Aspiring powder coaters who consume a lot of social media content, this one’s for you.
Before any of us had wash bays, outbuildings, and multi-step processes, we were one- or two-person operations with a can of MEK and a dream…and we were still putting out coatings.
You can do the work without the bells and whistles. You can even do good work without the bells and whistles. The quality of your product depends more on your priorities than it does on your equipment, so don’t wait – start now.
Here’s my advice for the newbies.
Pretreatment is a state of mind.
You don’t need a wash bay – or even a pressure washer – but you DO need to pretreat your parts. Get a clean rag nice and damp with a good solvent (i.e., acetone or MEK), and wipe parts your down by hand. Change the rag often, particularly if the part is oily. Then put the part in the oven at temperature to burn off any remaining greases. While this method doesn’t impart a conversion coat or offer any long-term corrosion protection, it is perfectly adequate for making sure the part is clean before you coat it.
Filter, filter, filter.
Compressed air quality affects so much of what we do as powder coaters. The size of your compressor doesn’t matter – a small reciprocating compressor is fine, so long as your in-line filters are getting the oil and moisture out. Do your research, and commit to a maintenance schedule.
Get to know your gun.
If there’s one piece of equipment that I recommend spending money on right away, it’s your powder gun. Yes, you could spend $500 on a gun you buy off of Amazon, and yes, it could work fine (so long as you’re carefully regulating your air the old-fashioned way). But if you’re able to invest $5,000 in a name brand gun (i.e., Gema, Wagner, or Nordson), do it. The transfer efficiency alone is worth it.
Grounding is a simple concept that’s tough to execute, and it will only get harder as your business grows. Set yourself up for success by ensuring that your ground rod extends 6-10’ into the earth. After that, if all you have is a jumper cable, no problem – attach one end to the ground rod and the other to your part, and you’re grounded. As you coat more and more parts, you’ll have to start paying attention to powder buildup on your hooks and racks.
I enjoy the fact that social media is a race to the top. I like to see people excel in the finishing industry, but I also don’t want to alienate the folks who are just getting started. A simple setup can be very effective, as long as you’re paying attention to the right things.