A question regularly searched on the internet is, can you powder coat plastic?
Also, there is considerable disagreement over the negative consequences of powder coating plastic and if painting would be better?
As a result, I’ve laid out the facts here, so you never get caught in a tidal wave of misinformation again.
Within this guide, you will find;
- What is powder coating?
- Can you powder coat plastic?
- Types of powder coating
- How to powder coat plastic
- Advantages and disadvantages of plastic powder coating
- UV-cured powder coating of plastics
- Painting vs. Powder coating
What Is Powder Coating?
Powder coating is a kind of coating applied as a dry powder instead of painting. It is applied electrostatically before being cured with heat or ultraviolet radiation.
Powder coating is famous for creating first-class finishes in terms of utility and overall aesthetic. In addition, its finishes are both durable and versatile.
Besides metal and concrete, this coating may also be used on plastics. You can use it on your indoor and outdoor crafts or items, and it’s one of the economical and eco-friendly solutions.
Can You Powder Coat Plastic?
Yes, you can powder coat plastic as long as the plastic material can endure temperatures of up to 400°F; otherwise, the plastic material will melt. This is because plastics are generally insulators, preventing electrostatic charge from being transmitted to the ground, so powder won’t adhere to plastic unless heated beforehand.
You have two options if you intend to powder coat plastic depending on the powder type or the underlying substrate material. First, you can use low-bake powder materials where you formulate the powder to cure at temperatures between 250°F and 325° F based on the plastic’s creation plastic.
The other option is to raise the deflection temperature of the plastic material by adding glass fiber, making it appropriate for powder coating cure. An appropriate example of this is fiberglass pultrusion for window frames. The deflection temperature of plastic refers to its capacity to withstand a particular load when exposed to high temperatures. Adding 30% of glass fiber elevates deflection temperature enabling the plastic to survive the curing course.
Use infrared or convection ovens to cure plastics with elevated or high deflection temperatures. Some plastics with high deflection temperatures are Nylon 6, Polycarbonate, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), and Acetal Copolymer.
Engineering plastics need up to 300°F plus pre and post-heating, whereas commercial molded plastics may not endure powder coating.
Technically, powder coating a plastic largely relies on its ability to endure high temperatures. However, not so many plastic materials can survive this heat, making powder coating of plastics a rare occurrence.
Types Of Powder Coating
Thermoplastic powder coating becomes liquid and pliable when heated, losing chemical bonds, making it recyclable and adjustable. However, thermoset powder coating behaves differently. It creates chemical bonds after curing, making it unrecyclable.
Many DIYers prefer the thicker and more durable thermoplastic coatings over the thinner thermoset coatings. As a result, they may be utilized for a wide range of applications, including plastic, metal, automobile components, and freezers.
Thermoset powder coating is apt for high-temperature regions because the bonds block the coating from liquefying. It is also much more economical than doing a thermoplastic powder coating.
How to Powder Coat Plastic
Use an oven to powder coat plastic using a temperature range of 350°F to 400° F or 160℃ to 210℃, and it takes around 20 to 30 minutes.
When melted, regular thermosetting powders form a long-lasting paint coating, whereas thermoplastic powders stiffen when heated but become pliable after cooling.
For better results, the substrate and the powder should maintain the endorsed temperature levels for the recommended time without fluxes, making the curing oven the best alternative. But, of course, you can also use a kitchen oven as long you will never use it again to prepare your food.
A heat gun is also a consideration for most DIYers; however, a heat gun is incapable of producing the sustained, all-inclusive temperature needed for powder coating curing because of the hand movement instabilities.
The process of powder coating plastic is straightforward as long as you have the suitable materials.
Step 1: Preheat the plastic surface to about 350°F in a powder coating oven, then let it cool before setting it up for powder spray.
Step 2: Blow a stream of static-charged powder over the plastic object using a spray gun. Ensure the powder is heavy enough on the plastic material for a smooth and glossy result.
