Outdoor equipment represents one of the largest and fastest growing markets for powder coating. From playground equipment to sporting goods, several industries are finding that their products last longer and perform better when finished with powder coating. In this article, we’re going to look at the outdoor powder coating market and how it can help products last longer while being cheaper to use than other coatings.
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 powder coating better than wet paint 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 paint can last just as long, but automotive wet polyurethane coatings require properly prepared metal, a primer, and then a two-component polyurethane application and sometimes a clear topcoat over the color coat. The material cost alone is usually four times that of powder – to get a similar result.
Not only are the raw materials cheaper, but the handling and preparation of the parts is reduced as well. 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, with less practice. With the average cure time for a metal part at about 20 minutes to bake and 10-15 minutes to cool, you can typically handle, assemble and pack your parts much faster than when using a wet paint method.
Outdoor Powder Coating Lasts Longer
It is true that a single-coat application of powder coating costs much less than wet paint, but will it withstand the punishment of outdoor use? Since rust is usually our primary concern, what kind of corrosion resistance does powder coating provide and for how long?
Checking For Durability With Salt Spray Testing
To determine exactly how resistant powder is to corrosion, we can use an industry-wide test called Salt Spray Testing. This test simulates extreme outdoor conditions by subjecting a coated part to a salt spray with pressurized air.
The salt spray test is used to determine how long a finish might last before rust and corrosion compromise its integrity. A coated sample part is required. The coating is penetrated and a cut is performed that goes all the way through to the metal (usually in an X pattern). The part is placed in a testing chamber. Inside the chamber, the part is continuously blasted with a 5% or higher salt spray solution. The typical failure point is reached when rust has reached ¼” or more from the scribed point. This test is often performed simultaneously with other types of coatings to see how a specific application compares to others.
|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|
As you can see from the above example, 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 corrosive conditions to determine overall finish performance. Unfortunately, due to the number of climates and variables, it only gives a rough estimate of how resilient any finish is. If you are using 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, the better.
How Swapping To Powder Coating Can Help Your Outdoor Products
To show how that extra durability can benefit the consumer, we’ve provided a sample business, Joe’s Trailer’s. We’ll use Joe to help show how a typical small manufacturer can easily make the decision to change their finishing techniques to get better results.
Joe’s Trailers ground the welds and the mill scale off the metal, wiped the trailer down with acetone, and then sprayed an industrial enamel wet paint. When he submitted a section as a test panel of this process, the panel stayed in the chamber for 50 hours until it showed ¼ inch creep of rust on the scribed mark on the surface. The lack of protection from oxidation (rust) resulted in problems when Joe stored trailers outside for long periods of time or sold them in areas where they were exposed to road salts (Process 1 from our table above).
Joe decided to purchase a powder coating system to increase quality and reduce material costs. With the same preparation, he got 250 hours of salt spray before there was a ¼ inch of rust creep with the powder coated finish–five times more protection than with his wet paint technique. This resulted in a level of protection so thorough that no trailers rusted in his storage lot while they were stored outside during the off-season (Process 2 from the above table).
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. Rusty trailers were not acceptable in the neighborhoods this customer serviced and the winter road salt quickly corroded his trailer fleet.
Joe invested in a blast booth and a special pressure washer that also generated steam. After blasting all the welds and scale (which took less time than grinding), he applied a cleaner, a water rinse, a phosphate steam treatment, and then another rinse prior to powder coating these trailers (for more information on pretreatment, check out our introductory guide).The section he submitted for testing lasted 1000 hours in the chamber before the rust creep hit ¼ inch. Because of the high finish quality, Joe was able to offer a four year rust warranty and increased the price accordingly for the extra labor and equipment cost—plus he got more profit from these upgraded trailers (see Process 3 from the table above).
As you can see, switching to powder coating can greatly increase coating performance and durability, especially for products that will be subjected to the wear and tear of outdoor use. Not only will products last longer in outdoor conditions, additional business costs like product storage considerations, customer returns, and premature warranty issues may also be significantly reduced.
While we’ve focused mainly on outdoor trailers in this example, remember that this applies to any outdoor product, such as handrails, fences, deer stands, truck accessories, playground equipment, farming machinery, fishing and marine equipment, and much, much more. When taking on a new powder coating project, remember that customer specifications typically drive the process and the quality of powder finish you want to apply. Make sure you are talking to your customers and get the correct procedure in place to meet their expectations. Use your equipment, powder, and pretreatment vendors as resources to help you tailor your system to exceed your customers’ needs.
Reliant Finishing Systems provides a complete line of blast rooms, wash stations and pretreatment equipment, which are all fully integrated with our existing powder coating equipment. Whether you are looking to supplement your existing system or install a complete finishing line, we can help. Please give our specialists a call today.