Outdoor equipment is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for powder coating. This is no surprise, since powder coating outdoor equipment makes good sense for both equipment builders and their customers. From playground equipment to sporting goods, powder coated outdoor products last longer and perform better. In this article, we’re going to look at how powder coating systems reduce costs and produce a better outdoor product.
Powder Coating Versus Wet Paint
Almost all metal products that are going outside need to be finished in one way or another. Preventing rust is one of the main reasons that metal coatings were invented. Properly prepared, a finished metal object will outlast an unpainted one. So, why is a powder coating system better than wet paint methods for outdoor equipment? The simple answer is that powder coating is cheaper to apply and typically lasts longer.
Powder Coating Is Cheaper To Apply
A single coat of powder is just as scratch-resistant and durable as a multi-stage wet paint application. Yes, automotive paints can last as long, but those types of wet polyurethane are coatings are expensive and require more steps. First, you have to properly prepare the metal, then prime it, then apply a two-component color coat, and finally apply a clear topcoat. The material cost alone is usually four times that of powder – to get a similar result.
Not only are raw materials cheaper using a powder coating system, but there’s less handling and preparation of the parts! Powder coating is much easier to apply than wet paint. Since powder is simpler to apply, painters will produce fewer flaws, such as sags and runs. They will also need less practice. The average cure time for a metal part is about 20 minutes to bake and 10-15 minutes to cool, so you can typically handle, assemble and pack your parts much faster than when using a wet paint method.
Outdoor Powder Coating Lasts Longer
What about durability benefits in powder coating outdoor equipment? Since rust is usually our primary concern, what kind of resistance to corrosion does powder coating provide and for how long?
Checking For Durability With Salt Spray Testing
Perhaps we want to determine how resistant a coating is to corrosion. We can use a common industry test called Salt Spray Testing. This simulates extreme outdoor conditions by spraying a coated part with pressurized air and saltwater. The salt spray test is used to determine how long a finish might last before rust and corrosion compromise its integrity.
Salt Spray Testing Method
- Start with a coated sample part.
- Scratch the coating all the way through to the metal in an X pattern.
- Blast the part in a testing chamber with 5% or higher salt spray solution.
- Time how long you’re spraying.
- When rust has reached 1/4″ or more from the scribed point, stop spraying. How much time has elapsed?
- Compare this time to other coatings’ times.
|Process||Avg Salt Spray Hours|
|1) Grinder, solvent wipe, liquid enamel||50|
|2) Grinder, solvent wipe, powder coat||250|
|3) Blast, pressure wash, phosphate, powder coat||1000|
Here’s some results from different coating processes. The powder coated sample –
with no other preparation or special treatment – lasts on average five times longer than the same object finished with a common wet paint.
Salt spray testing is a controllable lab test that simulates tough conditions to determine overall finish performance when powder coating outdoor equipment. However, many variables will affect true performance. This test gives only a rough estimate of how resilient any finish is. If you use powder coated equipment on the Florida coast, 100 hours could equal one month. But if you are in Arizona 100 hours could equal 15 years. Climate, local weather patterns and equipment usage all play a part in how long your finish will last, but the more salt spray hours your part takes to rust, the better.
Customer Example: Swapping To Powder Coating Can Help Your Outdoor Product Business
Joe’s Trailers is a sample business that wants to provide its customers with durable products. Joe’s Trailers can show how a typical small manufacturing business can easily change its methods to get better results from powder coating outdoor equipment.
Joe’s Trailers started with this wet paint process (Process 1 from the Test Results above)
- Grind the welds down and the mill scale off the metal
- Wipe the trailer down with acetone
- Spray an industrial enamel wet paint
When Joe tested a panel that was coated using this wet paint process, it got these results:
The panel took 50 hours to get 1/4″ creep of rust on the scribed mark
But, Joe sometimes needs to store the trailers outside for a long time. He also sells them in areas where road salts are used. The wet paint finish on the trailers isn’t lasting, and customers complain.
Joe responds to customers’ concerns
Joe decided to purchase a powder coating system to increase quality and reduce material costs. He kept the same preparation. But with his new powder coating oven, he got 250 hours of salt spray before there was a ¼ inch of rust creep with the powder coated finish (Process 2 from Test Results above). This was five times longer than with his wet paint technique. That’s a level of protection so thorough that no trailers rusted in his storage lot while they were stored outside during the off-season.
Joe expands his business to a new kind of customer, increasing profits
Joe got a call from an upscale landscaping company located near Chicago. This customer wanted his trailers to last longer than the current trailers he bought from a local home improvement store. The customer couldn’t use ugly, rusted trailers in his service area because of his demanding clients, and the winter road salt quickly corroded his trailer fleet.
Joe decided to make some improvements to his powder coating system. He already had a powder coating spray booth and powder coating oven. He decided he could improve his pretreatment. Joe invested in a blast booth, and a special pressure washer that generates steam.
Now his process is
- Blast the welds and scale, which is quicker than grinding
- Apply cleaner, rinse with water, steam with phosphate, and rinse
- Coat with powder in a powder coating spray booth
- Bake powdered parts in a powder coating oven
This new piece lasted 1000 hours in the salt spray testing chamber before the rust creep reached 1/4 inch (Process 3 from Test Results above). Because the finish was so durable, Joe was able to offer a four-year rust warranty. He increased his prices to cover labor and equipment. He even got more profit from these upgraded trailers than his basic trailers.
Consider powder coating systems for outdoors products
Switching to a powder coating system can greatly increase coating performance and durability.
Consider it especially for products that must suffer the wear and tear of outdoor use. Products will last longer in outdoor conditions. Business costs like product storage damage, customer returns, and premature warranty issues will be reduced. Finally, higher prices can be charged for better products.
This example has focused on trailers. Remember that these benefits apply to any outdoor product, here’s some ideas to get your creative ideas flowing:
- Handrails, fences, and playground equipment.
- Automotive parts like truck accessories, and farming machinery
- Seasonal items like fishing and marine equipment, deer stands, and much, much more.
When taking on a new powder coating project, remember to ask your customer what they need. Get the correct coating procedure in place to meet their expectations. Use your vendors as resources to help you tailor your powder coating equipment, powder, and pretreatment methods to exceed your customers’ needs.
Reliant Finishing Systems provides fully integrated powder coating equipment. Whether you want to supplement your existing system, or install a complete finishing line, feel free to call us today about any of the following: