Powder coating offers an eco-friendly solution for fighting corrosion of a variety of surfaces while providing a durable and aesthetically-pleasing look. Currently used in 10 percent of all industrial finishing applications, powder coating is used in a variety of industries, becoming North America’s fastest growing technology for adding finishes to products. Due to the continued advances in the technology behind powder coating supplies, it will soon become the most dependable method for creating both protective and decorative finishes.
So why are so many companies and individuals opting to add powder coating to their products for their finishing needs? Here at our powder coating shop, Columbia Coatings, where we provide a vast assortment of powder coating supplies for businesses and individuals, we want to demonstrate some of the multitude of advantages that powder coating has to offer.
Let’s start off by defining exactly what powder coating consists of.
What Is Powder Coating?
Powder coating is a dry finishing process where free-flowing, thermoplastic or thermoset powder material — rather than a liquid suspension — is applied to a surface, melted, and then allowed to dry and harden into a protective outer coating.
In most cases, powder coating is applied via electrostatic spray deposition (ESD) onto an electrically grounded metal substrate. Once the powder coating has been applied to every surface of a product or part, it is then heat cured in an oven until the powder melts together.
The alternative to this powder coating application method is to dip the preheated parts into a powder material solution within a fluidized bed. Upon contact with the heated surface, the powder melts and fuses to the surface, forming a smooth, hard finish upon cooling and drying.
Powder Coating Is More Durable
Powder coating provides businesses, consumers, and entire industries with a long-lasting, economical, and most importantly, durable finishing solution. Powder coating is significantly more resistant to scratches, chipping, fading, and wear compared to the other finishing applications available. The color remains vibrant and bright for years longer than your standard finishing products and the surface can withstand wear and corrosion even the toughest environments.
Powder Coating Is More Environmentally Safe
Not only does powder coating provide an exquisite finish, but it is also exceptionally lower impact on the environment when compared to liquid paint finishes, which consist of solvents that contain pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Powder coating gives you peace of mind that you are using a finishing product that is not nearly as detrimental to the air, allowing finishers to no longer purchase and maintain expensive pollution control equipment.
Some of the other environmental advantages of powder coatings include less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, no hazardous waste, and no more need for the use of primer before the coating application. The absence of primer is especially beneficial when powder coating aluminum products, as aluminum primer often contains chrome — a toxic metal that has carcinogenic properties.
Powder Coating Is More Affordable
By eliminating VOCs from your projects as well as reducing waste, you will save money on your powder coating projects in the long run while also remaining in compliance with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency regulations. You will also speed up your workflow by opting for powder coating, decreasing your production times so you can get finished products out the door faster.
Powder Coating Is More Efficient
Powder coating can be applied in a much quicker manner than liquid coatings in most cases. This is because powder coatings are composed fully of solid coating material, while liquid coatings contain only a small percentage of solid material. This means that producing a coat of specific thickness can be done in fewer passes of powder than liquid — sometimes even in one quick pass. This efficiency not only decreases the turnaround time for a finished product, but it also saves on the amount of coating material required and the energy costs of curing.
Compared to liquid coatings, powder coatings require a much shorter curing, processing, and drying time. Liquid coatings usually require several hours of drying without heat, followed by roughly another hour with heat applied before they are sufficiently cured. This leads to them usually needing to be left to dry overnight prior to being packed for shipment. On the other hand, powder coatings can be fully cured in an average of ten minutes, decreasing your production time substantially so that you can have products fully assembled, packaged, and shipped much more efficiently.
Powder Coating Offers More Variety
One of the biggest benefits of powder coating is that the possibilities are truly endless, especially when you order yours from powder coating shops like ours at Columbia Coatings. We offer nearly an unlimited selection of colors, styles, finishes, and textures — glossy, high-gloss, flat, fluorescent, clear, candies, hammer toned, iridescent, glitter, and wrinkle finishes just to name a few. You can mix and match your ideal color with a specific finish to get the exact look you want for your products. Powder coating can also be easily applied to a variety of surface materials, including metals, plastics, glass, and medium density fiberboard (MDF).
Powder Coating Provides Consistent Results
By using powder coating guns to apply finishes through electrostatic spray deposition (ESD), you can apply an even and consistent layer of coating, ensuring that every area of every product will receive an optimal thickness with next to no variability.
Powder Coating Provides Optimal Film Thickness
When you use a liquid coating for your surfaces, it can be extremely difficult to achieve an optimal film thickness without running into drips, sags, or runs. With powder coating, you can set your powder coating gun to the optimal output setting to achieve your desired thickness and be assured an accurate and even thickness in one single pass without the problems that are inevitably present with liquid coatings.
Disadvantages Of Powder Coating
While powder coating certainly has its advantages for use in many finishing applications, it does have some downsides where using liquid coatings might still be a more practical solution. These include:
- The range of suitable materials
- Difficulty producing even, thin coatings
- Lead times for custom coatings and color change
- Longer and more costly drying/curing for large parts
- Greater start-up costs
While they can be used on plastics, glass, and certain high-density fiberboard, powder coatings are primarily used for metal materials, such as steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and brass. The range of materials that powder coating can be applied to is limited due to the fact that they must be heat cured. Many forms of plastic and other materials cannot be subjected to the levels of heat (350 – 425 degrees Fahrenheit) required for proper curation without melting, burning, or deforming the product.
Thin Film Coatings
While the powder coating process is superb for achieving smooth, even coatings in many thicknesses, it can be difficult to achieve this result with very thin coatings (less than 6 millimeters).
Custom Coating Materials And Color Swapping
The color of powder coating supplies is determined by the plastics that are ground in order to create the powder material, which can make custom color jobs less cost-effective for small batch coating needs. Additionally, while powder coating colors cover a very wide spectrum, it is not possible to mix different powder coating colors together to create new ones, as each formulation is custom-made in order to exhibit specific physical and mechanical attributes. This means in order to mix two colors, they must be applied separately rather than mixing them together beforehand, increasing turnaround time on completed parts and projects.
Curing and Drying Large Parts
In general, powder coatings require a significantly shorter amount of time to cure, process, and dry than liquid coatings. This is not the case for larger products, however, as they can take a much longer time to be heat-cured and require a substantial amount of energy in the process. This is because powder coatings depend on the entirety of the part being sufficiently heated so that the surface temperature melts and binds the coating to the part, which can be difficult to achieve with bulky parts.
Setting up a powder coating equipment operation and investing in powder coating supplies is certainly a long-term investment. It can certainly be cost effective due to the durability of powder coatings, shortened processing times, and the myriad of other benefits that they provide. With that being said, the initial start-up costs involved with powder coating are much more significant when compared to their liquid coating counterparts.
When setting up a liquid coating operation, all that is really required is a spray gun and a spray area (along with pollution control equipment for larger projects). Powder coating workstations, however, require an entire powder coating kit complete with a spray gun, powder coating spray booth, and most importantly, a curing oven to complete the process. A powder coating oven is an investment that adds a substantial amount to the start-up cost, but if you plan on completing many powder coating projects for years to come, it is a worthwhile one.
While powder coating offers a viable alternative to conventional liquid coating methods with a variety of potential benefits, there are certainly still areas where liquid coatings remain the best solution for your surfacing needs. These are just some of the considerations that may be taken into account by manufacturers and machine shops when deciding whether powder coating is the most optimal solution for their particular coating application.
From all of us at Columbia Coatings, we hope that this information helps you in your decision of ordering powder coatings or ordering liquid coatings for your next projects. Browse our shop to find the best powder coating and liquid coating supplies for your business today!