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Powder Coat versus Wet Paint

This is a daunting and ongoing question that most paint coaters ask.  What are your options?  What are the positive and negative features of each?  Which is best for your application?

Wet Paint is a material that is often sprayed onto a surface be means of air-powered sprayguns.  This is a proven process with many suppliers, materials and a significant workforce of experienced coaters.  The paint can be solvent-based as in oils or thinners.  Water-based paint is being required by many environmental-focused areas to reduce air-borne volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from release into the atmosphere during the spraying process.  Common applications of wet paint include most all automotive exteriors, items with multiple colors and extremely large or heavy items.  Textured finishes require at least two coats.

Powder coating is a process of spraying a dry film over a surface and baking the item to cure the film into a durable coating.  Powder coating is a process that is much easier to perform once key requirements have been met.  In the spray process the powder is drawn from a bin and through a gun while being electrically charged.  The part being powder coated is also charged or grounded so as to attract the powder to its surfaces.  This charging is a key requirement to the process and greatly aids the coating evenness and the speed of applying the coating.  Surfaces have to be prepared in a manner to aid this charging and the application of the coating.  Curing is usually a simple process of raising the coating to 300-350º for 15-30 minutes.  The gloss, surface texture and color are designed into the powder and are consistent from one spray operator to another.  Powder coating is a newer process than spraying wet paint, but there are a number of groups and websites that expedite the learning curve.  Common applications are lawn equipment, furniture, cabinets and tools.


Wet Paint

Powder coating

Preparation of parts Wipe clean Clean by sandblasting, etching or high-pressure wash
Preparation of coating Requires mixing Use straight from supplier
Hanging of part Best practical means Part has to grounded
Difficulty of spraying Must access all surfaces before paint dries/clogs the gun Electrical pulse pulls powder to most surfaces
Curing Process Air-dry, usually normal air temp Heated in oven
Durability Fair Very durable
Consistency Based on sprayer’s experience Built into powder product
Ease of removing Sanding, Chemical Heating required, Sanding, Chemicals
Waste Management Licensed waste handler Cure excess and send to landfill
Positive factors Less expensive start-up Ease of finding experienced help Quicker to apply coatingDurabilityConsistency
Negative factors Waste managementFlammabilityToxicity Cost of startup includes oven and pretreatment

Tools USA manufactures products for both of these application processes and can answer any further questions.

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