Tough Decorative Finish

Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012

By Sharon Spielman

Headquartered in Verona, Italy, Decoral System has gone from an anodizing plant in the early 1970s, to a liquid and powder finishing plant in the 1980s, to a powder-only finishing operation in the late 1980s. Then, in the 1990s, the company looked for a process that would offer something new to its customers, distancing them from competitors. That was when dye sublimation, a process typically only usable on flat sheets, was explored by Decoral. Since that time, the company has developed, patented and advanced the technology into tough decorative powder finishes that can be applied to a range of substrates, resulting in many different textures, glosses and overall finishes.

What makes Decoral’s dye sublimation process so unique is the ability for the finishes to be applied to three dimensional objects. During the past five years, Decoral has introduced infrared (IR) 3D decorating. According to Eric Koslow, national sales manager at Decoral System USA Corp, Coral Springs, Fla., “The IR 3D machine is designed specifically for the industrial automated decoration of 3D powder coated parts in high volume. It decorates furniture, store fixtures, automotive parts, door handles, knobs, shelves, welded parts, vases, faucets, wheels and much more. It applies a realistic wood grain or marble finish to any powder coated object.” He explains that the IR machine also can apply custom logos and artwork as well. Additionally, he says there are applications for glow-in-thedark powder, which include street signs, emergency exits, bikes and motorcycles, boats, planes, aisles and walkways, theater exits, and any dark area that needs back lit signage.

How It’s Done

Any substrate that can be powder coated can utilize the Decoral process, including aluminum, steel, die casting, glass, ceramic, MDF, Nylon 66 and other high-temperature plastic. Just like in the traditional powder coating process, the first step is to prepare the substrate. The work piece receives a traditional pretreatment that is appropriate for proper adhesion and the final environment. Proprietary powder, formulated and made by Decoral, is applied and cured. Electrostatic guns are utilized to apply 2.5 mils of powder, which is then cured at 400°F for up to 20 minutes. Polymer- ization is then performed. The applied base coat is conducive to creating sufficient hardness on the final product. Moreover, it protects the substrate from factors such as weather, corrosion, abrasion, light and humidity.

Then the decoration process begins. A preprinted transfer film with organic photosensitive pigments and cellulose resin is completely wrapped around work piece with an airtight seal. The piece is then positioned on the surface of a movable trolley (see sidebar on page 24 for more on the equipment). Air is removed through a vacuum suction system, which brings the printed film into contact with the powder coated surface. The trolley is conveyed into the integrated curing oven where the printed image is effected, turning the ink pigments from solid into gas and back into solid again inside the paint layer. After cooling, the film is removed. The final result is a piece that mimics a one-dimensional printed image on a three-dimensional surface.

Where It’s Done

Licensees are job shops, OEMs and extruders throughout North and South America and the entire world. “We look for quality applicators that strive for proper pre-treatment to assure adhesion,” Koslow says.

Companies that align themselves with Decoral tap into a global company that is constantly innovating and offers countless resources. “For instance,” Koslow says, “We are your technical, marketing and sales support team every step of the way.” Decoral exhibits and markets at various national trade shows throughout the year, he says, and they give all of the leads in a licensee’s region to them at no cost.

Koslow also says that they budget tens of thousands of dollars per year for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns, driving thousands of potential clients to its website. “We give all of these leads to our Decoral licensee at no cost,” Koslow explains. “And we perform marketing campaigns to attract OEMs, builders and architects to Decoral. We give all of the leads to our licensees.”

Koslow explains that becoming a licensee requires no fee, just a commitment to use Decoral’s films and powders to ensure high quality standards for color and finish.

Other perks that licensees receive are regular updates of products and applications as they become available through the company’s website and newsletter; a dedicated secure portal for materials, inventory, FAQs, updates and more on the company’s website; assistance with any color matching issues that licensees may face; and all the necessary quality testing has been done. “Decoral has a huge international certified laboratory type of test,” Koslow says. “This service is at your disposal free of charge. Additionally, there is an entire quality report section on our website for licensees to access.”

Decoral installs the machines, provides full onsite training of staff for two weeks, and offers a full maintenance warranty.

Powder Types

Decoral produces all of its own powder, enabling them to formulate powders specific to its clients’ needs. “Most recently we were asked to formulate powder with a specific amount of Teflon in it, and in another case our licensee required a powder that is FDA approved,” Koslow reveals.

There are a range of polyurethane powders for numerous applications, including smooth 20% gloss, textured 10% gloss, gloss smooth 90% gloss, formable/flexible 20% gloss, interior only 20% gloss smooth no UV, super durable, super texture, anti-skid/rubberized, antimicrobial, super anti-graffiti, and low cure. Decoral’s super durable, anti-skid powders are used to coat aluminum decking, railing anddocks in high heat and high traffic areas. Their powders and finishes are used in restaurant and hospitality venues, cruise lines, retail and other high- traffic areas.

“Our low cure powders and IR technology now enable our licensees to powder coat and decorate MDF, which is sure to create breakthroughs in the cabinet and display industries,” Koslow says.

For more on Decoral System USA Corp., visit www.decoralamerica.com. Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine. She can be reached via email at sspielman@powdercoating.org.