Frequently Asked Questions

POWDER COATING EQUIPMENT QUERIES

What equipment is needed for powder coating?

Powder coating involves three steps: preparing the part, coating the part, and curing the coating once it is applied. Preparing the part can be as simple as wiping it down with cleaner or as complex as using blasting equipment to clean rusty parts with abrasive blast media. Many coaters use a chemical pretreatment system to clean parts with detergent or a phosphatizing agent. Coating is typically done using a powder coating gun and a powder spray booth. The gun electrostatically applies the coating media and the booth keeps overspray from entering the shop. Once coated, the part is placed in a curing oven where the applied powder is heated (typically at about 400°F) until it melts and flows together to form a solid coating on the surface of the part. Once the part cools, it is ready to use.
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How much is a powder coating gun?

There are inexpensive guns for limited home use or single-use applications (use it and discard it), hobby guns, and professional powder coating guns. Guns for limited use can cost under a hundred dollars, but they are notorious for clogging and failing to apply a uniform layer of powder. Hobby guns typically start at a few hundred dollars and can cost up to about three or four thousand dollars. Hobby guns are also more likely to provide unsatisfactory results and numerous hobby gun suppliers have gone out of business or swapped from one vendor or design to another—leaving the buyer in a bind when the gun or controller needs maintenance or repair. For professional situations where you’ll be doing powder coating as a business or in an industrial setting, there are three professional brands that dominate the market: Wagner, Gema, and Nordson. Their products provide excellent results and typically have similar features. Professional gun systems typically start at four to five thousand dollars. In addition to providing consistent coating results and superior performance and durability, these brands have large support networks and stock common maintenance and repair parts.
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Do you need a powder spray booth for powder coating?

Powder coating using a powder spray gun can cause problems in your shop if you don’t have a spray booth. Powder overspray, the powder particles that don’t stick to the parts you are coating, can be a nuisance for employees and can contaminate other equipment in your shop. A spray booth helps keep your shop clean by containing powder overspray and capturing airborne particles in filters so your shop environment stays clean. Unlike wet paint booths, a powder booth can exhaust the air back into the shop and doesn’t have to exhaust the filtered air into the outdoor environment. As an added benefit, the spray booth moves air across the part, allowing the operator to see the surface of the part without being surrounded by a cloud of spent powder.
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How much does powder coating equipment cost?

There are two categories of powder coating equipment: hobby equipment and professional equipment. Hobby equipment is typically much less expensive, but is smaller, slower to use, less durable, and may not provide consistent results.
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GENERIC POWDER COATING QUERIES

What can you powder coat?

In theory, any solid surface material that can safely withstand exposure to high temperatures (typically around 400°F) can be powder coated. There are certain wood and MDF products that can withstand curing temperatures and are suitable for powder coating, as well as some plastics, but these products are somewhat rare.
Most metal products, including those made of aluminum, mild steel, stainless steel, and steel alloys are well suited for powder coating. Treated steel products, such as those with a galvanized or electroplated surface can also be powder coated.

Is powder coating cheaper than painting?

Yes, typically the cost to powder coat parts in an industrial setting is lower than the cost to paint them. This is because the cost of many powder coatings is less than the cost of professional quality paint products and the transfer efficiency (how much of the coating being applied actually adheres to the part) is also typically higher than with painting. There are often other cost benefits, like the fact that certain paints generate waste that can be costly to dispose of properly. In heated and cooled shops, powder coating equipment can be cheaper to operate because the air being exhausted from the spray booth can be returned to the shop instead of having to be discharged into the outdoor atmosphere.
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What temperature is needed for powder coating?

Most powders require 350°F to 450°F for proper curing. The curing process involves heating the coated part at a set temperature for a set period of time. The higher the temperature, the faster the surface of the part will reach a temperature where the powder melts and flows together. Some finishes, like high gloss white, can become discolored by exposure to excessive heat, so accurate control of curing temperatures is important.

How much will a pound of powder coating media cover?

If the powder has a specific gravity of 1.0 and there is a transfer efficiency of 100%, one pound of powder will cover 192.3 square feet at a thickness of 1.0 mil. In a “real world” shop environment, the same pound of powder would probably cover about 36 square feet at a thickness of 3.0 mils.
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Can you over cure powder coating?

Yes. Although most powder coatings are formulated to protect from over-curing, curing at excessively high temperatures or for much longer than is needed can result in a brittle or discolored finish. It can also cause the finished product to not be as glossy as it should be.
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How do you fix the finish of a powder coated part?

The best solution is to strip and recoat the part, but there are several tricks that can save you time and money.
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How do you remove powder coating?

Powder coating can be removed by blasting the surface of the coated part with abrasive media, applying a chemical stripping agent such as Benco B17, or using prolonged exposure to high temperatures (typically above 750°F) to degrade the finish.
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What is Cerakote and how is it different from powder coating?

