Ask Your Sheet Metal Fabricator: Powder Coat or Wet Paint?

Last updated on December 12th, 2023 at 09:44 am

Sheet metal finishing is an important final step in the custom sheet metal fabrication process. Powder coating and wet paint are two of the most common finishing services customers request.

Here, we’ll briefly explore each service and provide expert input on selecting the one that best fits your needs.

What Is Powder Coating? 

Powder coating is a process in which thermoplastic powder is electrostatically charged and sprayed onto a part with an applicator gun. The charged powder adheres to the part, which is then transferred to an oven and cured at a temperature of 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Powder coat is available in a vast array of colors and textures. When placing an order for powder coating services, it’s important to provide the exact RAL code for the powder coat brand you wish to use. This code tells your sheet metal fabricator the precise color and gloss type.

While a callout such as “powder coat black” may seem straightforward, there are actually dozens of different “blacks” that vary considerably in color and gloss level. This variability can be especially problematic if you’re trying to match the color of an existing part.

If you need help selecting the right powder coat color for your parts, just ask! As a sheet metal fabricator with in-house powder coating services, we’re happy to help you plan for an excellent outcome. Get six tips for designing powder coated sheet metal parts here!

Benefits of powder coating 

Although the curing time depends on the powder type, powder coating is always a faster option than wet paint, which requires primer and paint applications that both must air dry. Because powder coating is more efficient, it is typically less expensive than wet paint—especially at ASM, where we provide powder coating services under our own roof.

Almost any material can be powder coated, and powder coating is well suited to a variety of applications. Whether your part will be used indoors or outdoors, kept relatively protected or exposed to harsh conditions, powder coating provides a highly protective and attractive finish.

Limitations of powder coating Powder Coating

Powder coating does not perform well on parts requiring multiple colors, such as many legacy military parts. When applying more than one powder coat color to a part, a portion of the part must be masked during application. When exposed to the heat of the curing oven, the masking adhesive often leaves residue on the part that is difficult to remove, resulting in an unsatisfactory finish.

It’s also important to note that certain hardware types, such as nylon inserts, will melt during curing and thus should be inserted only after the powder coating process is complete. It’s your sheet metal fabricator’s responsibility to look for these components in your part design and take the proper precautions to prevent negative outcomes.

What Is Wet Paint?

Wet paint is applied with a liquid spray gun and, like powder coat, comes in a wide range of colors and sheens that should be identified with a RAL code. The wet paint process has multiple application steps. A primer must first be applied, followed by at least one coat of paint.

Benefits of wet paint

Wet paint provides a durable, attractive coat for parts across a wide range of materials and applications. It's an excellent choice for multi-color parts, as the wet paint process introduces no risk of adhesive residue.

Limitations of wet paint 

Because wet painted parts must air dry between primer and paint applications, the process is generally more time-consuming and expensive. When time or budget are limited, powder coating is typically the better choice.

Get Custom Sheet Metal Fabrication Finishing Services 

At ASM, we’re committed to helping you attain the ideal finish for your parts. Whether that means powder coating your parts in one of our in-house booths or outsourcing wet paint services to one of our trusted vendors, we’re the sheet metal fabricator you can count on to deliver exceptional results.

Request a quote for our custom sheet metal fabrication services!

Sheet Metal Fabrication Powder Coat or Wet Paint FAQ

Powder coating involves electrostatically spraying thermoplastic powder onto the part, which is then cured in an oven. Wet paint, on the other hand, involves applying liquid paint with a spray gun after applying a primer.

When requesting powder coating, providing the exact RAL code for your preferred color and gloss type is crucial. This detailed code ensures precision in color selection, especially considering the wide variability among seemingly similar shades.

Powder coating is typically faster and more cost-effective as it requires less curing time compared to wet paint, which demands drying time for both primer and paint applications. It's versatile and provides excellent protection for various applications and environmental conditions.

Wet paint is preferable for multi-color parts without the risk of adhesive residue. However, it generally takes more time and can be costlier due to the multiple application steps. When time or budget constraints exist, powder coating often becomes the better option.

At ASM, we're dedicated to helping you achieve the perfect finish for your parts. Whether it's powder coating within our facilities or outsourcing wet paint services, we guide you through the selection process to ensure exceptional results aligning with your specific needs.

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