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F E AT U R E

The Market Potential for


UV Powder Coatings
Initial Results of the RadTech Powder Focus Group Market Research

By Paul Mills

The first two commercial applications for UV powder Engine blocks are massive parts that soak up heat and,
share an interesting similarity—we wouldn’t have predicted therefore, require long heating times and cool-down periods.
either of them. The developers and purveyors of this new While blank lines coat lighter-weight parts, the speed of these
technology would not have guessed that electric motors or lines, like pipe and tube lines, benefits greatly from shorter
automobile radiators would be the first. heating and cooling processes.
And while it’s equally unlikely that we can predict The methodology of the survey was straightforward. In
where the next application will come from, it is hard to each market a few of the largest and most technically savvy
resist trying to understand the market for UV powders. To companies were contacted for telephone interviews. Often
this end, the Powder Coating Focus Group of RadTech several individuals from a given manufacturer were
recently completed the first phase of a market research interviewed.
study aimed at identifying the likely drivers and obstacles The market researchers sought first to obtain informa-
for UV powders’ growth in the industrial coatings market. tion about the existing coating processes and then to
A number of end markets were identified as likely explore the suitability of UV powder coating.
candidates for the technology based on the potential The results of this survey are summarized here.
advantages to manufacturers—that is, low temperature
processing and rapid speed of cure. Polycarbonate headlight lenses
The initial set of industries surveyed included: Detailed discussions were held with coatings engineers
• Pre-coated particleboard and MDF stock from polycarbonate headlight lamp manufacturers. Each
• Polycarbonate headlight lenses had relatively recently converted to wet UV-cure systems.
• Pneumatic door closers At the time of evaluation, none of these companies felt that
• Foam core doors powder was available to them as an option. Therefore, no
• Kitchen and bath hardware economic comparisons were done between wet UV and
• Engine blocks powder UV systems.
• Blank coatings One manufacturer (which converted to wet UV in 1994/
• Pipe and tube 1995) had no reason for believing that powder would not
• Aerospace components work and, in fact, would like to evaluate it. A second
• Sheet molded compound (SMC) supplier offered technical reasons why the use of powder
These markets were chosen because the products lend UV might not be viable. These reasons seem to have been
themselves to UV for any of a number of reasons. Headlight provided by conjecture, rather than being the result of
lenses, particleboard, MDF and SMC are all heat- detailed analysis.
temperature substrates which melt, burn or distort under Polycarbonate headlight lenses are clearly a viable
normal powder coating conditions. The alloys used in many market for powder UV, assuming the performance achieved
aerospace components change their important metallurgical is equivalent to that of wet UV, for those companies that are
properties under high heat. Door closers, foam core doors, currently producing the lenses using thermal cure technol-
kitchen and bath hardware are preassembled components ogy. It was not determined by this research how many of
which contain heat-sensitive components. those manufacturers there may be. Converting companies

JULY/AUGUST 1999 RADTECH REPORT 31


F E AT U R E

already using wet Engine blocks


UV may be We contacted a custom powder coater who powder
possible, but the coats Chrysler and Ford engine blocks and will be adding a
sell will be much powder line to coat John Deere, GM, Ford and Detroit
more difficult. The first commercial application of UV- Diesel engine blocks. This company is aware of UV-cure
cured powder coatings: a fully assembled powder technology. If the technology works, they would be
Pneumatic
electric motor. interested in the benefits of lower-temperature cure and
door closers
rapid cure. Several other job coaters coat engine blocks.
Contacts made for this market were of the segment that One job coater powder coats engine blocks for Cummins
manufactures storm and screen door closers. A good engines. That company would be interested in looking at
portion of this market seems to have already been con- the technology but does not seem progressive in its use of
verted to powder. Converting an existing powder line to coatings technology.
UV-cure powder might be possible, but the investment
would have to have a payback of about two years. Blank coatings
Cost savings to be set against the investment may A leading major appliance manufacturer has its blanks
include material savings for a relatively small plastic part powder coated by a contract custom coater. This coater is
that would now need only withstand 225˚ Fahrenheit receptive to use of UV-cure powder but points out that
rather than 375˚ Fahrenheit. There may also be savings in although most powder suppliers are into the company
work-in-process inventory. It is much more likely that a frequently, none is promoting the UV technology.
UV-cure system would be considered in the design for a They are concerned as to whether UV-cured powders
powder line to be newly installed for the purpose of will conform to specification requirements. The coating
coating door closers. would need flexibility necessary for subsequent metal
forming and would need detergent resistance.
Foam core doors
Based on good coating engineer contacts established for Pipe and tube
this market, it appears that this sector has not yet con- Of the companies contacted in this market sector, some
verted to powder coatings, although a few manufacturers have evaluated UV-cure liquid coatings. None has given
were known to do it. Two reasons were provided. Cure serious consideration to powder technology. Outgassing is
temperatures required for traditional powder coating tend reported as a problem. One manufacturer applies a slurry
to warp the doors because the cores cannot withstand the that is cured at 800˚ Fahrenheit. Another wonders if UV-
temperature. The second reason is difficulty with rework. cure powder could achieve the same performance while
The ultimate customer is not as able to repaint his saving considerable energy. It remains unclear whether this
door. Nevertheless, this seems to be a market with market should have
potential application for UV-cure powder technology. priority as a market for
Some of the companies we contacted are open to evaluat- UV-cure powder
ing a powder UV system. technology.
Kitchen and bath hardware Aerospace
The kitchen and bath industry is rapidly discontinuing The aerospace
the use of powder clear coat in favor of physical vapor industry has not
deposition (PVD), a gas technology. PVD applies a brass endorsed traditional
color coat that looks exactly like brass and far exceeds the This minivan radiator is coated with
powder technology.
durability of powder clear coat. White, almond and black UV-curable powder.
This is because heat-
color coats are still applied using powder technology. UV- sensitive substrates cannot tolerate the elevated tempera-
cure technology has never been evaluated. tures required for curing of traditional powder.
Coatings engineers from the fixture companies con- One aircraft manufacturer reports that this is because it
tacted accepted that a cure that would allow heat-sensitive is not repairable in the field. The aerospace industry may
components to be coated might be of interest. Each had well find application for UV-cure powder systems (assum-
mild interest in a cure that reduced outgassing. Generally, ing heat-sensitive substrates are the main problem), but
these contacts thought that energy savings would be under test, the powder did not meet the 200˚ Fahrenheit
insignificant. cure temperature requirement. The industry does not use

32 JULY/AUGUST 1999 RADTECH REPORT