of the
parameters in combination with heterogeneous requirements in application that it is not
possible to manufacture one universal varnish system. On the contrary, the best product
has to be selected depending on the specific requirements, and may need to be adapted
to the circumstances of a given application.

Classification of electrical insulation varnishes


The term “varnish” describes a group of coating materials based on organic binders and
solvents. Water based systems are an exception. Water as a solvent is not an organic
material. Nevertheless, such systems may include organic solvent enhancers. There are
various classification criteria for more precise distinction between the available systems.
The following criteria have proven appropriate for classification of electrical insulation
varnishes:
• Type of composition (binders and solvents);
• Film formation mechanism;
• Utilisation of the varnish system; and
• Application method.
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Basic considerations on composition of varnish systems


There are four essential components in consideration of the basic composition of
varnishes. Depending on the desired characteristics, these and other functional
substances determine the key functions in formulation of the varnish (Fig. 3).

Curing Catalysts/
Resin agent Solvent Varnish-specific Pigments
substances

Binders

Clear varnishes

Coloured varnishes

Fig. 3 – Components of electrical insulating varnishes

The resin is a polymer, and as such it is built up from a large number of individual
components. It is the major component of the varnish, and has a key influence on the
subsequent compound. The most widely used resins in modern varnish systems are
• Alkyd resins
• Polyester resins
• Polyester imide resins
• Epoxy resins.

Silicone-containing varnishes are used as special-purpose products for high-temperature


applications above 220°C. Apart from that, they have only minor importance as
impregnating and coating varnishes.
Resin and curing agent form the binder by means of a joint reaction. Together with
components of the additives used, they form the non-volatile part of the varnish. The
following are used as curing agents:
• Phenolic resins
• Melamine resins
• Blocked isocyanates
• Free isocyanates.
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These are polymers with relatively low molecular weight, in order to achieve a favourable
solids-to-viscosity ratio. Compared with the resin, the varnish contains only a small
quantity of curing agents. Mostly they account for less than 5%. Nevertheless, they are
an important component with a major influence on the subsequent properties of the
compound.
Addition of the solvent dilutes the high-viscosity resin to viscosities for use in practice.
But the most important function of the solvent is to inhibit undesired premature reaction of
resin and curing agent, so as to ensure proper processing capability. The solvent is
deposited on the functional groups of resin and curing agent with relatively loose physical
binding, separating the two reaction partners. It is only on drying, i.e. on complete
removal of the solvent from the liquid varnish, that resin and curing agent can become a
binder and thus a solid material.
The following are of practical relevance:
• Benzenes
• Aromatic-free benzenes
• Ester
• Water.

To avoid defined boiling points, compositions of different solvents are used in modern
impregnating varnishes, giving a certain boiling range. Boiling ranges give the benefit of
more uniform evaporation over a large temperature interval, and permit optimisation of
the surface quality on the component. Apart from the functions described in the liquid
varnish, solvents clean the component surface during impregnation and thus permit
better adhesion of the binder.
Water based varnish systems differ from conventional varnishes in that they contain
water as a dilution agent. As the binder and water are not miscible with one another,
water-based varnishes require a special structure. To make use of the benefits of water
as a solvent, there are three processes which are used in practice. One of these is the
use of hydrophilic solvent solubility promoters. These varnishes are characterised by a
high degree of stability. The disadvantage of this system is the health and safety
problems that may arise with the solubility promoter. A second approach is salt formation
of the resin, which is effected with use of amines. However, amines are also problematic
in terms of health and safety. The third method for use of water as a dilution agent is
dispersion or emulsification of the binder, which is characterised by completely
dispensing with any solubility promoter. The finely distributed binders form the inner
phase, and water forms the outer phase of the varnish. Additional stability is achieved by
adding emulsifiers. Film formation of the two system types is initiated by evaporation of
the outer phase, i.e. the water.
The virtual elimination of VOC components in water-based varnishes gives significant
benefits for environmental protection. But compared with organic solvents, water requires
extremely high evaporation enthalpy, and thus higher energy consumption in drying and
a two-stage curing process, particularly where good surface quality is needed.
An overview of the basic composition of impregnating and coating varnishes in the
product range is given in Tables 1 and 2 below.
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Table 1 – Impregnating varnishes

Description Resin Curing agent Solvent


Elmotherm 2130 Alkyd Phenol
Elmotherm 2340/70 Polyester Alkyd Water (solution
Elmotherm 2601 Polyester Isocyanate
Elmotherm 2800/30 Epoxy Phenol
Elmotherm FN 86 Polyester Melamine Aromatic-free
Elmotherm H 71 Polyester imide Isocyanate (latent) Esters, aromatics
Elmotherm UF 92 (N) Polyester imide Isocyanate (latent) Aromatic-free
Isonel 31 J Alkyd Phenol Aromatics
Isopoxy 433-37 A Epoxy Phenol
Isopoxy 800 Epoxy Phenol Water (dispersion)

