The History of Powder Coating

06 Nov

The History of Powder Coating

The history of powder coating begins in the late 40s and early 50s of the past century, at a time when organic polymers in powder form are being flame-sprayed onto metal substrates. Dr. Erwin Gemmer, a German scientist developed the fluidized bed coating process for processing thermoset powder coatings and patented his invention in May 1953. Between 1958 and 1965 literally all powder coatings, mostly only functional applications with thicknesses between 150 µm to 500 µm, were processed using Gemmer's method. The focus was on electrical insulation, corrosion and abrasion resistance. The coating materials used at the time consisted of nylon 11, CAB, polyethylene, plasticized PVC, polyester and chlorinated polyether. At the same time, thermoset epoxy became available, e.g. for dishwashers (PVC), thermal insulation (epoxy), for ship accessories (nylon) and metal furniture (PVC, CAB). Bosch, in searching for a material to use for electrical insulation, developed the prototype for epoxy resin powder.

For the many applications with layers too thick for processing and with the emergence of electrostatic processing of powder coatings a short time later between 1962 an 1964 in the US and Europe, the fluidized bed coating process fell out of use. With electrostatic spray guns from Sames, which briefly gave its name to the process, the next step to electrostatic applications was accomplished. Between 1966 and 1973 the four basic types of thermosets still used today were developed and sold commercially: epoxy, epoxy-polyester hybrid, polyurethane and polyester. The number of powder coating facilities in Germany increased from four in 1966 to 51 in 1970. Since the early 1970s, powder coatings have gradually conquered the world, even initially with nominal growth of the powder coating market until 1980. The facilities were expensive, the layer thicknesses to high for a profitable application, problems changing colors and high enamel temperatures considerably limited the range of colors, effects and substrates.

Since the early 1980s, the powder coating industry around the world experienced continual growth, driven by constant innovation, available commodities, improved formulation know-how and advances in application technology and the development of new applications (e.g. MDF and coil coating); and lastly given the more restrictive environmental protection provisions, these trends are likely to continue in the coming decades.

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