The powder coating industry has enjoyed considerable growth for several decades due to environmental awareness and the presence of a large number of liquid paint operations that were ripe for conversion to an alternative technology. There is evidence that the market is maturing and opportunities to convert customers from liquid to powder have diminished. Therefore, industry suppliers have conducted an analysis of powder coating's strengths and weaknesses, identifying several areas where powder coatings have not penetrated significantly. Capitalizing on these growth opportunities depends on the ability of industry leaders to solve challenging technical issues. One significant opportunity is heat-sensitive substrates for which UV powder technology appears to be a perfect fit.
In just a short time, the industry has made great strides in advancing the technology. In 1994, no solid UV resins were available for the production of UV powder coatings. Now there are more than 15 UV powder resins and more in development. Just six years ago, no commercial applications were running with UV powder coatings. Today, UV powder coatings are used commercially in three markets on three types of heat-sensitive substrates.
Powder coatings are widely used because of their many attributes. It is a compliant technology (emitting no significant VOCs) with high material utilization (typically greater than 95%). UV powder coatings share the same general attributes but add new capabilities as well. Their low temperature requirements and fast cure cycles, which reduce floor space and increase productivity, make them perfect candidates for heat sensitive substrates. Unlike some other finishes that are applied early in the manufacturing process and are prone to damage during machining and assembly, UV powder coatings are applied towards the end of the manufacturing process and more apt to survive OEM operations. For these reasons, UV powder coatings potentially offer lower reject rates and higher quality.
UV powder coatings are applied electrostatically, making them perfect for applications involving complex shapes where competing technologies have limitations. Typically, UV powder coating is a one-coat process involving a small number of steps relative to some competing technologies. The decorative films produced with UV powder coatings offer performance advantages over competing technologies.
As the market for UV powder grows, the technology's benefits are being increasingly recognized. Advances in technology have been achieved through hard work and planning. The question still remains - is this evolution or revolution?