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Trends in Coating and Finishing

What will continually evolving material combinations mean for the manufacturing industries and, in turn, what will they mean for coaters and finishers?
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When I joined Products Finishing in March, I had a whole bunch of ideas swimming in my head. Most of them came from my previous work with our sister publication CompositesWorld, where there is perpetual discussion over lightweighting. My CW colleagues teased me about leaving composites for metals. I knew shifting my focus would take some time and research, but I can’t shake the feeling that there are big stories to tell within the coating and finishing world about how all materials and trends are interrelated. Sure, the metal folks will swear by the attributes of metal, and those in the composites industry will champion their benefits, and so forth — but, the truth is, there is really no one material or technology to rule them all. The ultimate goal is good quality for the end product, and that often means components made from a variety of materials — and almost all of them need to be coated or finished in some way. But I digress.

As we look at how products are produced, it is important to take into consideration all materials and processes. A holistic view of manufacturing is important as we consider where the various industries might be headed. Most markets — even ones that were once entrenched in a particular material supply — are today more focused on the right material for job. And lightweighting is important whether you’re talking about metals, plastics or composites.

Vehicles of the future are going to continue to be increasingly lighter. Materials are going to keep evolving and that means a lot of constant change for the whole of manufacturing. What will continually evolving material combinations mean for the automobile industry and, in turn, what will it mean for coaters and finishers? I don’t have the answers, but I’m certain it will mean an evolution in ways things are coated, plated, painted and cured.

In this issue, we explore oven-curing technology that takes lightweighting of cars into consideration. The increased use of aluminum in hard-to-cure areas opens the door for innovation and reconfigured ovens that can help improve curing and also save floor space.

If we look at other areas, the industry seems poised for more change as well. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many shop owners to consider new ways of working. New platforms were embraced for connecting with employees and customers. New ways of monitoring processes were also considered. The fact that pretty much everyone found themselves forced to rise to a new comfort level with meeting platforms and smart devices may serve as the long-term bright side of the quarantine. As shop owners embrace smart solutions, how will their processes evolve?

When I worked on CW, I often had exciting conversations with my brilliant coworker Ginger Gardiner, who was always connecting the dots and looking for ways that innovations in one sector might translate to others. She was often right and, sure enough, we’d see some news emerge confirming what she had speculated about. As I look at what’s going on in the various industries that coaters and finishers serve, I’m trying to think like Ginger and connect those dots. I’m not there yet, but that’s one of my goals for Products Finishing — to help finishers stay on top of trends and what they means for their businesses. What are your thoughts on where the industry is headed? I’d love to hear from our readers and welcome thoughts from anyone who wants to be part of the conversation.

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