We recently installed a powder coating system in our facility to have more control over the powder coating process many of our customers require. By bringing the service in-house, we can save time and costs associated with outsourcing and reduce the risk of parts being damaged in transit. When faced with the decision to paint or powder coat their products, manufacturers should understand that while there are many benefits to powder coating, there are some limitations.
What is powder coating?
Powder coating is a dry coating process used on metal parts. When done correctly by experienced professionals, powder coating will have a durable finish. Several steps must be followed to get the strong, durable coating associated with it.
Components must be properly pretreated for the powder coating to adhere to the substrate. One of the main reasons powder-coated products peel or flake is poor adhesion. If there is rust, cutting dross, or dirt and oils on the part, the powder will adhere to these contaminants instead of the substrate, leading to peeling and flaking. Some companies sandblast parts to prepare them, but if there is moisture and oils in the air from the sandblaster, you risk impregnating that onto the substrate.
At Cameron, we prefer iron phosphate pretreatment for steel and acid etching for aluminum and magnesium. Both pretreatment processes result in strong adhesion and consistent quality. Once pretreated, the part goes into an oven to remove any residual moisture. Once cooled, any threaded holes or other areas that shouldn’t be coated are masked off.
After pretreatment and masking, the part goes into the powder coating booth. The powder coating manufacturer offers a variety of colors and formulations that contain a mixture of resin, pigments, curing agents, and other additives depending on the powder’s intended characteristics (UV protection, rust inhibitor, high heat, etc.). The coating is applied electrostatically. The powder is negatively charged as it comes out of the spray gun and is drawn to the grounded part.
Once the coating is applied, it must be cured. Curing time and temperature is critical for a successful coating. The temperature is not based on the oven temperature but on the part temperature. Thinner pieces will come up to the temperature faster than thicker pieces. Fortunately, powder coating has a 100 percent overbake ability, meaning the time can essentially be doubled without damaging the finish. So if a product has varying thicknesses, it is better to err on the side of caution and base the timing on the thickest component. However, the powder coater has to be mindful of over curing. Overcoming a powder-coated part can lead to a more brittle surface and discoloration; it also wastes resources and drives up costs.
Is powder coating better than painting?
While the benefits of powder coating are impressive, powder coating is different from paint, and each has its usefulness. A correctly cured powder-coated finish is stronger and more flexible than paint, providing a durable, long-lasting finish. However, some items can’t be powder coated. If the part needs a very thin coating, it might be hard to achieve with powder coating. Also, if the part can’t be heated, then painting will be preferred. Some customers have internal requirements for painting as the preferred method.
We have extensive experience with in-house painting and work with each customer to find the best coating solution for their application.
What are the Top Benefits of Powder Coating?
Now that you understand what powder coating is and how it compares to paint, several benefits should be considered when deciding which type of finish to use.
Powder coating comes in about any imaginable color and can provide an evenly applied, flawless finish that is difficult to achieve with wet paint. However, if you want wrinkled, textured, or other effects, that can be done with powder coating, too. The powder coating choices available are vast.
At Cameron, we use Tiger DryLac® Products. One of the reasons we chose Tiger is that their colors are based on the RAL color system, which standardizes colors so that colors always match. However, we can support any brand our customer prefers.
Powder coating provides a highly durable surface that resists chipping and cracking when properly applied. The chemical bonds created during the process create a bond that can last for years. Powder coatings are available with UV protectors, corrosion inhibitors, and other additives to provide the additional protection needed in harsh environments.
When you work with Cameron, we’ll ensure we understand your application and any environment it may encounter to provide the best powder coating solution. We want to ensure your coating is long-lasting a durable.
One of the benefits powder coatings has over paint involves the environmental aspect. Powder coating has negligible volatile organic carbons (VOCs), which have been tied to adverse health effects and damage to the ozone layer. However, this is not true for many industrial wet paints. As wet paint cures and ages, it releases VOC into the air. The solvents used for cleaning up after painting can also be harmful. Powder coating is considered non-toxic as it doesn’t release VOCs and can be safely used on products indoors. Overspray of powder is minimal and can easily be swept up. It is then cured, making it inert, before being disposed of.
Powder coating is a cost-effective option for many products. First, the cost of powder is considerably cheaper than that of wet paint. The finish is durable and won’t need to be refinished as often as a painted surface may. And finally, the cure time is much faster, which can be beneficial if parts are needed quickly.
Trust Cameron With Your Powder Coating Needs
Whether your project requires custom metal fabrication, machining, welding, finishing, mechanical or electrical engineering, or installation services, we have it all under one roof. When it comes to finishing your metal parts, we will take the time to learn about them and the environment they will encounter to present the best finishing solution.