Friday, September 12, 2008

Powder Coating Equipment

Ok, so I've touched on some of the basics of powder coating equipment up until this point. Today I'm going to break down the different models of guns that are available to people getting started with powder coating, their benefits, and drawbacks compared to their competition.

The very first powder coating gun I ever began working with was a Chicago Electric System from Harbor Freight. I was actually really pleased with this unit to start with and it definitely got the job done. Lack of adjustable voltage was it's major downfall, and I wasn't a big fan of the top loading cups, but they worked extremely well. For a beginners powder coating equipment, it's straight forward, easy to use, and cleans up fairly fast. I found the foot pedal to be slightly clunky, and the manufacturer posts no information on it's power output so I decided to try something different.

My next choice was Eastwood's HotCoat Powder Coating Gun. Again, as beginner powder coating equipment, this is a great unit, and Eastwood is a wonderful company to work with. I have never had issues with them. A major drawback of this system is again, the lack of a voltage adjustment, which will really hinder your powder coating equipment with it's ability to apply multiple coats of powder. I did however find this unit easier to work with by mounting the thumb switch to the gun itself so that it was 1-handed operation. While this unit is still in use by me today, I will be upgrading to one of the later units very shortly. Again, powder coating equipment with no voltage adjustment will really hinder your ability to do multiple coats, and will require 'hot flocking' in order to apply top coats and clear coats. This has worked very well for me before, but a few powders need extremely thin application coats. As for the cost of powder coating equipment though, both this powder coating gun and the Chicago Electric powder coating gun both start off at under $80.00

Eastwood also offers a much more expensive unit, called the HotCoat Pro system. Finally, we start getting into some of the stats on the powder coating equipment. This unit works on a 10,000-25,000 volt range, which is adjustable by the user. This means stronger application for multiple coats and larger items. Instead of $80.00 though, we're looking at $600.00 for this gun. I have many friends on powder coating forums that are using this gun and absolutely love it. Powder coating application is smooth, and color changes are just as fast as the hobby unit, but in my personal opinion I feel the next unit is far more powerful and from a company that is only concerned about finishing coats.

Finally, we're at the gun I've become extremely excited about. Looking at the picture, you can see the gun shares striking similarity with the Chicago Electric setup, and that's because it is the same exact gun. While I wasn't a HUGE fan of the top loading setup, I will give it credit in that it was very efficient at powder coating transfer, and easily one of the best low budget powder coating equipment setups. Caswell plating has taken things one step further though, with their high voltage coating system. At a whopping $230.00 (less then half the price of the Eastwood unit) this puppy packs an amazing 30,000-50,000 volts. Furthermore, when you buy this system, you also get their model of the chicago standard gun as well too for free, which will help you when you need to get below that 30,000 range for very small parts. I can't begin to express how powerful this is as far as getting even coverage on larger pieces, as you will no longer need to hot flock your items for powder coating top coats and the such. Stronger voltage also means better adhesion in it's dry form, so the powder is less likely to blow off as the piece is being manuevered for curing.

Overall, any of these 4 options are very good choice to get started with home powder coating, or if you plan on starting a business of it. Later on I will touch on industrial setups like the nord system and all, but for now I think this is enough.... and woohoo for pictures finally :) Guess I should have looked at that compose section instead of just edit html all the time.

Keep coming back for more information on powder coating equipment and full details and pics for powder coating wheels

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Powder Coating Wheels and Rims, part 2

In my previous article, we discussed various situations with powder coating wheels and how they affected the wheel after it was cured. It dawned on me today that while yes, many people have been wondering if it was safe or not, many others are simply trying to decide which style and what powder coating system or powder coating equipment to actually do their wheels with.

Powder coating wheels is pretty simple in the terms of application and curing, but where the real skill comes in is... what design are we going for with the wheels. This will largely depend on the wheel itself just as much as the equipment, but various performance wheels and standard alloy rims will give a much broader range of ideas.

At this point, I'm really kicking myself for not knowing how to crop images and all and put them in here... I swear I will figure this out soon and upload some, but for now, you're going to take a visual journey with me as we start powder coating wheels.

The very first part is to look at the wheel you're actually working with. Is it a forged alloy, a 3 piece modular rim, or a steel rim. Starting with the steel rims, there really isn't much we can do to make these bad boys look beautiful, as they're generally just stamped steel, and for the most part painted or powder coated black. You could give it some flare, by giving it a red edge around the exterior of the rim. This is where powder coating wheels can make the so so and drab wheel turn into something beautiful... and still be extremely cheap.

