One of the key advantages powder coating has over other finishing processes is how safe it is for the environment and for the people who work with it. Unlike traditional solvent-based wet paint, powder coating is considered a “green” technology that doesn’t generate harmful solvents or airborne pollutants. Compared to painting, powder coating reduces finishing line emissions, produces far less harmful waste by-product, and doesn’t pose a significant health risk to your employees or neighbors. Understanding the impact of these green benefits can help your business make the right choice when choosing a new finishing system—and help you gain support from your community.
Powder Coating Generates Negligible VOCs and No Real Air Pollution
A significant difference between industrial wet painting and powder coating is the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds, called VOCs for short. VOCs (like formaldehyde) are released into the air over time, either as the paint is cured or as it ages. VOCs damage the ozone and, if trapped indoors, can cause serious health problems to people exposed to them. Traditional liquid paint emits VOCs. Newer paint technology includes No-VOC and Low-VOC products, but these are often not capable of providing a finish that is adequately robust. By comparison, powder coated finishes are tough and durable, yet cause the emission of almost no VOCs. Powder coating media and powder coating in general is considered non-toxic, which it is why powder coating is strongly recommended if your finished product will be used or installed indoors.
Since powder coating is inert and produces almost no VOCs, applying it does not create harmful fumes or contribute to air pollution. While you will still want to spray inside a booth with a true filtered exhaust including HEPA filtration, you won’t otherwise have to duct the air from your booth to the outside atmosphere. Although powder overspray is considered a nuisance dust, properly filtered exhaust from a powder coating booth is clean enough to breathe, so you don’t have to exhaust the booth outside the shop space. This makes powder coating even more energy efficient because you won’t be wasting heated or cooled shop air by exhausting it to the outside atmosphere.
Powder Coating Produces Significantly Less Hazardous Waste Than Wet Paint
Traditional wet paint lines produce hazardous waste in two key areas: Retouching and Disposal. Because of the chemical composition of wet paint, coating defects often require costly reworks using solvents. These chemicals produce harmful fumes and the used solvents are considered hazardous waste. In addition, stripped and discarded paint may also be hazardous waste and should be disposed of properly – which can be an expensive and time-consuming process that many shops ignore.
Since powder is considered inert and does not require special handling or disposal, powder coating media is much safer to handle and isn’t hazardous to retouch. Fixing a mistake is also much easier (provided you catch it before curing). Instead of using harsh chemicals, if you find a mistake on a powder coated part, you can simply wipe the part clean or used compressed air to remove the uncured powder and reapply it. Any waste powder can be swept up and handled without special safety equipment, and it can be discarded with normal shop trash.
Powder Can Be Recycled
Powder coating is a two-stage process. First, your product is sprayed with powder using an electrostatically charged powder gun. The powder adheres to the part, but must then be cured inside a powder coating oven to melt the powder so that is flows together and locks onto the part. This process creates a strong and very durable bond that lasts and helps protect the metal underneath. (You can even increase this durability with different pretreatment methods – for more information on pretreatment, take a look at our Pretreatment Primer.) But what about the powder you spray that doesn’t adhere to the part?
The excess sprayed powder can be recycled using a process called powder reclamation. This works best when only one or two primary colors are used for your products, as multiple color changes can drive up equipment costs considerably (for more information, see our powder coating gun article here). However, if you are only using spray one or two colors most of the time, then you can see significant savings by reclaiming the powder overspray that gets trapped in the filters or falls to the floor of your spray booth. (For more information on how much powder you can reclaim to increase powder transfer efficiency, click here.)
Powder Coating Already Complies With Environmental Regulations
Because powder coating is considered non-toxic, is inert and produces negligible VOCs, it already meets or exceeds many national environmental protection standards. Although your shop will need to clarify with your local authorities, powder coating is considered safer and will not require the same level of oversight and waste disposal care that wet paint operations do. Also, because powder coating media doesn’t present a spill hazard, you don’t to invest in a paint mix room or storage room. As long as the powder coating equipment you purchase meets national safety codes, your operation will already meet or exceed national environmental regulations.
All Reliant Finishing Systems’ Equipment Is Produced To Meet Or Exceed National Codes
If you’re looking for safe and effective powder coating equipment, look no further than Reliant Finishing Systems. Our powder spray booths and powder curing ovens are designed specifically for powder coating applications and can be customized to fit your shop’s exact application. Whether you’re a finish line manager seeking a turn-key automated powder coating line, an established powder coater in the market for new equipment, or a fab shop owner wanting to get started with powder coating, Reliant can help.
Have questions? Email us or give one of our systems specialists a call today or visit our Resources page.