The heavy coat will also cover tiny cracks or faults on the plastic surface.
Step 3: Put the plastic surface in a Powder Coating Oven and set it to the correct temperatures, usually 350°F to 400°F. Then let it cure for 20 to 30 minutes.
If you don’t have a powder coating oven, you can use Infrared Heat Lamps. These lamps help you heat directly the plastic material you wish to cure, delivering the rigorous power you need to get them to the desired temperature. If you are working on extensive plastic material, move the lamp up and down, back and forth, to cure the areas of the powder.
You can use a 1,800-watt infrared heat lamp that is portable and convenient for curing smaller parts or a 6,000-watt infrared heat lamp, suitable for curing larger plastic surfaces. Couple the 1,800-watt infrared heat lamp with a DIY Dual Voltage Powder Coating Gun to achieve the desired results.
Step 4: Let the powder-coated surface cool for some time for the coating to harden. After it has cooled down, you can use it for its intended purpose.
WARNING: Only powder coat plastics that have been reinforced with fiberglass or those that can endure temperatures of up to 400°F.
UV-Cured Powder Coating of Plastics
A UV-cured powder coating is a coating substance that is applied electrostatically after fleetingly heating the plastic surface. To complete UV-cured powder coating on plastic, you only need 266°F of heat, then wait for 1-2 minutes as it cures.
The moderate temperature and use of a conductive primer make UV powder coating of plastics a possible mission. But, first, you will need to perform plastic plasma treatment.
In physics, plasma is defined as a gas that contains an electric charge. When injected into the surface of the substrate, it eliminates impurities and enhances surface energy, making the surface powder application compatible.
In general, plasma is used to clean and prepare the plastic surface for powder coating. The plastic surface may have contaminants hidden from the human eye coupled with low surface energy, preventing a coating from flowing freely and moistening.
The existence of these variables will compromise the adhesion of a coating on plastic surfaces. In addition, the coating will not fulfill the product’s performance standards if the adherence is not up to snuff.
So how does the plasma treating plastics work? First, in the plasma chamber, substrates are put, and the air is drawn out, creating a vacuum state. Then, all surfaces of the component are treated by the plasma created by the injection of the specified gas and electromagnetic (RF) radiation.
Adjusting variables such as vacuum pressure, processing time, and RF power can enable you to achieve the desired results. However, consult professionals to limit errors.
Advantages of Plastic Powder Coating
A very low level of volatile organic compounds is emitted by powder coatings (VOC), making the process eco-friendly. Also, the user does not inhale the organic materials, thereby preventing serious health complications.
Powder coatings may generate thicker layers, something the regular liquid coatings haven’t achieved without sagging or flowing.
Powder-coated products, as opposed to liquid-coated ones, have scarcer visual differences between their horizontally and vertically coated surfaces.
Compared to other coating methods, it is very simple to provide a wide variety of specialized effects and can handle tiny pieces and corners.
Disadvantages of Plastic Powder Coating
The coating is hard to remove as it bonds strongly to the plastic surface. In addition, it is challenging to remove because the coating covers all the fissures, corners, and tiny parts. You can scrub or use an abrasive to remove the powder coat but remember that it is tiring and not a recommended way to remove powder coats from plastic.
It isn’t easy to obtain the recommended 25um thin film of powder coats because of the heavy layer you must spray before curing. However, thin films are easily attainable with wet paint.
Most of the time, it requires a specialist procedure, i.e., expertise, special tools, and equipment. For example, you need a spray gun and powder coating oven for a successful powder coating. Also, the materials used to powder coat plastic need standard temperature control, so probably, you will need to pay a powder coating specialist to perform the trick.
You cannot mix different powders to achieve a gradient of colors or assorted colors. But, on the other hand, you can mix liquid paints to get different color variations.
It has slow color-changing or adaption. Liquid paints changes color faster compared to powder coatings.