Stepping into the forged alloys or even cast alloys, we have a few different setups we can work with now. Depending on your powder coating equipment, you may be able to do in upwards of 4-5 colors on a single rim. This can take a very basic, $60 each alloy wheel and make them look like a set of rims costing well over $1000.00 for the set. Picture this one with me in regards to powder coating wheels. You have a standard split 5 star rim (meaning 10 spokes, but each spoke is paired with another one and running parallel). There is also a damaged but visible 2" lip going across the wheel, and a machined inset for the lug holes. Powder coating wheels like this will seriously take some time, but lets say we're working with a black car with blue and silver accents. The front of the spokes can be done in a super jet black, and then masked off. Spray the sides of the spokes in a royal blue so that straight on it is completely not noticeable, but as the rims are view from an angle you now have blue highlights on them. The pronounced lip on the wheel can be powder coated in a almost chrome like finish, and you can toss any color you want, or leave it black, on the machined inset section in the center of the rim. You now have up to 4 colors on a single rim, and the key to making them look good like this was in the preparation. If done correctly, people that see your set of wheels will have an entirely different outlook on powder coating wheels.

Getting into actually the easiest of the 3 styles to powder coat is the 3 piece rim. These wheels generally have a center section which includes the design and the hub, an exterior rim which goes outwards, and an interior rim which goes inwards. All 3 pieces bolt together around the edge of the center section, and similarly, they unbolt as well too. These individual screws give many more opportunities with powder coating wheels, in the fact that we can easily powder coat them as well too. With roughly the same example as above, and now the added screws, we have an option for a 5th color on a rim. (this doesn't necessarily mean 5 different colors, just 5 sections to apply different colors too, 2 might be black and 3 might be blue, or however you wish to do it).

Whether you decide on 1 color or 5, powder coating wheels can breath new life into old and worn out, tarnished and beat up wheels. I promise you guys I'll have some pics of some of them I have done in my time up on here soon :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Powder Coating Wheels

Lately in my online research to see what some of the most common questions and misconceptions about powder coating are, I have come across many people inquiring whether or not powder coating wheels was safe and reliable. Unfortunately, while I like to make most things as simple as possible for people to understand, since after all, this is a beginner/intermediate introduction to powder coating, this is a not so clear cut answer on this one.

By now everybody should be aware of how powder coating works and how to properly use powder coating equipment. Furthermore, people must really understand how the curing process works.

To start with, and a very important detail in powder coating wheels, a manufacturers powder coating cure time is not simply bake for 20 minutes like that turkey you bought from the grocery store is. The powder coating is not bonding to the air inside of the oven, but rather the piece that it is sprayed on, and therefore it is this part that must reach, and maintain the temperature for the manufacturers cure time, for the powder coating to really flow out nicely and attach to it. Obviously for small thing parts, you're not going to be far from that 20 minutes the manufacturer stated, however when getting into larger items, like when powder coating wheels, you will really have to pay attention to the part you're working with before you start the timer on that cure time. This is a very key part of this powder coating system, but really not the most important job either in this setup.

Secondly, preparing the part is crucial and many people overlook this with "You can't see the outer edge of the rim so I don't need to mask it" syndrome. Fact is, powder coatings strength comes in the fact that is a shell, completely encompassing the part and sealing it within. The catch here is that powder coating the entire outside of the rim can make tire sealing problematic, and also add significant weight while powder coating wheels. The item should be properly masked just past the area of the rim the tire bead sits up against, but not the entire outside rim of it. Furthermore, detail must be placed inside of the lug holes as well too, leaving the base, or conical section clean while powder coating wheels, otherwise the lug nuts will damage it during installation and can lead to flaking of the powder coat in the effected area. You would then proceed further with masking off or plugging the item in areas like the valve stem hole, or possibly the lip of the rim if it were to stay polished and not have powder coating applied to the rest of it.

Now that we have tackled those two problems, this is where the key, and the heavy debates come in on powder coating wheels. Does the heat from the curing process effect the integrity of the alloys in the wheel. Long story short, and sparing you of all the nitty gritty metallurgy aspects of it all, yes it can and it's possible to be quite detrimental to the part. This is where the main ingredient comes in to success in powder coating wheels, and it can be a long and time consuming setup.

One of the most important things to remember is that metal just simply doesn't like to change temperature fast. While powder coating wheels, it is very important that you slowly and steadily raise the temperature of the part to it's curing temperature, and furthermore, that part needs to come back to ambient temperature very slowly as well too. Quick flashing of heat can make the metal brittle, and can result in powder coated wheels cracking under stress. This is not only very detrimental to your reputation as a powder coating professional, but it is also a big safety concern and potentially deadly. If you found this site while just searching about powder coating, I only hope you read this and take the moment to speak with whoever will be completing your work to make sure proper procedures are followed to insure the structural integrity of your rim. If you merely mention this to them and they laugh and say it will be fine, do yourself a favor and take your work elsewhere. It's not worth risking a harmful situation because some idiots are powder coating wheels and have no clue what they're doing.

This sites activity is picking up, so if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will reply within a day or so. I'm always happy to help out, and frankly, powder coating wheels is a beautiful modification for any car, I just want you guys to make sure it is done right :)