Table 2 – Coating varnishes


Description Base Curing agent Solvent
Elmotherm 1020/30 Alkyd Atmospheric oxygen
Elmotherm 1031/25 Alkyd Atmospheric oxygen
Elmotherm 1033 CS Modified polyester Atmospheric oxygen
Elmotherm F 93 A + B Polyester imide Isocyanate (latent) Esters, aromatics
Elmotherm FS 190 Alkyd Atmospheric oxygen White spirits

Alkyd resins with phenolic curing agents are insensitive to external influences in
processing, and ensure good stability. They can be dissolved in large quantities, even in
simple solutions. Compared with other base resins, alkyd resins have weaknesses in
their thermal behaviour.
Varnishes based on unsaturated polyesters and polyester imides give the highest
thermal level. Solution of polyester based resins is very much more difficult compared
with alkyd resins. Particular attention must be given there to the composition of the
solvent mixture. In the two-component system with isocyanates as curing agents, they
show sensitive reaction to ingress of moisture. Inhibition of the curing agent may lead to
impairment of drying or to lower degrees of cross-linking. The single-component system
involves additional emissions in splitting off of the curing agent masking. Polyester and
polyester imide reins have greater resistance to chemicals and excellent thermo-
mechanical characteristics, making them the most important base in modern electrical
insulation varnishes.
The outstanding properties of epoxy and phenolic resin varnishes are their resistance to
refrigerants and their excellent adhesion on enamelled wire. Despite their comparatively
low solid content and their poor storage stability, they have been used with success for
many years in treatment of hermetically sealed units.
The above description shows the influence of resin and curing agent on the binder. But
the reaction speeds that are needed in practice can only be achieved by the addition of
catalysts, which are mostly metal compounds or acids. There are a large number of
further components in the varnish formula. These help to influence the properties in a
targeted manner, and are together described as additives. It is sufficient at this point to
mention flow-control agents, solubility promoters and colour pigments.
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Film formation mechanisms


Conversion of the liquid varnish to the cured compound is known as film formation or
drying. Basically, there are three film formation mechanisms:
• Physical drying
• Oxidative cross-linking with atmospheric oxygen as the curing agent
• Chemical cross-linking, or curing with special curing agents.

In purely physical drying, the film forming agent causes no change in material
composition. Resins in these systems contain only a few reactive groups, or groups with
low rate of reaction, and are not capable of cross-linking reaction. The reversible drying
of the varnish is effected by evaporation of the solvent at ambient temperature, or forced
at higher temperatures. The electrical properties of these varnishes are not comparable
with those of other systems, particularly under the influence of moisture. That is why
physically drying varnish systems are used only to a limited extent.
Varnish systems where the film formation mechanism includes atmospheric oxygen are
known as oxidative cross-linking systems. They initially dry physically by evaporation of
the solvents. In parallel to that, chemical cross-linking takes places as an oxidative
reaction, triggered by oxygen from the air. The resin is transformed from a gel condition
to a solid, non-sticky state. Chemical-oxidative cross-linking takes place at ambient
temperature over a very long period, until the final electrical and mechanical
characteristics are reached.
Chemically cross-linked varnishes are completely different from dissolved film forming
agents in the liquid varnish. On curing, the resin and the curing agent are linked to form a
high-molecular substance characterised by multi-dimensional cross-linking. Resistance to
chemical and mechanical influences is higher with a cross-linked coating. That is why
oxidative or chemical cross-linking systems have become established in practice versus
physically drying varnishes.

Applications of varnish systems


Varnish applications in the electrical insulation industry can best be distinguished by their
protective functions for electrical equipment. These include thermo-mechanical strength-
ening, electrical insulation, and protection against chemical and environmental influ-
ences.
The functions of impregnating varnishes include thermo-mechanical, electrical and
chemical protection of the component. They are applied by dipping the component in the
varnish, or less often by a trickling process.
Application of coating varnishes is different. Their function is not to strengthen the
windings, but to protect the component from external attack by aggressive media. They
are applied purely as a surface coating, and are characterised by outstanding film
forming properties.
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Application methods
Economic and technical criteria have to be considered in selection of application method
An overview of the characteristics of application methods for electrical insulation
varnishes is given in Table 3.
Table 3 – Comparison of application methods

Application method Advantages Disadvantages


Impregnating • Simple equipment technology • Not selective
(atmospheric or in vacuum)
• Almost complete impregnation • Evaporation rate in open
possible impregnating tanks
• Very short cycle times
possible
• Flexible in the event of
component changes
• Can be integrated in
automatic processes
Dip rolling • Small impregnating tank • Restricted flexibility due to
volumes different component sizes
• Almost complete impregnation • Not selective
possible
• Short cycle times possible
Spraying • Selective to a certain extent • For coatings only
• Reduced consumption • Limited automation capability
• Very clean application • Long cycle times needed
• Medium coating thicknesses • Complicated
Brushing • High selectivity • For coatings only
• Reduced consumption • Not automation capable
• Long cycle times needed
• Irregular application
• Complicated

The impregnating method is favourable in all aspects for impregnation and coating of
electrical components. It is also the most usual application method for coating varnishes.

