How long has powder coating been around ?

A brief history of the process.

History and general uses

Today, powder coating remains the go-to process for finishing and protecting a wide variety of products across a vast landscape of industries. From common household appliances to military grade vehicles, powder coating has been the favorite painting choice among professionals.

But have you ever wondered how long has powder coating been around? Where did it start and how was it originally applied? There’s a very interesting history there. Ready to learn more? Great! Let’s begin.

Powder coating: the early years

Powder coatings were first used to coat heavy-duty parts that required thick, protective coats, specifically electrical wiring insulation and pipe coatings.

The history of powder coating can be traced back to the late 1940s, when a thermoplastic powder was applied to metallic substrates by flame spraying.

It wasn’t until the early 1950s when a German scientist named Dr. Erwin Gemmer developed a fluidized bed process for thermosetting powder coatings. Gemmer was then working for specialty gas manufacturer KnapsackGreisham, and he saw that alternatives existed to flame spraying.

Shortly after WWII, Europe suffered a shortage of solvents, so the company began using air instead of petroleum-based solvents to apply coatings to metal surfaces.

Gemmer’s patented bed process allowed organic coatings to be applied by preheating the parts and then immersing them in a tank of finely divided plastic powders. These were then held in a suspended state by a rising current of air. The whole system proved to be significantly more efficient than flame spraying and was quickly adopted throughout Europe and the US.

1960 – 1970

In the early 60s, powder coating was being used more and more in a wider variety of markets.

Gemmer’s fluid bed system had been adopted by many industries, gaining popularity across the US and Europe.

But despite its popularity, there were still several barriers impeding wider adoption, including:

  • A limited number of coating chemistries
  • Powder coating manufacturing limitations
  • The coating application itself

 

Though the fluid bed allowed for a more efficient way of coating, the result was a very thick coat of powder applied to the substrate. It also required a very large amount of powder for the product to be fully immersed.

A key event came during 1963, when Ransburg of the US and SAMES/GEMA of Europe introduced a new electrostatic spray gun, which allowed for a thinner coat of powder to be applied to products.

This was a game changer, and different versions of the spray gun are still the go-to device used today.

The next key development came from Shell and Scado in the form of a thermosetting epoxy system that allowed for even thinner coatings and could be applied to a larger list of products.

1970 – Present Day

By the early 1970s, the technological development of power coatings resulted in the basic coating chemistries we use today.

By 1975, available coatings expanded to faster curing epoxies, polyester, epoxy-polyester, polyurethane, acrylics, and a hybrid.

Up until then, powder coating in the US was mainly used for thermoplastics like nylon for electrical and pipe coatings, and the thermosetting powders used to coat small metal components.

But by the mid 1970s, powder coating expanded into other areas including general metals, appliances, and the automotive market. Porcelain enamel on refrigerators and dryers was replaced with powder coating, as were lawnmowers and microwave ovens.

In the automotive industry, powder coating was being used on underbody parts. Ford and GM played with the idea of coating the entire automotive body using powder coating, but the idea never made it past the experimental stage due to inconsistent film thickness.

A key factor to the growth of powder coating in the US came from The Clean Air Act of 1970. Because of the inherent chemicals found in traditional paint and their adverse effects on the environment, powder coating was quickly adopted as the environmentally-friendly, convenient, and more affordable painting option by a variety of industries, and it remains so today.

Conclusion

So there you have it. A bit of history and an answer to how long has powder coating been around.

Today, powder coating technology is a widely used process recognized for its ease of use, protectiveness, and environmentally friendliness.

After many years of fine-tuning, the techniques used today allow us to apply the perfect coat in a variety of colours and finishes.

Let us know if you have any questions, or contact us to get your free personalized quote. We’ll get back to you quickly and help create a custom package to suit your needs.