Powder Coatings Get a Workout in Sports & Fitness Industries

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2022

By Shelley Verdun

A common saying in sports is that players are made in the off season. While that adage holds some truth, serious athletes from high school amateurs to elite professionals know that training and competing at the highest level requires year-round pursuit.

In-season and off, high-quality gym and fitness equipment—everything from weights, kettle bells, benches, machines, and cardio equipment like treadmills, ellipticals, and stair climbers—is instrumental in helping competitors fine tune their skills and build strength, flexibility, and endurance.

This equipment must be safe, ultra-durable, and up to task to not only meet the demands of the fittest, strongest athletes, but to protect the sizable investment in the equipment itself.

Protective Coating Options
If you’ve spent any time in a gym, chances are good that you’ve logged a few miles on a treadmill, hoisted a barbell, or used a leg press machine. Have you ever thought about the industrial coatings that protect the equipment from sweat, corrosion, chipping, and scratching from heavy use?

Facility owners and managers need to keep their equipment looking good long-term, but also need to keep it in good working condition to maintain the highest levels of safety. High performance industrial coatings deliver on both.

While manufacturers can choose between liquid and powder topcoats to protect and enhance their equipment, many are moving towards powder solutions due to numerous advantages, including a smooth finish with a wide range of colors, glosses, textures, and special effects that allow for greater design flexibility.

While heightened aesthetics are great, powder also boosts durability with excellent resistance to oxidation, chipping, scratches, and impacts.

  • Durability—UV, abrasion, scratch, chip, mar, and impact resistance.
  • Chemical resistance to cleaning solutions and sweat.
  • Corrosion protection.
  • Excellent color integrity and fade resistance.
  • Thicker film build.

    A More Sustainable Solution
    One of the key factors driving the rapid use of powder coating technologies goes beyond looks and toughness. Governments around the world are increasingly taking measures to reduce harmful emissions, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and reducing the amount of hazardous waste that goes to landfill. On that front, powder is a game changer.

    Powder is specifically formulated with virtually no VOCs and cleans up with just compressed air. Additionally, powder coating overspray can be reclaimed and reused so less product is needed to coat the complex shapes and parts of exercise equipment, an important factor that helps to control material costs and reduce waste.

    Today’s manufacturers, including those in the sports and fitness industry, face extraordinary supply chain, economic, and human resource challenges.

    Creating safer conditions for employees, enhancing product value, and reducing material costs can help and powder coatings can make significant contributions to these efforts.

    Game-Changing Innovations in Powder Coatings
    Powder coatings have been used to protect and enhance metal since it first emerged as a finishing process in the early 1940s. But the technology has evolved since then and new generations of formulations have taken the performance to the next level, primarily driven by market needs in powder- intensive industries like appliance and automotive.

    Transformative improvements in application, performance, and design capabilities, including a wider selection of colors, metallics, and textural effects, are giving fitness equipment makers more tools than ever to elevate both the durability and design of their products.

    Newer powder innovations are bringing added value in terms of superior one-coat coverage of sharp edges, high transfer efficiency formulations that coat more efficiently on one pass and use less powder, and coatings that protect against bacteria and microbes.

    Exceptional Corrosion Protection on Sharp Edges
    The next time that you visit a gym or fitness facility, take a close look at the equipment and notice the designs that include angles, sharp edges, seams, and complex shapes. Because powder is an electrostatic dry finishing process that applies charged powder particles to a grounded part, it offers excellent surface coverage, even on hard-to-reach parts.

    Newer powder coating formulations take that coverage to the next level with one-coat “high edge” coverage. These high edge coatings provide even film thickness across the part from flat straight surfaces to seams, corners, and edges that are common in metal fabrication. These unique coatings are formulated to stay on sharp edges during the curing cycle and not shrink and pull away like traditional liquid and powder coatings. The result is that even the most vulnerable areas of the exposed metal are protected from corrosion, impact, and wear.

    For years, manufacturers in the industry were searching for a coatings solution that combined uniform edge coverage with exceptional corrosion protection without the need for a primer. These newer, patent-pending powder formulations met that need, plus offered additional advantages.

    Because they are direct-to-metal, fully reclaimable, and eliminate the need to finish edges with mechanical edge rounding or blasting equipment, these advanced powder formulas deliver significant savings in materials, labor, utilities, and time.

    Better Coverage with Less Powder
    A newer “high transfer efficient” generation of powder coatings are now available that improve first-pass application build rates compared to standard powders, even on complex parts and recessed cavities. The proprietary polyester-based formulations apply consistently across complex parts and are formulated to electrostatically wrap and penetrate in deep recesses or hard-to-reach surfaces, improving efficiency rates to 85% or better.

    Manufacturers can leverage these high transfer efficiency solutions to increase throughput, reduce material waste, and improve overall finish quality with more control over cost and quality of the production process. Compared to standard powder coatings, these formulations can reduce powder consumption by 20-30%, increase line speed for better throughput, and reduce downtime for cleaning due to their coating efficiency.

    Antimicrobial Protection for Coatings
    Today, coatings manufacturers are formulating solutions with silver ionic technology that helps to inhibit the growth of microbes and fungi on cured paint films that can lead to unpleasant odors, discoloration, and corrosion.

    In layman’s terms, silver ions penetrate the membranes of bacteria, bind to essential elements like DNA and disrupt their functions, including multiplying, ultimately helping to deactivate them. These antimicrobial1 protected powder coatings are durable, retain their color, are stable even in high temperature, and work to guard the substrate from the growth of harmful microbes and bacteria.

    Low-Cure Powder for Dense, Oversized Metals
    Powder coatings have been used on thinner metal substrates for decades. But heavy, dense metal parts are more difficult to heat to a uniform temperature and thus require a longer time in the oven to cure.

    Compared to lighter weight metals, a thicker mass of metal—like those needed for kettle bells, dumb bells, free weights, and equipment frames—require more overall oven dwell time and energy.

    These conditions often made powder coating less effective than liquid coatings for oversized metals.

    But advancements in application, curing, and resin and binder chemistries have produced low-cure, fast-bake formulations that eliminate these traditional barriers with baking temperatures as low as 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit (121-177 degrees Celsius) and cure times as quick as five minutes.

    These innovative solutions can be cured in a convection or infrared (IR) oven or a combination of both and can be used in a one- or two-coat process.

    Despite a more efficient curing process, these low-bake powders deliver the same durability, protection, and finish quality as standard powders and are available in a broad range of colors, textures, and special effects.

    Upping the Fitness Equipment Game
    With advancements in high-performance protective coatings, manufacturers of gym and fitness equipment have more options than ever before to elevate their products’ durability, looks, and performance.

    With growing frequency, powder coating is making the cut as the platform of choice for producing goods as tough as the athletes who use them.

Shelley Verdun is business manager, powder coatings – Americas region for PPG.

1 Antimicrobial is limited to the treated surface to provide mold and mildew resistance on the paint film and to inhibit the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria that may affect the surface of the coating. The use of these products does not protect users of any such treated article or others against food-borne or disease-causing bacteria, viruses, germs, or other disease- causing organisms.