For a versatile metal like aluminum, the finishing process used to protect it needs to be equally as versatile. It should also fit the needs of most any functional or aesthetic project. For these reasons, powder coating is one of the most popular choices for finishing aluminum.
Here at SendCutSend, we offer powder coating for eight different metals, three of which are various aluminum types. Our laser cut 5052, 6061, and 7075 aluminum can all be powder coated, adding a durable finish to a whole range of parts applications. Keep reading to learn if powder coating can benefit your aluminum product!
Can You Powder Coat Aluminum? 6 Key Advantages
Although aluminum is naturally corrosion resistant, some applications may call for the additional protection that powder coating provides. Many outdoor uses for aluminum, such as playground equipment, fencing, or signage, can benefit from the increased corrosion resistance of powder coating. There are countless other benefits to powder coating aluminum as well. Here are the six key advantages to this finishing process:
- Corrosion resistance
As we’ve already mentioned, corrosion resistance is one of the most valuable benefits to powder coating. It protects the base metal from oxidation and other intense weathering with a strong polymer coating.
- Increases impact resistance and durability
Powder coating provides a thick layer of protection against impact and other high stress wear, while also being scratch resistant.
- Offers a wide range of color options
Almost any color imaginable can be used in powder coating. We offer 6 colors for our powder coating options: matte black, gloss black, wrinkle black, gloss white, gloss red, gloss yellow, and gloss green.
- Resistant to UV damage and color fading
Powder coating is less susceptible to sun damage and fading than other aesthetic finishing processes. Even in harsh conditions, powder coating can last up to 20 years before needing to be reapplied.
- Low waste
Unlike paint, when powder coating is sprayed onto a part, the oversprayed particles can be collected and reused for future parts. This limits waste and allows more parts to be coated for a fraction of the cost.
- Environmentally friendly
Powder coating is a safe finishing process, as it does not release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like paint does. Powder coating is also safer for application technicians because they are not exposed to common toxic or carcinogenic compounds often found in coloring finishing processes.
Is Powder Coating Better Compared to Anodizing and Paint?
The three most common finishing processes for adding color and protection to an aluminum part are powder coating, anodizing, and painting. We offer both powder coating and anodizing in our line of services, and we’re going to break down each process briefly so you can understand what’s best for your product.
Powder Coating Vs Paint
The biggest appeal of painting over powder coating is that it’s relatively inexpensive and you can do it yourself with little preparation or added tools. There are also generally more custom color options available. However, paint is significantly less durable and must be reapplied with relatively little use or wear. It is also less environmentally friendly than powder coating thanks to the VOCs it releases into the air and surface runoff.
For projects where durability, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance are of concern, powder coating is a must over liquid paint.
Powder Coating Vs Anodizing
Here’s where it gets a little trickier. Anodizing and powder coating are both corrosion resistant, wear resistant, and come in all kinds of color options. They both work on aluminum and they both provide valuable protection to your parts. What will work best for you all depends on your preference and the final application needs for your project.
Anodizing provides a thin, even coating in even the hard-to-reach places of your part thanks to the full submersion process anodized parts go through. It is even more corrosion and wear resistant than powder coating, and is more resistant to scratching, denting, and other handling imperfections. Powder coating, by contrast, will be a thicker coating and slightly less even depending on who is applying the powder. The coating itself is more susceptible to damage but also more likely to protect the base metal from high impact. Powder coating is also generally cheaper and more widely available.
Although you can’t conclusively say that powder coating is better than anodizing or vice versa, each project has unique protection needs and one of these two finishing processes is likely to do the trick.
Powder Coating vs. Anodizing vs. Paint
|Powder Coating||Powder coating is highly corrosion resistant thanks to its plasticine quality and thickness.||Powder coating is one of the most durable finishing options, withstanding constant outdoor use for up to 20 years.||Powder coating is a middle ground for affordability with the best provided protection to cost sunk ratio.||Playground equipment, outdoor furniture, appliances, signage|
|Anodizing||Anodizing boasts the highest corrosion resistance of these three processes.||Anodizing lasts longer than pretty much any other finishing process available. It virtually never needs to be reapplied.||Anodizing is the most costly option listed here because it’s a highly technical process which requires significant training, space, and unique tools to complete.||Electrical uses, architectural parts, food industry tools|
|Paint||Paint provides some corrosion resistance with the right preparation and finishing, but does not compare to the protection provided by powder coating.||Paint can chip and fade away with regular outdoor use after very little time. It will need to be sanded and reapplied relatively regularly.||Paint is by far the most affordable of these three options. It needs little training and extra tools to be applied, and is widely available in many formats at any local hardware store.||Automotive parts, robotics, indoor decorative pieces|
How the Aluminum Powder Coating Process Works
Powder coating can seem a bit like a dark art. The process of powder coating isn’t often made easy for people to understand, which makes it more difficult for you to make an informed decision about using powder coating alongside your laser cut aluminum parts. We’re going to take you through the four general steps to powder coating aluminum so you can know exactly what is happening to your parts during the powder coating process.
