The powder vs. liquid coating conversation has been going on a long time. Experts have picked sides and spilled ink on the subject for decades, but customers remain confused. I get asked all the time which is better.
While I am partial to powder coating because it has become the backbone of my business, the truth is that there’s a lot more nuance to the question than customers expect. I can’t generalize and tell them that powder is always better than liquid. Substrates, coatings, and expectations differ – I prefer to advise customers on a case-by-case basis.
For those who remain frustrated by that answer, here’s the best I can do: a quick and dirty breakdown of five major considerations when trying to choose between liquid and powder coating.
Material Costs & Durability
In powder coating as in liquid coating, you get what you pay for. The materials range from cheap to expensive on both sides; most of the time, better quality means a higher price point. However, in my experience, anyone seeking a high quality, long-term finish on an outdoor part will often find that powder can out-perform liquid at a lower price.
Powder coating is quicker than liquid coating. That’s as close to a hard-and-fast rule as I can get in this blog. It has to do with cure time: powder only needs 30 minutes in an oven, whereas liquid coating tends to take hours, days, or even weeks to cure. That being said, Kaser’s lead time for powder coating is double (or sometimes triple) what it is for liquid coating, simply because we’re putting out two to three times the number of parts. Your shop’s mileage may vary.
This is the trickiest part of this conversation, because so much depends on the applicator’s skill level. Kaser gets better results from powder coating, for two reasons: 1. That’s what we spray the most; and 2. Large parts with weird geometries – which are our bread and butter – are less prone to sags and runs when we powder coat them. However, the automotive industry is proof that liquid coating can yield mirror-like results. Vet your coater and play to their strengths.
Liquid coating is environmentally complicated. It involves solvents and volatile organic compounds that tend to be more harmful – and harder to dispose of – than powder coating. The biggest environmental challenge for powder coaters is making sure that their pretreatment wastewater is treated properly before draining.
In short, powder coating is ideal for the majority of Kaser’s projects (i.e., large, metal parts destined for use in manufacturing and agriculture). But that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for everyone, much less the best fit for everyone.