What is Powder Coating?
What do telecommunications enclosure manufacturers, tractor manufacturers and appliance manufacturers all have in common? They utilize powder coating on their products to create a durable, long-lasting finish.
Powder coating was first introduced in the 1940s-50s. At the time, organic polymers were flame sprayed onto a metal surface. But later, Dr. Erwin Gemmer, a German scientist, invented the more efficient and quicker process of using a fluidized bed. Instead of spraying the powder on, workers dipped the hot part in a hopper of fluidized powder.
Then, in the 60s, the process was improved further with electrostatic spray application, which is now the most common form of powder coat application. In this method, powder particles are charged and then sprayed onto grounded material.
Like most telecommunications enclosure manufacturers, American Products uses powder coating on virtually all our cabinets and shelters to ensure a long-lasting, extremely durable finish.
Read on to learn more about powder coating.
Quality powder coating lines are extensive setups with a lot of key pieces.
It all starts with the pretreatment. Depending on the organization and their needs, pretreatment can comprise three to nine stages. While five is considered a common and robust number, American Products uses a six-stage process with a soap washdown station, zinc phosphate conversion coating station and multiple rinse stations, including a de-ionized water rinse area.
The entire process is designed to thoroughly clean the parts and prepare them for powder application. While most of the stages are in place to remove dirt and other grime that can hinder powder adhesion, the zinc phosphate conversion coating is meant to add a coating that will remain under the final powder coating. It adds another level of protection from corrosion, mitigating corrosion and helping the powder to adhere longer.
After the pretreatment, the parts travel through an oven to ensure all the moisture is gone.
And then, it’s time to apply the powder.
As the parts enter the spray booth, workers apply the powder with specially designed paint guns. Instead of just spraying out powder, the gun makes a corona field that’s negatively charged, which in turn negatively charges the powder particles and causes them to be attracted via static electricity to the parts.
The parts then go into another oven, where curing agents are triggered at the transitional glass (TG) point. The powder particles melt and flow together to form a uniform surface over the part.
After some cooldown time, the part is done–no further paint work needed!
Powder coating offers a number of advantages over traditional liquid paint. Let’s look at three of the main benefits:
Application – Powder coating application offers a much larger margin for error than liquid paint. For one, it’s easy to overapply liquid paint, which will cause the paint to run and drip. It’s harder to overapply powder though.
Another advantage is that because of how powder is applied, it can be formulated to flow less and provide much better first-pass edge coverage than liquid paint. This is exceptionally beneficial on laser cut and sharper corners.
Additionally, organizations that use liquid paint need to regularly clean their guns to ensure the paint isn’t curing while spraying. Powder won’t cure until heat is applied.
Durability – Powder coating has been proven through numerous studies to be more durable than liquid paint. It’s harder, so it’s more resistant to chips and scratches. It also has a higher crosslink density due to how the powder particles fuse together, which makes it more resistant to solvents. Other studies and tests have also shown that powder coating is more abrasion resistant and retains color longer than liquid paint.
Eco- & human-friendly – Powder coating is much more friendly to the environment and people than liquid. For one, organizations can reclaim and reuse almost all the excess powder that doesn’t adhere to the part in the paint booth, which reduces waste significantly.
In addition, to clean a liquid paint gun, organizations have to employ things that can then soak into the pores of employees’ skin over time, possibly causing long-term health issues. Powder guns on the other hand, can simply be dismantled, blown out with an air hose, wiped down and then put back together at the end of a color run.
And lastly, as liquid paint dries, it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can cause health issues as well. Powder coating does not.
The biggest disadvantage is found in the field–you can’t touch up powder paint with powder. You must touch it up with liquid paint.
American Products partners with AkzoNobel, a company with more than 200 years of experience in the paint field, to ensure our powder coating is second to none. When telecommunications and networking companies purchase an enclosure from us, they can rest easy knowing everything from the construction to the finish is top notch and sure to stand up to environmental hazards for years to come.
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