If seeing is believing, then Halo Coatings (Akron, OH) could have a high-visibility seller with its Hi-Viz retro-reflective powder coating that allows illuminated objects such as guardrails and road signs to be seen at night from as far as 1,000 feet away.
Hi-Viz is designed to replace adhesive tape that is often placed over aluminum on highway safety equipment such as sign posts and guardrails. It has retro-reflectivity, which means the return of light to the eye is along the same path as the light source, making it easier to see.
Halo says it has the first patent on retro-reflectivity for powder coating. After seven years of testing, the company hopes the product will be used on signs, safety rails, cars, buses, bicycles, mailboxes, dog leashes and anything else that a driver might not see at night or in low visibility.
"For the first time ever, guardrails become life-saving contiguous lines of visible light at night," says Ryan Downey, Halo's director of operations.
"Children's bicycles appear any color in the daytime and light up a bright and luminous white at night, and the black trim of yellow school buses can light up to protect its occupants from side impact at night."
Downey says Hi-Viz coating is one-third the cost of the high-intensity reflective tape now applied on most safety devices. And because the reflection is directed straight back to a driver, there is no blinding effect or distraction that might catch a driver's wandering eye.
Acme Finishing in Chicago has an exclusive license agreement for the application process, and general manager Bruce Bryan likes what he sees.
"We're very excited and optimistic about our relationship with Halo Coatings and the retro-reflective powder coating technology," says Bryan. "This is a unique technology that allows us to pursue new opportunities with existing customers, as well as provide new market opportunities with prospects not currently working with Acme."
Bryan says Acme is exploring various uses for the product, including those with basic roadway safety concerns.
"We have also prepared samples for bicycle components, fire hydrants, pet tags and emergency vehicle components," he says. "In addition to safety, there are some marketing advantages for highly reflective products such as driveway markers, house numbers and even signs like 'For Sale by Owner,' 'For Rent' and 'No Trespassing.'"
While some powder coatings already claim to have a surface that is reflective, Downey says that usually means it has a high gloss finish called difraction or reflection, but not retro-reflective. He says Hi-Viz can be used on metals, plastics, wood and glass to make then more visible at night.
In addition, no matter what color the surface is coated—red, green, yellow or even black—there will be the same bright white reflectivity because the embedded nano resin is what's being reflected and not the base color, Downey says.
"We're focused on the highway safety and transportation markets to drive initial revenues," says Downey. "The federal government's new focus on nighttime reflectivity could not have arrived at a better time for the company."
Halo officials say they have spoken to the Japanese ministry of highway and leading manufacturers in Japan and Taiwan about bringing Halo products to the Pacific Rim. They have also had talks with several major sign manufacturers; two motorcycle companies and distributors, several transportation industry leaders, leading safety transportation manufacturers and officials, fire and police chiefs, and several cities and municipalities.
Because Hi-Viz is applied as a coating, Downey says it is corrosion resistant and UV stable. Reflective tape, meanwhile, has a harder time withstanding UV.
Halo says the product passed salt spray testing (ASTM B 117) of 4,000 hours using cold-rolled steel panels with basic iron phosphate pretreatment.
The application process is pretty standard: After pre-treatment, Hi-Viz is applied through spray or fluidized dip, then baked. The required coating is a minimum 3.5 mils, and can go up to 20 mils through an electrostatic application.
Halo has also teamed with powder coating equipment manufacturer ITW Gema, which allows them to sell, install and service the Halo powder coating system manufactured by ITW Gema on a global basis.
"It's a truly innovative material technology that opens markets to the improved benefits of powder coating, while maintaining the familiar product appearance clients are used to," says Chris Merritt, General Manager of ITW Gema.
Fore-Par, a leading manufacturer of golf car parts, is also partnering with Halo. Many of their vehicles are also driven on public streets in golf course communities, but when the company introduced Hi-Viz technology at a golf industry show this year, it caught the attention of many in the industry, including a large movie studio which will have their fleet of electric trams modified to include Halo treated parts.
"We see this process being used on wheels, top supports and rocker panels to dramatically increase the distance that the coated car is visible to another vehicle at night," says Urson Russell, head of Fore-Par business development.