10 Reasons to Use Architectural Powder Coatings
Within the past several years, architectural powder coatings have transitioned from a niche technology to a viable alternative to paint or anodized films. Powder coatings have long been an option in industrial applications. As the technology has improved, designers and builders now see at least ten reasons to use architectural powder coatings in retail and interior and exterior finishes for both residential and commercial applications.
Conceptually, the powder coating process is easy to understand. The powder itself is comprised of a pigment that generates a rich and uniform color on the finished product, and a resin that blends with the pigment to make a durable finished surface. Some coating formulators also add fillers, like mica or talc, which improve the flow and other characteristics of the powder as it is applied to a surface.
The application process imparts an electrostatic charge to the powder. The substrate surface gets an opposite charge that attracts the powder, which is then melted and fused onto the surface. The reasons for choosing architectural powder coatings are apparent from this process.
The color and surface gloss characteristics of paint will degrade over time at a much faster rate than an architectural powder coating. The durability of the coating may not alter the underlying integrity of the substrate surface, but it will provide better protection and keep that surface looking good for a longer period. This is particularly relevant for iron railings, metal cladding, and other ornamental features on a building’s exterior. Many newer formulations of powder coating pass the more stringent standards of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (“AAMA”). Designers are well aware of this and have followed a trend of incorporating more color into the exteriors of modern commercial buildings and apartment complexes with architectural powder coatings that keep exterior colors looking new for many years.
2. Reduced Volatile Organic Compounds (“VOC’s)
Regardless of how they are applied to a surface, architectural powders are completely free of VOC’s. Liquid paints, on the other hand, all incorporate some level of VOC’s as solvents, especially if they are sprayed onto a surface. With proper handling, spay paint coating processes can capture VOC’s to reduce emissions and undesirable odors during a paint coating process, but powder coatings eliminate this issue. Architectural powder coatings are thus perceived to be more environmentally-friendly than paint coatings. Although the U.S. Building Council’s LEED rating system does not give any specific credits for using powder coatings, architects can receive innovation and design credit when they include low-VOC coatings in design specifications.
Product manufacturers will find that they will have less waste when they apply architectural powder coatings to their products, as more of the powder is used and recovered in the actual coating process. This also facilitates lower manufacturing and transportation costs for raw materials.
4. Coating Uniformity
The thickness of a paint layer that is sprayed, rolled, or brushed onto a surface will vary over that surface regardless of how skillful or careful the technician is. Special filler materials in architectural powder coatings can substantially reduce the thickness variations in the coating and give the final coat a uniform appearance across all surfaces of a coated object. This is particularly important for more ornate railings, metal furniture pieces, and other architectural design elements that have intricate or detailed features that might hold more paint and contribute to uneven surface applications. It also helps to achieve good edge coverage with no exposed surfaces on any edges.
5. Reduced drips, running, and sagging
The uniformity of the thickness of the coating and the ability to apply powders to surfaces in a dry environment also means that architectural powder coatings almost never exhibit drips or runs. The powder adheres to the surface with an electrostatic charge. As the powder cures and hardens, it stays in place without accumulating into crevices where a paint might otherwise start to drip or run. This feature makes architectural powder coatings ideal for vertically-oriented surfaces where gravity would pull a liquid coating toward the lower parts of the surface.
6. Special Effects.
Multiple powder applications and repeated curing steps can be used to create special color effects, including candy colors and two-tone finishes. Candy color finishes give an impression of depth that cannot be achieved with paint or other traditional coatings. A three-coat process that involves a metallic primer background layer, a transparent color base layer, and a final gloss topcoat layer creates a stunning visual candy color effect. Two-tone finishes require masking and a more skilled application process, but the final effect is no less stunning. One-step powder applications can also create unique finishes, including veins or rivers of colors that give an appearance of texture to a coated surface, metallic finishes, and hammer tones that replicate hammered metal surfaces.
7. Reflection of Solar Radiation
Darker colors naturally absorb solar rays and surfaces that have dark paint coatings will get noticeably hotter during warmer months. Newer formulations of powder coatings have been developed with advanced solar reflectance characteristics. These powder coatings minimize thermal warming of surfaces and, when used on the exterior surfaces of buildings, they contribute to the building’s energy-efficient profile. Reduced surface warming naturally translates into a lower air cooling load for the entire building.
8. Corrosion Resistance
The corrosion-resistant characteristics of architectural powder coatings are in addition to their overall durability. When the powders are cured, they form a cohesive cover over an entire surface that has none of the microfissures or gaps that are sometimes common to paints. Because powder coatings last monger than paint, they protect the underlying surface for an equally longer amount of time. Moreover, the polymeric nature of powder coatings are better able to withstand rains and other precipitation that might have a lower (i.e., more acidic) pH in an industrial environment as well as salt sprays from ocean water in seaside communities.
Manufacturers typically need only one coat of an architectural powder coating, rather than the two or three coats that are often required for paints. Paint also take a longer time to cure and dry. In contract, a powder coating can be applied to a surface, the product can be quickly cured, and within as little as twenty minutes, it can be packed for shipping to its destination. In manufacturing processes, speed translates directly into savings and increased profits.
10. Surface Compatibility
Different surface substrates will require different primer treatments with paint. Architectural powders can be used on virtually any surface with little or no pretreatment and variation from surface type to surface type. This is true for glass, metal, plastic, and construction materials. Manufacturers that combine different materials into single products will be better able to coat those products than they would with paint.
TLC Metal Restoration in upstate New York State has used architectural powder coatings for several years in applications as diverse as automotive, ornamental metals, store fixtures, display galleries, interior metal furniture and fixtures, and antique restoration. If you have any questions about the uses and benefits of architectural metal coatings, please contact us to speak with one of our powder application specialists. We can recommend the best powder option for your specific job and complete that job to give you the most durable and aesthetic surface coating available.