Saudi Industrial Paint Company (Sipco), with its headquarters in Dammam, has continuous programmes of product development, which keep its divisions of decorative paints, protective coatings and industrial finishes at the forefront of their respective markets.

Some three years ago, its marketing department submitted a brief to the research and development (R&D) laboratory, which, whilst appearing simple, was in fact a formidable task.

The brief requested the development of a product that would be unique within the industry in Saudi Arabia. It had to be an alternative to existing materials for exteriors, such as paints, tiles, marble and stone, yet retain a naturalness favoured in the region. It had to be highly decorative, and appealing in appearance, have a long life with colour fastness throughout that life. Naturally, it had to be able to withstand the harshness of the Middle Eastern climate, whilst being easy to apply, and all at an affordable cost.

Within Sipco, there is a product development group consisting of marketing, R&D, sales and production. The whole group is totally involved from product concept, to the initial dispatch of the first batch of finished material.

The group undertook market evaluations, both in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, and included trips to the Far East in search of their unique product. Technology investigations and sourcing played a major role.

The product type started to take shape. Raw materials were sourced and formulation and application systems developed. Trials, modifications and re-trials were numerous, as were the testing procedures, including accelerated performance tests.

Third-party verification trials were satisfactorily completed and, with compete confidence, the product was ready for launch, some two-and-a-half years from conception.

Product literature mainly in the form of colour cards, and incorporating the actual product, showcased 16 specially selected colours, favouring the requirements of a Middle Eastern clientele. The weight of the initial batch of colour cards was a staggering 15,000 kg: more than sufficient to service an eager and enthusiastic market.

The research and development team fulfilled its brief and Stoneshield exterior coating become a part of the Sipco range.

Stoneshield has the elegance and beauty of natural stone in a coating. It uses granite granules, baked to 1,200 deg C, encapsulated in a pure acrylic resin, ensuring long life, colour fastness, natural beauty and extreme strength. In fact, tests show a strength superior to concrete, and no degradation under exposure to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) light.

A built-in flexibility allows Stoneshield to move freely with the expansion and contraction of all known building surfaces, and bridge gaps up to a width of 1.5 mm.

A long-life coating must have superior levels of adhesion, which, in the case of Stoneshield, is achieved through the use of a slightly textured, acrylic penetrating primer called Tex-Prime. Tex-Prime locks into the surface, whilst the slight texture provides a key for the Stoneshiled to establish a permanent grip.

It is recommended that Stoneshield be overcoated with Sipco's Polykote varnish, a satin finish two-component polyurethane, which assists in minimising dirt retention and makes for easy cleaning.

Stoneshield is resistant to water and chemicals, whilst offering superior anti-carbonation properties. It is easy to apply and its stone-like, multi-coloured natural beauty will camouflage undulating surfaces, giving elegance to any building.

Sipco's technical department provides full training in application, either at its headquarters in Dammam, branches in Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait and Dubai, or through agents in the GCC and Middle East countries.

Thus, for long-lasting natural beauty, one can rely on Stoneshield, which offers the elegance of stone in a coating.