It is difficult to see the changes taking place around you when you are too close to something. Like when your children are growing older and maturing and you note a gradual change but nothing dramatic. Then one day it seems they are "suddenly" headed off to college and you wonder how you missed the change.
Things keep changing in the coatings industry, too, but at times we are only aware of gradual change and miss the details. In recent years and months there have been steady improvements in materials, equipment and technique. Yes, we still use a spray washer, spray booths, spray guns and ovens, much like we have for the last 40 years or so, but look more closely and consider how many different innovations have come along.
The first liquid coatings available for commercial use were mostly solvent. Now there are very low VOC coatings available, including zero-VOC liquid polyurethane coatings with good performance properties. Manual liquid spray guns have gotten lighter and more efficient, with improved electrostatic options.
Powder booth and recovery technology has evolved to create a better application environment and provide opportunities for color changes of one to 15 minutes, depending on the spray equipment and reclaim design. Using composite booth walls and booth designs that limit the amount of powder that is left in the booth and provide fast and reliable color change - these booths are making it possible to use many more colors on powder and avoid excess downtime. Another recent development that could have a big impact on the powder industry is the use of dense-phase transport technology for improved material handling in reclaim systems and the use of digital density feeding pumps to eliminate the need for compressed air for powder delivery. These pumps have the potential to reduce cost and improve application efficiency significantly.
New powder coating technologies provide coatings for composite materials and other non- conductive, heat sensitive surfaces. Other powders are being used with vacuum metallizing to produce a very sharp-looking substitute for chrome plating on wheels.
In the area of testing and measurement, the coating industry offers excellent portable spectrophotometers and gloss meters. There also are much improved gauges and procedures for film thickness measurement.
So while we have been moving along, doing things very much the way we did many years ago, the tools and methods that are at our disposal have helped to improve efficiency and quality. We also have come a long way in development of compliance options and reduced pollution associated with the application of coatings. Suppliers of equipment and materials continue to make great strides in improvement as evidenced by the continuing decline in labor cost associated with production.
In this issue, we take a look at plans that some of our readers may have for the future in our Finishing Market Survey and see what trends we expect for the coming year. We also report on some developments in the area of standards for film thickness measurement and color measurement - critical aspects of good quality control.
As the year unfolds, we expect to see many new developments that impact our industry. As always, Industrial Paint & Powder will continue to research and report on ideas that can help coaters do a better job and remain competitive. Keep reading to stay informed so that the gradual changes do not escape your attention.