Lexus has launched a new colour called Structural Blue – after spending a staggering 15 years developing the paint technology behind it. But it won’t be coming to high-volume Lexus any time soon: painting cars with it is so complex, only two Structural Blue cars a day can be made.
The firm has been working for the past decade and a half with a specialist company in California to invent the new paint. VIAVI Solutions Inc is an expert in thin-film optical coatings, and has helped Lexus take the Structural Blue colour into production.
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Originally shown as a concept, the first iteration of the colour was made up of no fewer than 40 layers. The two companies reduced this down to seven layers, which are applied in a 12-step process that involves a mighty 20 individual quality inspections. Hence the limited daily production volume out of Lexus’ Motomachi, Japan factory.
It’s launching on special edition LC Structural Blue editions.
A butterfly inspired it, says Lexus. The Morpho butterfly has, at least to the human eye, deep and shimmering blue wings – although they’re actually colourless: a lattice on the surface of the wings distorts light to make them appear blue.
To replicate this, Lexus applies paint containing ultra-fine nano-structures in 15-micrometre layers. Normal metallic paint pigments reflect barely 50 percent of visible blue light: the ones in the new Structural Blue colour reflect almost 100 percent. Each car carries 300 grammes of paint pigment: within this like 300 billion pigment flakes…
But if you’re thinking that, actually, it doesn’t look all that impressive in the images, rest assured: Lexus adds that “it is designed to work on the eye rather than on a camera lens”. We’ll thus have to take the firm’s word for it that its 15-year labour was not in vain.