How Powder Coating can Support Economic Recovery in Various Manufacturing Sectors
No two industries were impacted alike this past year, and no two will recover from the pandemic the same way. This blog explores how the pandemic has affected the sectors we serve, and how powder coating can aid their progress toward economic recovery.
Powder coating has long played a key role in extending the lifespan of metal parts found in equipment and machinery exposed to elements like sunlight, excessive heat or cold, moisture, or chemicals in the air.
This ultra-durable finish is an obvious benefit for industries such as transportation, agriculture, defense, energy, heating and ventilation, architecture, healthcare and metal stamping.
Transportation Leaders Strive to Protect Public Health on Earth and in Space
Some of powder coating’s earliest applications were in the transportation industry. Unfortunately, transportation is one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. As the demand for travel plummeted due to stay-at-home orders, physical distancing and even the virus itself led to sweeping changes in the airline, automobile, and rail industries. For example, ridership in public transportation decreased by 90 percent during the height of the pandemic, and air travel has dropped 60 percent over the past year.
The transportation sector, especially public transit, has many touchpoints with public health, so it was brought into the spotlight over the past year. One way of meeting the increased demand for safety in public settings is through a relatively new technology in the world of powder coating—antimicrobial properties.
Teaming up with university researchers, transportation companies like Boeing and TransLink are accelerating the development and roll-out of coatings to aid in the prevention of disease spread on planes, trains and even spacecraft.
Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts are conducting experiments to fight the spread of bacteria and viruses with an antimicrobial surface coating developed through a joint research project between The University of Queensland and Boeing.
The coating, which has been under development for many years, was designed to inhibit viral agents to help prevent interplanetary contamination from Earth-borne or another planet’s microbes. While the primary purpose of the antimicrobial coating was to help ensure the health of the crew and protect the spacecraft’s systems, the pandemic inspired the team to modify the coating’s formula to also target the COVID-19 virus on Earth.
“There is potential for broad-based applicability for a surface coating like this when used in conjunction with other measures to prevent disease transmission,” said Boeing’s Mike Delaney of the technology that’s already undergone testing aboard Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator as part of the company’s Confident Travel Initiative.
Back on Earth, antimicrobial copper coatings are being tested on high-touch transit surfaces for the first time on a major transit system in North America. The pilot program is taking place in Vancouver through a project with TransLink, Vancouver Coastal Health, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction, and the University of British Columbia.
“Ongoing research and development in this field offers hope at preventing future outbreaks on the scale we experienced with COVID 19,” says Kenny Spielman, President of S&B Finishing, who also notes the rapid adoption of antimicrobial powders for components in areas like heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) and architecture.
Please read our post on antimicrobial powders – Coatings that Battle Germs: Antimicrobial Finishing.
Despite Demand, Agriculture and Healthcare Face Unprecedented Challenges
Agriculture and healthcare were two sectors that experienced increased demand during the pandemic. Yet, demand wasn’t uniform across the industry, so certain areas became overtaxed while other areas withered. Both industries experienced supply chain and logistics challenges along with labor shortages. Equipment manufacturing for both industries slowed overall, but are recently beginning to pick up.
The coatings industry is expected to continue to play a prominent role in healthcare, the industry that originally spearheaded the development of antimicrobial powders. Along with antimicrobial powders, regular powders are highly effective in curbing the spread of disease. For one, they provide a smooth surface that’s much easier to clean and disinfect, and secondly, their durability means they’re resistant to scratches and nicks where microbes hide.
The need for hygiene and disease prevention can’t be overemphasized in the manufacturing of equipment used for dairy, meat and poultry production. On the other hand, agricultural machinery like tractors and combines have long employed powder coat finishes for external and internal parts to withstand exposure to the elements along with the friction, pressure and torsion that go with extended hours operating out in the field.
“As competition across industries increases in the wake of the pandemic, savvy manufacturers are seeking out ways to set themselves apart from their competitors,” says Kenny Spielman. “Investing in powder coating adds value for companies of all sizes, allowing them to stand out as leaders concerned about their customers’ health, prosperity and longevity.”