Building a Bigger Mousetrap

Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2020

Powder coaters have worked hard over the years to improve the efficiency of their operations and the quality of their finished products. The industry has seen growing demand for the ability to coat parts that previously pushed the boundaries of what was considered too long, too heavy, or too wide to powder coat. Equipment suppliers have responded with rapid growth in technologies that have allowed custom coaters not only to build a better mousetrap, but a bigger one too.

For years, the industry standard was to liquid coat large steel fabricated pieces. This was due to the restrictions larger pieces created for powder coaters, mainly because the products would not fit on their powder coating lines. Conveyor lines could not handle the turn radius to process the pieces, products were heavier than the line could hold, and the motorized conveyer line could not move slowly enough or stop long enough to allow proper cure for powder coating the large heavy pieces. 

In 2006, the ownership of A1 Paint, Powder, and Sandblasting believed in the Field of Dreams. Taking the “if you build it, they will come” approach, the company built a 380-foot straight powder coating batch line that could handle long, heavy, and wide pieces. There were larger ovens and lines in the industry, but A1 Paint knew these operations were generally located in original equipment manufacturer (OEM) shops throughout the United States and unavailable to fabricators. By building this system, A1 Paint gave fabricators the opportunity to dream about having their large pieces powder coated.

In addition to powder coating large steel fabricated products, the company saw an opportunity to start powder coating hot dipped galvanized products. These products are large and heavy, and typically have a liquid specification standard. Therefore, determining how to apply quality powder coating to these types of parts required numerous stages of testing and trials. In time, A1 Paint successfully developed a process to powder coat hot dipped galvanized steel products that meets required specifications. The process, trade marked as PowderGALV® (www.powdergalv.com), provides customers with better options for coating their galvanized products. PowderGALV® is a duplex coating process which involves two specific kinds of coatings—both a protective coating as well as an aesthetic coating. The combination of these two coatings creates excellent mechanical and chemical resistance. This proprietary combination means PowderGALV® steel parts can last for multiple years in challenging environments which require outstanding anti-corrosion properties. 

The PowderGALV® process has allowed many of A1 Paint customers to switch from Missouri Department of Transportation’s “System G” liquid specification on highway pieces and other hot dipped galvanized liquid coatings to a powder coated finish. The process is now being accepted by various Departments of Transportation across the United States and is currently being used on highway poles, highway cantilevers, building trusses, structural steel supports, lighting poles, large gates, fencing projects, and other products. PowderGALV® has been applied to numerous galvanized products throughout the United States including locations as far away as Alaska, Florida, Boston, and Los Angeles, as well as the Bahamas.

PowderGALV® is a duplex coating process which involves two specific kinds of coatings – both a protective coating as well as an aesthetic coating.

A1 Paint customers have expressed their appreciation for the duplex coating of galvanized base coat and powder coating topcoat on their products. It adds aesthetic value as well as durability to the steel structure and extends the protection the galvanizing is designed to create. A great advantage to the process is that it gives a cosmetic color appearance without having to wait for a cure rate, like liquid coatings require. It also extends the life of the product by protecting against the sacrificial reaction of the zinc coating. 

In an effort to provide customers with additional options, A1 Paint works with structural steel fabricators, truck manufacturers, and other manufacturers to meet the coating needs of their large, heavy steel products. The company’s ability to maneuver products up to 10,000 pounds provides alternatives for parts traditionally finished with liquid coatings. In the truck industry, large truck beds in excess of 25 feet and headache racks can now be powder coated. This decreases turnaround time due to the elimination of having to wait for liquid paint to cure, especially in the winter months. A1 Paint has found that some customers have chosen to skip the hot dipped galvanized coating all together and switch to powder primers under the powder topcoat for cosmetic reasons. This duplex coating is not at the same durability level as the zinc coating but does provide extended life to the structure.

Frank Laster is president of A1 Paint Powder and Sandblasting, LLC.