Impregnation varnish range of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH


The combination of the ranges of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH and Rhenatech GmbH
has streamlined the product range, and resulted in a new naming concept. All
impregnating and coating varnishes based on alkyd, polyester, polyester imide and
epoxy resins will in future be included in the “Elmotherm” range.
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Table 4 – The new naming concept of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH

Description Chemical base


Elmotherm • Alkyd resin varnishes
• Phenolic resin varnishes
• Polyester resin varnishes
• Polyester imide resin varnishes
• Epoxy resin varnishes
Isopoxy • Epoxy phenolic resin varnishes
Isonel • Alkyd phenolic resin varnishes
Elmotherm coating varnishes • Various bases

The following tables show the varnishes of the product range in summary form,
describing their major characteristics.
The impregnating varnish range of Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH offers solutions for all
requirements. The most important products of this group are shown in Tables 5 and 6.
Table 5 – Elmotherm impregnating varnishes

Description Applications Special characteristics


FN 86 • Transformers • Free of aromatics and phenolics
• Traction motors • Very good chemical resistance
• Generators • Favourable temperature cycling
• Drives in the chemicals industry behaviour
• Marine propulsion • Little effort needed for drying
• UL listed
H 71 • Transformers • Good chemical resistance
• Generators • Good thermal stability
• Refrigeration plant • Very good mechanical strength
• Mining drive systems • UL listed
• Marine propulsion
UF 92 (N) • Transformers • Very good thermal and chemical
• Generators resistance
• Mining drive systems • Suitable for low-temperature
• Marine propulsion applications down to -77°C
• UL listed
2130 • Transformers • Good resistance to mineral oils and
• Generators moisture
• Universal drives • Elastic compound
2601 • Transformers • Very good bonding strength
• Generators • Good dielectric properties
• Electrical drives • Good resistance to chemicals
2800/30 • Compressor drives • Good bonding strength
• Drives in aggressive media • Flexible compound
• Very good chemical resistance
• Resistant to refrigerants
• UL system approval
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Impregnating varnishes of the Isopoxy range are suitable for use in hermetically sealed
units. Isopoxy 800 is also approved for hermetics by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Table 6 – Isopoxy impregnating resins

Description Applications Special characteristics


433-37 A • Drive units in refrigeration plant • Very good chemicals resistance
• Drives in the chemicals industry • Very good mechanical strength
• Standard motors • Short curing time
• UL system approval
800 • Electrical drives and compressors in • Water based dispersion
refrigeration plant
• Very good chemical resistance
• Drives in the chemicals industry
• Good resistance to refrigerants
• Standard motors
• Approved by UL for hermetic
applications
• UL system approval

Table 7 – Isonel impregnating varnishes

Description Applications Special characteristics


31 J • Transformers • Good chemical resistance
• Generators • Good temperature cycling strength
• Traction motors • Elastic compound
• Standard motors • UL system approval

To meet the requirements of the VOC Directive, Beck Electrical Insulation GmbH also
offers water-dilutable varnishes, which are different from the conventional systems.
Table 8 – Elmotherm water dilution insulating varnishes

Description Applications Special characteristics


2340/70 • Transformers • Low VOC content
• Electrical drives • UL system approval
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All coating varnishes in the product range are specially designed for good resistance to
chemicals, moisture and other aggressive media.
Table 9 – Elmotherm coating varnishes

Description Applications Special characteristics


F 93 A + B • All moving and stationary windings • For highest thermo-mechanical
stresses
• Suitable for equipment with thermal
class H
• 2 components
• Colourless or oxide-red colouring
FS 190 • All moving and stationary windings • Air drying
• Fast drying
• Colourless or oxide red colouring
1020/30 • All moving and stationary windings, • Air drying
especially in repair applications
• Colourless
• Tough/hard compound
1031/25 • All moving and stationary windings • Air drying
• Accelerated drying
• Flexible compound
• High bonding strength
• UL listed
1033 CS • All moving and stationary windings, • Spray varnish in spray can
especially in repair applications
• Fast drying
• Oxide-red colouring