If you wanted a wedding cake, you wouldn’t have one bakery make the batter, another bakery bake the layers, and a third bakery do the icing and decorations — yet that is exactly what happens as many manufacturers turn to a metal fabricator and then a metal finisher to get their metal products made.
Adding suppliers to any production or manufacturing chain increases time, logistics and costs. Multiple suppliers also can introduce quality and consistency nightmares. If you need a metal product made and it needs to have a finish on it, the smartest and most economical decision you can make is to find a competent metal fabricator who is also a metal finisher.
There are metal fabricators offering all types of metal forming capabilities, and there are independent, dedicated shops that do nothing but put various types of finishes onto metal products produced by fabricators. You could string together a production chain from them, but there’s a smaller set of providers who have full-service custom hydroforming facilities and offer finishing.
At Mills Products, we’ve a fabricator and a metal finisher — we’ve been putting the “finishing” touches on the metal products we make for over 25 years, using the latest in powder coating technology.
Why Powder Coating for Metal Finishing?
Powder coating is a tough, durable and aesthetic finish for metal that offers a host of advantages over traditional liquid finishes, including environmental and economic benefits. Instead of using solvents to carry pigment particles onto a surface, powder coating is a dry process using air, heat, and, in most modern systems, electrostatic technology.
Powder coating was introduced during the late 1940s, employing a flame-spraying application method for thermoplastic powder. It was in very limited use until the mid 1950s, when a system was invented that utilized a “fluidized bed” of thermoplastic powder. Even then, the coatings were fairly thick, and applications were mostly limited to uses in heavy industry, such as for electrical insulation or coatings for industrial pipes.
Things began to change in the 1960s when the first electrostatic spray guns were introduced for powders, along with new powder chemistries that allowed for much thinner finishes, similar to traditional paint. But the technology still wasn’t widely adopted, with most manufacturers clinging to the solvent-based metal finishing systems that had been long in use.
All of that began to change dramatically in 1970 with the passage of the Clean Air Act.
Environmental Concerns for Metal Finishers
The Clean Air Act of 1970 placed severe limitations on volatile organic compounds, commonly called VOCs. They are chemicals that give off gases at room temperature, and are a major contributor to air pollution. The petroleum solvents used in traditional liquid coatings for metal normally have extremely high levels of VOCs, so metal finishers were required by law to develop complicated and expensive systems to capture and control VOCs.
This gave an enormous boost to powder coating, which uses no solvents. Highly visible companies such as Snapper Lawnmowers and Singer Sewing Machine announced in the ’70s that they were converting to powder coating for their metal finishing, and within a decade powder coating was a booming industry. Today, virtually every home appliance is finished with powder coating, and an ever-increasing percentage of parts and components for the automotive industry, from under-the-hood components to wiper arms to interior trim.
A Metal Finisher That Was an Early Adopter of Powder Coating
Mills Products began using powder coating for metal finishing when the process was still finding its legs, and we’ve grown with it. Today we have a state-of-the-art, fully automated Nordson six-gun spray booth that can accommodate any metal part or product.
We use a rigorous six-stage pre-treatment process to ensure that every item is squeaky clean before it enters the finishing booth, because you can’t get a good finish without clean metal to put it on. We deliver Class A finishes that can meet any test, including brutal salt-spray and dishwasher tests.
We can offer an almost limitless variety of colors and finish characteristics, including many textures and even gloss black. We also can do other types of custom finishes and are one of the few companies that can do stainless steel finishing.
We’ve been doing metal fabrication since 1948 — when powder coating was barely a dream — so we have the know-how and experience to take on any metal finishing challenge. We’re also the only metal fabricator in the South that has hydroforming, roll forming and stamping capabilities all in one place.