Custom Coater Conquers Architectural Projects

Posted on Thursday, May 30, 2019

PCI custom coater member Spectrum Metal Finishing played a key role in the powder coating process for the Pier 17 project. PCT caught up with Spectrum Metal Finishing president Neil Chrisman to learn more about the Pier 17 project from their perspective, as well as Spectrum’s experience with other large architectural projects.

PCT: Were there specific challenges you encountered with the Pier 17 project when compared to other large projects you’ve been involved with? 

Neil: In general, architectural applications must hold up against a wide range of environmental elements. With Pier 17 located in Manhattan’s Seaport District, it added a major consideration in terms of durability and corrosion resistance. The original project spec was driven by a standard that noted a primer was not needed – just pretreatment and a top coat. However, this was a seacoast application and as such it absolutely required a primer under the powder to ensure adhesion, durability and corrosion resistance. Given the environment the building would be subject to, it was also important that we used the right pretreatment process. In this case, chrome phosphate was the pretreatment of choice, which was followed by the liquid primer application and then coated with the PPG powder topcoat developed specifically for this project.

PCT: Were there other successful projects that helped you prepare for the Pier 17 project? 

Neil: Yes, working with powder vendors on other architectural projects provided some helpful background and experience for the Pier 17 project. For example, there are both bonded and non-bonded metallic powders. While many global applications typically use bonded metallics in powder, in the U.S. often this is not the case. We learned through a variety of other projects that bonding the metallic within the powder would ensure good, even coverage down the extrusion, and as such, was recommended to the powder producer. Ultimately, the Pier 17 project was a perfect fit for us. Most of the coated components in this project were in excess of 30 feet. There are not many custom coaters that have the ability to both powder and liquid coat extrusions of this magnitude in the same facility. Add to that the chrome phosphate pretreatment, which provides added protection for a seacoast environment, and our capabilities and experience with other large architectural projects prepared us well for the Pier 17 project. 

PCT: What other high profile or large projects have you been involved in using powder coating? 

Neil: As a result of our ability to coat the size, shape and weight of structural pieces combined with our chrome phosphate pretreat capability for architectural applications, Spectrum has been involved in many large scale, high-profile architectural projects. For powder coating specifically, we recently completed a project for PNC Bank’s new headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA (The Tower at PNC Plaza). We also pretreated and powder coated the exterior curtain wall on New York City’s 55 Hudson Yards Tower, which is a part of one of the largest private real estate developments in American history. It just opened to the public on March 15, 2019. Perhaps the most recognizable building Spectrum was involved with is One World Trade Center. Here, we coated the curtain wall/entrance of the “podium,” the lowest ten stories of One World Trade Center. Our work on this iconic building also extended underground - six stories below to be exact. Spectrum powder coated all of the high gloss white panels that run the concourse of the underground area where the train platforms are located in the new complex. Currently, we are powder coating the 57-story City Point Three Tower in Brooklyn, NY, which is a high performance AAMA 2605 white speckle terra-cotta powder.

Panels for the exterior skin/façade of the City Point III building in Brooklyn, NY, travel through Spectrum’s architectural powder coating line.

PCT: In your opinion, how has the North American architectural powder coating market evolved? 

Neil: The biggest evolution of powder coating for the U.S. market grew out of European architectural applications where they have more stringent environmental regulations. Here in North America, architectural applications are driven by the AAMA specifications, known as 2603, 2604, and 2605. Typically, superdurable powders would only meet the 2604 requirements. formulated to meet AAMA 2605 standards. I guess this started to have a real impact for us about six to eight years ago. As critical as the development of Kynar 500 was, the evolution of the powder manufacturing process is particularly significant. Powder has evolved from “rock salt to baby powder,” enabling powder application in thin enough films for components to snap together. Back in the day, thickness was four, five, or six mils when only two mils were needed. The ability to apply thin films and significantly reduce orange peel has had a major impact on the ability to use powder in architectural applications.

A closeup of the high performance white speckle textured finish on the City Point III building panels.

PCT: Do you see powder growing in this area?

Neil: Absolutely, powder is a great finish and will continue to grow in North American architectural applications as more stringent environmental regulations take hold. Not to mention the fact that powder technology in general has advanced significantly. We now have the ability to create different patterns and effects with powder that cannot be accomplished with liquid coatings. Spectrum is currently working on a powder that displays a weathered steel look on aluminum. Whenever we have a need for a special look or application, we team up with powder producers to develop it. In the case of the weathered steel project, we sent an actual weathered steel panel to the powder companies and asked they create powder to match it. Being able to use powder coating to meet the more stringent performance requirements for architectural applications means that we get to use a stronger, greener, better process for finishing parts. 

by: Sheila LaMothe, editor for Powder Coated Tough magazine.