It was this time last year that I wrote an editorial column for our sister publication, Paint and Coatings Industry. I had just returned from the Coatings 2005 show and felt more than a little disillusioned by the comatose energy pervasive there. I had recalled my early days in powder when the annual show was much anticipated and never let you down. We would always leave energized as we carried back a pocketful of new projects combined with endless possibilities for new business.

I approached the Powder Coating 2006 show with cautious anticipation. Ever the optimist, I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised with a few new twists on this maturing technology. I'm very pleased to report that this year's event did satiate my thirst for innovation. There seemed to be much more energy and optimism this year. And to tell you the truth, this new energy came from a number of different directions. Much of it emanated from smaller companies.

The entrepreneurial spirit of a modest sized cadre of technologists appears to be spawning new approaches to the finishing industry. I spoke with one company that has developed a new and improved technique to apply molten powder using flame spray apparatus. Another organization has come up with a low-temperature and environmentally sound process to strip and clean automotive alloy wheels. Still another company is formulating extraordinary-looking powders with novel high-performance pigment technology. I encountered colleagues debuting new technology for soft-touch, thin-film, in-mold and anti-microbial powders. There was even one company (perhaps not so small) that was promoting a high-temperature conductive plastic specifically designed to accept a powder topcoat.

In the midst of the powder show I took a brief hiatus and trekked to Milwaukee to catch the SUR/FIN exhibition and conference, where similar glimmers of innovation were evident. The plating and metal finishing industry is facing considerable regulatory challenges and appears to be stepping up to the plate with solutions. Most pressing is the need to eliminate hexavalent chrome. I saw many innovative approaches using trivalent chrome and other materials to meet this challenge. We will be reporting on these developments in upcoming months.

My faith in humankind's innovative spirit has been once again renewed. The upcoming year will indeed pose difficult challenges both technically and in the marketplace. Somehow I think that we will be able to not only confront these hurdles, but also to grow stronger and flourish.

This month we bring you our annual Buyers Guide. Not only is it chock full of anything you could ever imagine needing for your finishing process, it also contains a very useful reference section. We sincerely hope that you will keep this issue within reach for the next year to help make your job a little easier. Please don't hesitate to e-mail me at with any suggestions you might have for next year's Buyers Guide.

Best of luck to those of you who foster the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that will carry the finishing industry to greater heights.