Butterfly-inspired iridescent Structural Blue paint appears first on Lexus LC 500

Article by Christian A., on October 11, 2017

For the past 15 years, Lexus has been conducting a research into butterfly wings. And this study resulted in a special paint job from the Japanese automaker. It is so complicated that the paint alone requires 12 steps and 20 quality inspections. We will first see this on the LC 500 Structural Blue Edition, that creates an iridescent look on the grand tourer.

The company was inspired by the Morpho butterfly, which gave them this particular shade of blue. Lexus says that unlike conventional finishes where the paint reflects just under 50 percent of the pigments, this shade reflects almost 100 percent. The tiny pigments let the vehicle produce an ever changing shade of blue. The only downside is that this is not apparent in photographs, which is why you cannot really appreciate it in these photos.

When Lexus first came up with this shade, they had to use 40 layers of paint to let it produce this effect. However, after years of study, they were able to reduce this down to only 7 layers - now making it more feasible for production models.

Also check: 2018 Lexus LC 500h boasts impressive fuel economy rating

Seven may not sound that many, but the process is still complicated. And the company is only limited to making two of these examples each day. So you will have to wait a little longer if you request for this particular shade.

The LC 500 and 500h are now available in the European market with the unique paint. Apart from the special paint, the package comes with a set of 21-inch wheels and carbon fiber door sill plates. To match the exterior, the interior will have a Breezy Blue leather upholstery that covers some parts of the cabin like the steering wheel, upper door trim, center armrest and instrument panel. To give it some contrast, the seats will be covered in white hides, while there will be Vivid Orange leather bits on the gear shift and the door panels. To keep it looking upscale, the headliner gets an Alcantara finish.

The Structural Blue edition may come to the United States sometime soon, but this has not been confirmed yet and Lexus has made no announcement.

If looks don’t really matter to you because you prefer having a more powerful vehicle, rumours say that there will soon be a Lexus LC 500 F. If this is true, we will probably see the model at the Tokyo Motor Show by the end of October. This is probably going to be equipped with a 4.0 liter biturbo V8 that produces about 600 horsepower (447 kilowatts).

Press Release


15-year research project sees Lexus use the structure of a butterfly’s wings to develop ground-breaking new vehicle paint technology

Exclusive LC Structural Blue Edition shimmers with an dazzling, iridescent new shade of blue and takes vehicle colour to a new level

Process takes eight months, 12 production steps and more than 20 quality inspections, with 300 billion nano-structure pigment flakes applied to every special LC

“When a butterfly in America flaps its wings…”

The traditional result, according to “Butterfly Theory”, is a tornado on the other side of the world; but for Lexus it is a car which stands out from anything else on the road.

It’s called Structural Blue and it’s much more than simply a new choice on a colour chart. The result of Lexus’s painstaking advanced technology research is a finish that is deeper, more lustrous and more “blue” than anything seen before.

First presented on Lexus’s acclaimed LC grand tourer in the spotlight of the Geneva motor show, it created an instant sensation. Now it has been developed for production, adding extra elements of exclusivity and hand-finished quality to Lexus’ sensuously designed coupe.

The striking new colour is being made available for the first time on a new, special version of the LC, the LC Structural Blue Edition. Offered in strictly limited numbers, these cars will be the choice of those who recognise and value the interaction of science and the highest standards of Lexus Takumi craftsmanship.

Inspired by nature and the Morpho butterfly

The 15 year quest to develop Structural Blue saw a collaboration between the company’s Tec Centres in both Ann Arbor, MI, USA and in Japan, together with VIAVI Solutions Inc, a leading provider of thin film optical coatings and pigments based in CA, USA.

In their intensive search to create the new colour, the team drew inspiration from the Morpho butterfly. Native to North and South America, this insect is renowned for the deep, shimmering blue of its wings. But, in fact, the wings are colourless. The blue seen by the human eye is created by light interference on the microscopic lattice surface structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings.

Replicating this effect led the team to combine an entirely new kind of multi-layered pigment with experiments with the basic principles of the way light interacts with our eyes.

At first it seemed the challenge was simply too great: the desired quality could only be secured using a pigment with no less than 40 separate layers. But the team persevered, constantly improving the process until the effect could be created with just a seven-layer structure. This made it practical for use in the production of cars, albeit highly exclusive ones like the Structural Blue LC500 and 500h.

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 of pigment with 300 billion pigment flakes is used for every one of the special LCs.

Such is the fine quality of the process, only two Structural Blue cars can be produced in a working day at Lexus’ Motomachi factory in Japan, the high-technology home of the LC.

Given the effect, like that of the butterfly wings which inspired it, is designed to work on the eye rather than on a camera lens, it is only when the Structural Blue paint is seen ‘in the flesh’ that the amazing effect becomes clear.

LC Structural Blue Edition

The exquisite quality of the paintwork is matched by a superior equipment specification for the new LC Structural Blue Edition.

Available in both V8-powered LC 500 and full self-charging hybrid LC 500h versions, it is equipped with 21-inch forged alloy wheels to perfectly complement the sensuous styling of the coupe bodywork. The exclusivity is also reflected in the fitting of carbon fibre scuff plates.

The cabin is 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 with contrasting white fine leather seat upholstery and vivid orange for the shift lever surround and the draped Alcantara door panels. The headlining is also finished in Alcantara.

Other key features include Lexus’ Climate Concierge to maintain perfect cabin temperature and air quality, Lexus Premium Navigation, Lexus Safety System + and 12-speaker Pioneer sound system.

The LC Structural Blue Edition is available to order now.

Source: Lexus

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