Step 1: Pretreatment
As with any finishing process, powder coated parts have to go through pretreatment. This just means that they are thoroughly cleaned and cleared of surface level impurities, mill scale, oil, and general dirt and grime. The pretreatment process is broken down further into four stages of washing, alkaline cleaning, solvent cleaning, and rinsing to ensure that all imperfections are cleared from the part before it moves to surface preparation.
Step 2: Surface preparation
Once the part’s surface has been perfectly cleaned and given a smooth finish from all the treatments, you have to rough up the surface a bit to give the powder something to grab onto. There are two options for roughening the surface: sweep blasting and phosphate treatment. These treatments are both equally effective and which one is used depends solely on the shop doing the powder coating. With both methods, abrasive media is deposited on and adhered to the part’s surface to allow the powder to stick during the application process.
Step 3: Powder application
Electrostatically charged particles are shot at the grounded aluminum part using a powder coating gun. The aluminum’s ground creates a difference of charge between the part and the powder, attracting the particles to the metal’s surface and adhering them together. This process can be done several times to achieve the desired coating thickness.
Step 4: Curing
Finally, the part must be cured to finish off the powder coating process and give it its signature durability. The powder coated aluminum part is placed in an oven at around 400°F for 10 to 20 minutes. The length of the curing process as well as the temperature needed is determined by the thickness of the coating: thicker coats require longer curing times at higher temperatures and vice versa.
How Durable is Powder Coated Aluminum?
Powder coating will add durability and corrosion resistance to aluminum parts, but do the harsh treatments the parts have to go through damage the strength? In short, no, the treatments don’t really affect the overall strength of the part. Some really harsh surface preparation treatments could damage or weaken particularly delicate or thin parts, but we avoid damage by requiring that all aluminum parts going through powder coating are at least 0.063” thick. Ultimately, powder coating can actually strengthen aluminum rather than weaken it.
With proper preparation and care, powder coating durability is nearly unmatched by other finishing processes. It is impact resistant, scratch resistant, and stress resistant. We believe so strongly in the durability of our powder coating that we put SendCutSend laser cut and powder coated aluminum parts through six rigorous tests to show how strong it really is. The most damning of these tests was the simulated weathering test showing how finished aluminum holds up to 20 years of corrosion and UV damage. The powder coat was essentially unaffected, protecting the aluminum from long-term damage and keeping the part looking glossy and newly-finished.
What Are Aluminum Powder Coating Colors?
Powder coating is available in virtually any color imaginable. We offer three different options for black powder coating: matte (Black Magic/BK120), gloss (Cardinal BK 12/[RAL 9011]), and wrinkle (Cardinal BK176). We also currently offer gloss finishes in white (Tiger Bengal White
49/11111/[RAL 9003]), red (Cardinal RD03/[RAL 3002]), green (49/52900/[RAL 6001]), and yellow (YL01/[RAL 1018]).
Choosing the Right Finish for Your Metal Product
Powder coating is durable, corrosion resistant, and makes a great aesthetic finish for laser cut aluminum. It can benefit and protect almost any aluminum product, whatever the final application is. Whether or not powder coating is the best finishing option for your product depends on the level of durability you’re seeking, the product’s budget, and what kind of aesthetic finish you’re seeking. We have seen thousands of successful powder coated aluminum products come through our doors and we have no doubt we can help take yours to new heights!
If you still need some help deciding whether or not powder coating is right for your next project, check out our article comparing the most common finishing processes you can do at home with powder coating and other in-house finishing operations. If powder coating is definitely not for you this time around, you will probably find exactly what you need in our anodizing and plating solutions. These other options offer versatility, durability, and a unique level of protection that can keep your parts looking great for decades to come.
Once you’ve decided on the best finishing process for your product, just upload your designs and get a free quote today!