Moving, coating, and curing large, heavy parts presents a fairly obvious set of predictable challenges for any coating shop. But what challenges do we face on the smaller end of the spectrum? More specifically, what makes coating nuts, bolts, screw heads, and other tiny hardware so tricky and often expensive?
Nuts and bolts typically come to us in massive quantities, as part of a larger project.
For example, we often see railing come through the shop in bulk, with all of its hardware and fasteners along for the ride. The customer understandably wants the fasteners to match the railing color, and wants to save time by having it all coated at once. That makes sense – we work in batches, and can run everything through the blasting, pretreatment, and coating process at the same time.
But believe it or not, 100’s of bolts, nuts, and washers is a lot to hang, move, and keep track of. The vast majority of the expense incurred with these tiny parts comes from the physical labor required to hang each one, keep track of each one through the coating process, and package each one when all is said and done. For being so small, these parts require a surprising amount of manpower to get them safely from point A to point B.
I try to warn my industrial customers ahead of time that small does not necessarily equal cheap, and quantity definitely affects price.
This warning is especially important in light of the fact that the coating we apply may not survive the installation process unscathed. Repeated impact during installation almost inevitably chips at the powder coating on the screw heads, resulting in the customer having to touch them up with liquid paint after all is said and done.
When I warn customers that chipping is likely, some of them don’t mind at all – they consider the powder coating process a time-saver, and are willing to do small touch ups themselves as necessary.
Other customers want to reconsider the cost of powder coating the fasteners in the first place, and just paint the small parts on their own. This requires a bit more work on their end, but likely saves them some money.
In summary, large quantities of small parts may seem easier to deal with than large, heavy parts, but it is quite the opposite. More pieces means more labor. And almost always, “labor-intensive” means “expensive.” If you’re open to a DIY project, coating the hardware yourself could save you some money.