Powder coating helps seat manufacturer’s profits grow.

When the NBA championship finals opened last spring with the Utah Jazz playing the Chicago Bulls, most sports writers agreed that the series was a toss-up. But the 500 men and women who work for the Hussey Seating Co. knew from the start they had a sure thing. Hussey had manufactured the seats for both teams’ arenas — Utah’s 22,000-seat Delta Center and Chicago’s 20,000-seat United Center.

Hussey’s “mortal lock” on the seats for the championships was not surprising, because the fast-growing, $90 million/year company, headquartered in North Berwick, ME, has become one of the nation’s leading makers of spectator seating. Company spokesmen say it produces the broadest line of fixed chairs in the industry today, including seats for arenas and stadiums, movie theaters, and lecture halls.

Clients range from public school systems to General Cinema Corp. to some of North America’s most famous stadiums, including the SkyDome, Denver’s Coors Field, and the new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium near Washington, D.C. Powder coating has played an important role in the company’s recent success, which includes annual growth rates of 10–15% in the last five years.

Until the late 1980s, Hussey used solventborne liquid to coat almost all of the metal parts of the seating it manufactured. Then, says Process Engineer Dave Lockman, the company won the contract to provide seating at the University of Alabama’s new Crimson Tide Stadium. “It was an outdoor job where we had to have an excellent finish that would ensure the cast-iron frames could withstand the weather — lots of rain, sun, and high humidity,” Lockman says.

Hussey decided to contract with a custom coater to powder coat the seats. Very satisfied with the results, it has used powder coating on every outdoor facility it has worked on since, and now does most of the coating in-house.

Hussey made the move to powder after investigating different coating alternatives and discovering that powder coating did a better job. “Powder coating definitely gives more bang for the buck,” says Lockman. “It’s provided our products better durability and weatherability, and it’s very environmentally friendly.”

For example, since seats in large outdoor stadiums are on display so often to fans and television audiences, the company pays special attention to how well the gloss and color of the coatings it uses stand up to the elements. In tests using a spectrophotometer to measure gloss and color retention, powder coating outperformed liquid paint alternatives, retaining 80% of its initial gloss and color after 300 hours of exposure to humidity and UV radiation.

“Just look at one of the stadiums we’ve supplied. You’ll see how brilliant the colors are,” says Lockman.

Powder coating also meets Hussey’s stringent corrosion requirements, he says, which are “way above” industry standards.

In addition, one of the most important environmental benefits of powder for Hussey is that the company doesn’t have to worry about VOCs. Also, solvents aren’t required to clean up overspray, like with liquid paint. Moreover, when Hussey powder coats large batches, it can recover and recycle much of the overspray.

Hussey now powder coats metal components, which range from cast iron to mild steel, as well as a small amount of aluminum, at its own facility at Sanford, ME. The company outsources the powder coating of some of its plastic parts. The Sanford plant’s powder coating line uses an 800-foot conveyor, with an iron phosphate pretreatment system, and a radiant combination oven for drying and curing.

The application booth has two collection modules, which make it easier to change colors. The booth can spray either manually or automatically, depending on the number of parts in a run. The size of the runs vary widely, from 25–25,000 components at a time.

“We use powder coating as a marketing tool,” says Lockman, “because it does such a good job of color and gloss retention, corrosion protection, and impact resistance. In a very competitive market, powder coating is an important differentiator for us.”