We’ve already talked about the benefits of powder coating over traditional wet paint and how setting up your own system can save you considerable time and increase your ROI. But what do you need to do now that you’ve decided to start your powder coating operation? Understanding what you are going to coat and what your powder specifications are will help you make the right decisions.
Determine What Type Of Powder Coating Finish Your Customers Want
When you start your powder coating operation, you need to know what performance specifications your customers require. This can be as easy as matching the performance of your current liquid operation or using the same powder as your current outsourced job shop. However, if you are in a highly technical industry – like supplying car or tractor parts – then there could be specification on salt-spray resistance, color retention, gloss loss, adhesion, flexibility, or hardness.
Here’s an example: If you powder coat parts for a larger manufacturer, that manufacturer may already powder coat and assemble some of their larger parts in-house. If you are, for example, supplying powder coated parts to John Deere, you will be using the same powder they use for their products. There might be no way to match their pretreat process, but you will need their powder specifications to make sure your parts integrate smoothly with their operation.
The Powder Specification Indicates What Equipment You’ll Need
The powder specification will provide you with a lot of important information, including powder thickness and cure times. This will tell you what type of oven you will need as well as how much powder you have to apply. Is the thickness excessive? If yes you might need to pre-heat the part to get more powder to stick. The specifications should also say what type of pretreat process is required before coating. Iron Phosphate or Zinc Phosphate might be designated. Zirconium is also a common pretreat chemical that is used for multi-metal pretreating.
These specifications will dictate what type of pretreatment process you will need as well as what type of finish process your products will require. Once you have decided that, then you need to figure out how many you want to coat a day.
Choosing The Right Equipment For The Job
Your finish process is very dependent on the type of powder the finish specifications require and your coating equipment must be able to handle the workload in a quick and efficient manner.
For example, if you have to use a super-durable polyester baked at 385-400 F for 10-15 minutes, then you need an oven that is large enough and has enough power to cure the powder in an even and timely process. But if you are coating low cure epoxies, they only needs 8-10 minutes at 325 F for full cure. You wouldn’t need as powerful an oven to cure the epoxies as you would with the super-durable polyester.
If you plan on doing both, then engineer your equipment to the higher end. I always ask manufacturers to look five years down the road for their projected production requirements and possible finish improvements they would like to see.
Asking the Right Questions Before You Get Started
Ask your powder supplier for the curing and application specifics. This will help you decide on the basic system you would like to implement. Not all powders are the same though many are similar. Remember cure time is part temperature at cure time. The heating up of the metal does not technically count as cure time.
Your Process Decides Basic Equipment Selection
Once you know your proposed finish process, you can easily decide which equipment is right for you and your customers. Finishing can be broken down into three basic elements which help inform you on what sort of equipment you’ll be installing:
Metal Preparation – sand-blast, cleaning, solvent wiping, pretreating, and/or drying
Application – hand-spray, multiple coats, automatic spray, and/or possible priming
Curing – batch oven, conveyor oven, and/or IR oven
We have a lot to talk about in future articles, including pretreatment selection, powder chemistry and equipment selection, but suffice to say, having the finishing details first helps with the more expensive equipment decisions later.
Need help? Please give one of our systems specialists a call today, or check out our Resources page for more educational information on coating equipment, powder coating and more.