Powder coating can – and, I believe, should – be learned on the job. Experience is the best teacher: you’ll learn far more through trial and error than you could from a book.
That being said, here are some helpful ground rules to get you started.
Wear your PPE.
There are three non-negotiable protective items you should wear anytime you’re spraying powder:
- Hooded coveralls. These should have elastic at the wrists and feet to keep powder off of your skin and hair. I recommend designating a different set of coveralls for each color, to avoid cross-contamination.
- A full-face respirator. The goal is to keep powder out of your eyes and your lungs. Please note that OSHA requires that the wearer be clean-shaven to ensure a good seal, and don’t forget to routinely change your cartridges.
- Work boots. Metal parts are heavy – protect your feet. Additionally, make sure that your boots have a good tread on them, as powder can make the floor slippery.
Make sure you’re using the right powder.
If you spray a lot of different colors throughout the day, grabbing the wrong box of powder can cause a catastrophic amount of rework. Check the work order (even if you already know what it says) and confirm that you’ve grabbed the right box from your powder storage area. Note that powder coating color names can sound alike – for added protection, verify the product code.
Check your work before curing.
One of the benefits of powder coating is that we can look a part over before we cure it, and fix a lot of issues before they become rework. I recommend investing in a high-powered flashlight and inspecting each part before it goes into the oven. If you can see the substrate, the powder is too thin. Alternatively, if the powder is too thick, you can blow it off and re-spray the area.
Beware of the powder coating oven.
This rule is twofold:
- Never enter the oven without high temp gloves on. At Kaser, we use welding gloves that go up to the wearer’s bicep. Even if the cart is cool to the touch, if you were to trip and fall in a hot oven, you’d be at risk of terrible burns without proper gloves.
- Check the technical data sheet before curing. Powders cure at different temperatures, for different lengths of time. Consult the TDS for accurate information. To save yourself time, I recommend writing the powder’s cure time and temp on the box, so you can cast a glance at it on your way to the oven.
Powder coating is manual labor, particularly in a batch booth job shop where you’re having to push parts around by hand. Stretch, wear supportive shoes, lift with your legs, and above all, stay hydrated, particularly in the summer months.