Plastic Powder Coating Performance Properties
The industrial and commercial plastic coatings that we apply may be utilized to satisfy a wide range of performance criteria depending on your specific demands and specifications.
Check on the table below.
|Plastic Powder Coating||UV Exposure||Finish|
|Int||Ext||Gloss Range||Thickness||Color||Desired Finish|
|Nylon||E||G||65%||0.002 – 0.015||Inquire||Smooth|
|PVC (Vinyl Dip)||E||G||All||0.010 – 0.020||Any||Smooth/Textured|
|Co-Polymer (Spray)||E||G||80 -90%||0.004 – 0.010||Any||Smooth|
|Co-Polymer (Dip)||E||G||60%||0.010 – 0.030||Inquire||Smooth/Textured|
|Vinyl (Fluid Bed)||E||G||All||0.010 – 0.020||Inquire||Smooth|
|Epoxy (Fluid Bed)||E||N/A||All||0.005 – 0.030||Any||Smooth/Textured|
|Epoxy (Spray)||E||N/A||All||0.001 – 0.005||Any||Smooth/Textured|
|Polyester (Spray)||E||E||All||0.001 – 0.005||Any||Smooth/Textured|
E – Excellent
G – Good
Int – Internal
Ext – External
N/A – Not Applicable
Thousandths of an inch are used to measure the thickness of the plastic powder coatings.
Painting as an Alternative
The best alternative to powder coating is painting the plastic surface. Unlike powder coating, painting plastics allows room for mistakes.
Just spray the paint over the plastic surface, spread it evenly with a brush, and let it dry. There are no potential risks with paint, such as melting, which is more common with powder coating.
You can also remove the paint quickly and apply fresh paint after making a mistake.
Painting Vs. Powder Coating
On a tete-a-tete encounter, powder coating ranks higher than painting. The powder coat is quite sturdy, making it durable and can therefore endure wear and tear.
Powder coating also provides a uniform finish, blending perfectly with the rest of the surface, unlike painting. However, the major downside of powder coating is melting plastic surfaces when exposed to high powder coating curing temperatures.
This downside explains why painting is better for plastic items or surfaces. After painting a plastic surface, you don’t need high-temperature heat to cure the paint; sufficient indirect sunlight will do the trick.
Besides, painting is not a specialist procedure as it is a straightforward technique that requires no expert knowledge or special tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does powder coating work on plastic?
UV-cured powder coating is a coating substance that is applied electrostatically. The component is momentarily heated and electrostatically charged during the finishing process. Because most plastics shrink when heated and are non-conductive, plastics are typically coated with liquid paint and air-dried.
Can I powder coat PVC?
No, PVC pipe cannot sustain the cure temperatures necessary for powder coatings. Even UV powders need a minimum temperature of 220°F to powder coat successfully. While PVC pipe has been designed to withstand extreme temperatures, its maximum operating temperature is just 180°F, a drawback to powder coating.
Can you powder coat plastic chrome?
No, it’s critical to understand that the powder coat will not adhere to chrome because the chromium will prevent the powder coat from adhering. Therefore, before powder coating, you need to remove chrome from pieces to ensure a perfect finish.
What is the difference between plastic coating and powder coating?
Powder coatings are mold-resistant and simple to clean, but they cannot be repaired with a heat gun like a thermoplastic. As opposed to thermoplastics, powder coatings may be applied with a thinner film.
Is there a chrome powder coat?
Powder coatings may provide a chrome-like finish once they’ve been used. Generally, this coating has a reflective surface that appears a lot like chrome, even if it isn’t.
The Bottom Line
All kinds of materials may be coated using powder coating. The ability to resist high temperatures is the most important factor to consider when applying a coating on plastic. Prior to applying a powder coat, it’s crucial to precisely know what your item is composed of so that you don’t end up with a melted mess.
Despite the developing technologies, we aren’t sure if plastics can withstand the high temperatures necessary for the powder coat to cure, so we advise against powder-coating plastics.