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Conserving natural resources

The next generation of powder coating is here. In this time of LEED and green buildings, powder coating now offers a cosmetically appealing substitute for wood and natural stone without harming the environment. The process and finishes provided have been proven successful in Europe and are actively moving into North America. As we search to integrate alternative materials into today's building and design, this new process allows for conservation of our natural resources, as well as an alternative to conventional finishes. With low to no VOCs, powder coating is paving the way for a greener future.

The Process

Unlike standard powder coating, wood grain and natural stone finishes require a two-step process. The first step is the preparation and coating of the substrate, which can be either aluminum or steel. A traditional pretreatment is applied for proper adhesion and the part is then coated and cured. This basecoat ensures adequate hardness of the final product and protects the substrate from light, weather, abrasion, corrosion and humidity.

The second step of the process requires a preprinted transfer film with organic photosensitive pigments and cellulose resin be completely wrapped around the product with an airtight seal. It is then placed on a moveable trolley or large membrane frame. Air is removed through a vacuum suction system that brings the printed film into contact with the coated surface. The trolley or membrane is then mechanically conveyed into an integrated curing oven where the printed image is affected, turning the ink pigments from solid to gas and back to solid inside the initial layer of powder. Once the substrate reaches a specific temperature, the trolley or membrane is automatically ejected from the oven and air is forced into the paper to release it from the substrate resulting in a one-dimensional printed image on a three-dimensional surface.

The Benefits

This dye sublimation process provides an end finish that realistically resembles wood, marble, granite and several other computer generated patterns, including but not limited to water, bubbles, graffiti and even personal logos. It is durable enough to be used in interior, exterior and high-traffic architectural applications and can expand your marketability and differentiate your product from your competitors. Unlike vinyl tape that doesn't look real and veneers, which chip easily, these finishes are high-quality dye sublimated powder coatings made from high-definition photographic images. They are so real, so natural looking, you have to touch them to know the difference. They are easy to clean and do not require the constant upkeep of wood products; can be created in either a smooth gloss or textured finish; can be used where fire codes prohibit wood; will not deteriorate because of weather and corrosion; and, of course, you will never have to worry about termites.

You can eliminate weight and cost barriers incurred by heavier woods and stone, create "wood" designs without the expensive forming process and use "wood" in projects where building codes require metal. It will give you the look of high-end wood grains, marbles and granites with the durability of powder coating. Additionally, it offers a high resistance toward all atmospheric agents and is resistant to heat, acids, humidity, salt and detergents. All the powders used are made in a TGIC-free super durable formulation and meet the performance requirements listed in AAMA 2603 and AAMA 2604-2.

Imagine the possibilities of turning metal products into wood and stone. This process can be applied on windows, doors, handrails, columns, wall panels, furniture, accessories, domestic electric appliances and transports (planes, ships, cars, campers, buses), as well as whenever the material needs to be enriched or personalized. You can create windows that perform like aluminum but look like wood, create steel columns that look like marble but cost significantly less, create metal handrails that look like wood but are easy to maintain and create lighting to match the architecture of the room. Most importantly, there is no destruction of trees, and all materials used are totally recyclable ecological products.

Jim Hester performs sales and estimating for Quality Powder Coating LP, Carrollton, Texas. More information can be found at www.qualitypowdercoating.com.