Powder coating is a type of coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. The main difference between a conventional liquid paint and a powder coating is that the powder coating does not require a solvent to keep the binder and filler parts in a liquid suspension form. The coating is typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a "skin". The powder may be a thermoplastic or a thermoset polymer. It is usually used to create a hard finish that is tougher than conventional paint. Powder coating is mainly used for coating of metals, such as household appliances, aluminium extrusions, drum hardware, and automobile and bicycle parts. Newer technologies allow other materials, such as MDF (medium-density fibreboard), to be powder coated using different methods.
How Powder Coating Works
Powder coatings are based on polymer resin systems, combined with curatives, pigments, leveling agents, flow modifiers, and other additives. These ingredients are melt mixed, cooled, and ground into a uniform powder similar to baking flour. A process called electrostatic spray deposition (ESD) is typically used to achieve the application of the powder coating to a metal substrate. This application method uses a spray gun, which applies an electrostatic charge to the powder particles, which are then attracted to the grounded part. After application of the powder coating, the parts enter a curing oven where, with the addition of heat, the coating chemically reacts to produce long molecular chains, resulting in high cross-link density. These molecular chains are very resistant to breakdown. This type of application is the most common method of applying powders. Powder coatings can also be applied to non-metallic substrates such as plastics and medium density fiberboard (MDF).
There are two main categories of powder coatings: thermosets and thermoplastics. The thermosetting variety incorporates a cross-linker into the formulation. When the powder is baked, it reacts with other chemical groups in the powder to polymerize, improving the performance properties. The thermoplastic variety does not undergo any additional actions during the baking process, but rather only flows out into the final coating.
The most common polymers used are polyester, polyurethane, polyester-epoxy (known as hybrid), straight epoxy (fusion bonded epoxy) and acrylics.
The Powder Coating Process
The powder coating process involves three basic steps:
Part preparation or the pre-treatment
The powder application
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