Cerakote is the name brand of a leading ceramic-based coating process. Typically, the coating is applied using HVLP spray guns rather than powder guns. The mil thickness of ceramic coating is typically much less than that of powder coating, usually only about 1 mil. Both powder coating and Cerakote is typically applied in a spray booth. Although some products air dry, many premium ceramic-based coating products require oven curing, just like powder coatings. Both processes serve to paint the part being coated, as well as apply a durable finish that seals the surface of the part. Some powder coating shops also offer Cerakote services, particularly for firearms.

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POWDER COATING BUSINESS QUERIES

How much does it cost to start a powder coating business?

You’ll need a location where you can operate your coating business, a selection of powder coating equipment, a way to promote your powder coating services, and a source for high quality pretreatment supplies and powder coating media. If you intend to professionally coat only small parts, like wheels or car and truck parts, you can probably start a business for $100,000 or less. In order to coat larger parts or perform a large volume of coating, you’ll need a larger budget. The problem with starting a business with less expensive hobby equipment and supplies is that it is much harder to achieve professional quality results and give your customers consistent finishes.

How much does a powder coater get paid?

For this answer, “powder coater” means the person who prepares parts for coating, manually applies powder coating in a spray booth, or moves parts in and out of a curing oven. In most shops, the powder coater will often do more than one of these tasks. Powder coaters typically either operate batch equipment in a powder coating business or job shop or run batch equipment in the finishing department of a manufacturing facility. Some powder coaters operate coating equipment that is part of a conveyorized coating line. In 2020, powder coaters in the U.S. earned an average of $14.00 to $15.00 per hour. Entry-level coaters typically earn less, and very experienced coaters or coating line managers can earn up to $36,000 per year or more. The owners and operators of powder coating operations typically earn significantly more if they also perform coating work.

 

WET PAINT BOOTH QUERIES

How big should a paint spray booth be?

The size of your spray booth will depend on your style on your style of use. If you intend to load parts into it and not move them again until they are painted, you’ll want 3’-5’ of clearance on all sides for the most efficient throughput, although it may be possible to paint the part with as little as 2’ of clearance. You’ll also want to make sure that you have enough room above the part, at least 2’-3’, so the painter can easily coat the top of the parts without painting the ceiling of the booth. The more easily the painter can move around the part, the faster it can be painted.

Why do spray booths have an exhaust?

Paint spray booths must have a powered exhaust to meet U.S. codes. The exhaust prevents paint overspray, the airborne mist that doesn’t stick to the parts being painted, from entering the shop space outside of the paint booth. Typically, the paint booth has slightly lower air pressure than the rest of the shop (also known as “negative pressure”) when it is in operation. This causes air to enter the spray booth and travel through it before passing through exhaust filters and being discharged into the outdoor atmosphere.

How much airflow does a paint booth need?

Regulatory organizations like OSHA, IFC, and NFPA have minimum requirements for paint booth airflow. A powered exhaust is required to decrease the concentration of flammable fumes in a paint spray booth.  These requirements can be set as a minimum velocity (FPM/feet per minute) or volume (CFM/cubic feet per minute) and are updated from time to time.

Air velocity or air flow rate is determined by measuring the amount of air moving through a cross-sectional area, typically the opening to the booth or the area covered by filters. Older codes require a minimum of 100 linear FPM for solvent-based wet paints, while powder coating spray booths are required to have only 60 or 70 liner FPM.

Another common rule of thumb is that a booth used for spraying wet paint must have enough airflow to exchange all of the air in the booth at least 4 times per minute. As an example, a 10’ x 10’ x 25’ industrial paint booth with a flat roof (as opposed to a less expensive “hip” roofed booth that has less interior volume) has an interior volume of 2,500 cubic feet. It would need an exhaust that generates 10,000 CFM or more of airflow during normal operation. Moving 10,000 CFM through a 10’ x 10’ opening (which has a cross-section of 100 square feet) will cause an air flow rate of 100 FPM (10,000÷100=100).

 

INDUSTRIAL CURING OVEN QUERIES

What is a curing oven?

An industrial curing oven is an appliance used for thermal processing (heating). Heated curing improves the strength and durability of certain materials. It does this by accelerating a physical or chemical change. Industrial ovens are commonly used for curing painted or powder coated finishes, polystyrene or composite parts, or for processing raw materials such as rubber, metals, adhesives, and thermoset polymers.

How does an industrial oven work?

Industrial ovens operate at elevated temperatures to accelerate a physical or chemical change to the parts loaded into them. The atmosphere inside the oven is typically heated by a gas, oil, or electric powered heating system. These heat systems may use direct flame-to-air heating of the oven environment or may use an indirectly-fired system where a heat exchanger isolates the oven interior from the combustion process. Similarly, some ovens use a heat exchanger that is filled with steam instead of hot air. Special purpose industrial ovens may employ other heating methods, such as the use of gas or electric infrared (IR) panels to direct heat energy onto the parts inside the oven