Posted in: Testing Equipment

Test Panels for Powder Coatings

Posted on Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By Brad Kimpell

When it comes to test panels, the first two questions that come to mind are, “Why should I use test panels?” and, “What type of panel should I be using?”

The first question is the easiest to answer. Test panels offer a consistent surface to test and prove the performance of your product. Through the use of test panels you can improve the predictability, reliability, and accuracy of your product which will save you time and money. This is the reason test panels have become an essential part of the product development cycle, the quality control process for the manufacture of powder coatings, and finishing line audit procedures for the application of powder and pretreatment stages. The real question to be asked is, “Why risk varying test results when they can be guaranteed?”

The answer to the second question, “What type of panel should I be using?” varies, depending on what you are attempting to accomplish. To meet a wide range of needs, two distinct types of panels have been developed: utility grade panels and pedigreed testing grade panels. Both types are available in a variety of sizes and are used for different purposes. Understanding what to expect from each type of panel is important because using the wrong type of panel in a given situation could lead to a number of issues.

If you are a powder coater concerned with appearance checks, color match, hiding verification, batch verification, crater checks or dirt checks, utility grade panels are the answer. Utility grade panels are economical, making them perfect for the purposes listed above. Utility grade panels are commonly available in cold rolled steel (matte or smooth finish), tinplate steel, and aluminum as well as iron phosphated steel, pre-primed steel, and pre-primed aluminum. Another great use of the utility grade panel is for displaying your coatings. Utility grade panels are available in specialty shapes such as a dome or S-curve which allow a coating to be seen from different angles, highlighting the quality of coverage and appearance.

If you are a powder coater concerned with R&D, process validation, or finishing line audits, pedigreed panels are the answer. Pedigreed panels are designed for critical testing scenarios and are available in a wide variety of substrates including cold rolled steel, hot rolled steel, galvanized steel, aluminized steel, stainless steel, numerous aluminum alloys, cast iron, cast aluminum, and many more. One of the benefits of pedigreed panels is they are customizable to accurately replicate the real world. Common panel customizations include the application of iron phosphates, zinc phosphates, thin film pretreatments, electrocoats, primers, base coats, clear coats, and even powder coatings.

Regardless of your role in the powder coating industry, the use of test panels is critical to your long term success. A simple way to think of test panels is to consider them the “doctor” of the powder coatings world. With regular checkups test panels ensure the coating you manufacture or apply is performing to the best of its ability and will help reduce potential issues.

Brad Kimpell is vice president of business development and sales at ACT Test Panels LLC, Hillsdale, Mich. He can be reached at 517-439-1485, extension 646, or via email at