Custom Aluminum Coating Solutions: Which Will You Choose?

coating-solutionsWhen it comes to choosing which type of custom aluminum coating solutions to use on your aluminum products, there are three primary choices to make. This article will provide details on what each of these types of coatings are, what advantages they have, any disadvantages they might have for specific applications and how they can best be used to protect aluminum extrusions and fabrications for the manufacturing industry.

Silver City Aluminum offers all of these coatings as options for our clients. Selecting the type of custom aluminum coating solutions that are best for your project should be carefully determined by evaluating all of the factors involved. The three types of coatings we will discuss include protective powder coating, painting aluminum products and anodizing aluminum.

Solution #1 – Protective Powder Coating
Compared to a liquid paint, which is made from a combination of solvent, resin and pigment, a protective powder coating for aluminum is simply pigment, which has been encapsulated inside of a powdered resin. This is why some people in the industry refer to powder coatings as “paint without the solvent,” because it describes the differences perfectly. The pigment will have all of the same performance characteristics regardless of which method is used and the resin that is used in both paint and protective powder coating is exactly the same as well.

When continuing to compare powder coatings with the option of painting aluminum products, there are other advantages to choosing powder as well. For example, some of the advantages to using powders over liquid paint include gloss and hardness, which are actually attributed to the characteristics of the resin and not the pigment or application method itself. Some resins are only manufactured for use with powder or solvent-based coatings, but not both, so while the resins are technically “the same,” there are certain resins that work more easily with powder coatings and others that work more easily with a solvent.

Major manufacturers of protective powder coating will typically create colors in large batches, making custom colors more costly. The reason for this is that a batch of powder must be ground to order via expensive equipment that grinds it for use. Small batches of solvent-based coatings can be easily created by mixing pigment together, providing manufacturers that rely on custom aluminum coating solutions with a wider color array. Another drawback of choosing protective powder coating would be where the products are to be used. For example, outdoor use could make powders more likely to peel or texture over time.

Solution #2 – Painting Aluminum Products
Already we have seen advantages to choosing painting over powder coating in some instances, however there are still many reasons why manufacturers may have to spend some time deciding between these two popular coatings. Paints and powders are both considered to be “organic” coatings, so the performance of each will depend greatly on the pre-treatment that is done to the aluminum in advance of the application. The type of resin and the pigmentation that are used will also play a part.

Aluminum products should always be pretreated before a coating is applied. Industry leaders have understood over time that painting aluminum products should be done in a factory setting to ensure that the organic coating is as strong as it can possibly be, depending on the use of the finished product. Different resins should be chosen depending on whether or not the product will be used indoors or outdoors, according to the American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association, or the AAMA. They have very strict specifications for painting aluminum products that will be used in an architectural application.

As we have noted, there is a greater custom color option available when painting aluminum products versus using a protective powder coating. This allows for a greater color uniformity between coating batches. Painting aluminum products allows for better chemical resistance to cleaners that are acidic or have a strong alkalinity. Regardless of where your products will be used, in order to ensure the best outdoor results, inquire about Florida exposure results, which fall under AAMA 2605-98. This will provide a guaranteed result in just about any extreme exposure for a minimum of ten years.

Solution #3 – Anodizing Aluminum
Most people don’t have any idea what anodizing aluminum is or how it’s accomplished. The method used in anodizing is a very basic electrochemical process that is over 50 years old. It causes a protective coating made from aluminum oxide to form over the surface of the aluminum products. The thickness of the coating that is applied will determine the lifetime of the custom aluminum coating solutions that are used. Aluminum oxide is a very durable, weather-resistant substance that is used to protect the base metal as a “sacrificial” layer to protect the aluminum product.

Customization can also occur when anodizing aluminum. The coating itself may be colored with a pigment, however various bronze tones can be achieved through the natural diffraction phenomena that occurs during the coating process. The electrochemical process causes the coating to “grow” from the aluminum metal itself, which is why it will not peel, flake or come off like protective powder coating or painted products. A much deeper, more metallic color is possible through anodizing aluminum than is possible with any paint or powder.

Another major benefit to choosing anodizing aluminum over other custom aluminum coating solutions is that it is much more affordable than painting. Because the finished anodized product is much more protected and strong, this makes anodizing aluminum the most cost-effective, long-lasting solution of the three available options. Anodized aluminum is better for use in high traffic areas that are exposed to abrasive cleaners, physical abuse or exposure to the elements. Anodizing aluminum also results in a much faster finished product, as it is quicker to produce than other coating methods.

Custom Aluminum Coating Solutions at Silver City Aluminum
If you still aren’t sure which custom aluminum coating solutions are best for your aluminum products, speak with one of our experienced technicians about your order. While some of the coatings offered are more aesthetic than others, it can be important to the performance of your aluminum products to choose the most protective coating style available. Contact Silver City Aluminum with any questions about custom aluminum coating solutions or use our online forms to place your custom order.