Short Answer: Yes, stainless steel can be powder coated.
Powder coating helps to change the texture and colors of stainless steel surfaces. It can also help to improve the corrosion resistance property of stainless steel.
What is the Difference Between Powder Coated Steel and Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is made of many steel alloys, such as iron, carbon, chromium, phosphorus, manganese, nickel, sulphur, and silicon. The combination of these materials forms an outer layer of chromium oxide, which protects the stainless steel from corrosion.
Despite having corrosion resistant qualities, stainless steel does contain iron, carbon, and other elements which can rust from time to time. One way to ensure no rust will happen is to powder coat your stainless steel, adding an even more durable material to the already corrosion resistant metal.
When doing this, the stainless steel is sprayed with finely ground pigments and resins as a dry powder, using an electrostatic gun. Afterward, the powder coated steel is heated and cured inside an oven. To make the coating stick, the resin and pigment are charged using static electricity before spraying them on the steel by the powder coater.
Powder coating protects the stainless steel from scratches, weathering, and stains, even going beyond what the natural qualities of stainless steel can provide.
Why Would You Powder Coat Stainless Steel?
Powder coating enhances the properties of stainless steel, such as corrosion resistance. You can give your stainless steel a new look while improving its durability. Further, it provides your stainless steel with a unique finish and allows you to color the material however you want.
Common Applications for Powder Coated Stainless Steel
Stainless steel has excellent corrosion resistance, but it is not necessarily corrosion-proof. The presence of certain elements on its surface sometimes allows for corrosion to emerge.
This is where powder coating becomes effective. Here are a few applications of powder-coated stainless steel:
- In cold locations, steel may get corroded by the chemicals used for de-icing. But if stainless steel has a powder coating, it can increase the life of the surface while making it look more attractive. This is why you will find powder coated stainless steel in water parks, workshops, etc.
- Railings generally have a powder coating to give the much-needed corrosion resistance.
- Places with a high possibility of impact, such as on carts, barbeques, skateboards, and bikes, will use powder coated stainless steel to minimize the impact and withstand the abuse of the environment longer than other materials.
How Does Powder Coating Work?
In the powder coating process, you apply dry colored powder on stainless steel and bake the surface to form the final powder coating finish. The powder is initially applied using an electrostatic gun.
The compressed powder is sprayed by passing it through an electrode inside the gun. This causes the spray to pick up a positive charge and get attracted to the steel surface.
The stainless steel has to be cleaned well before powder coating to avoid picking up particles so that the color sticks to it properly. After the coating process, the stainless steel gets cured inside an oven.
Various powders are used for coating, each with unique properties. Here are some of the most common powders:
Epoxies: These are highly durable and bring hardness, corrosion resistance, and chemical resistance to stainless steel.
Polyesters: These are the most common powders and are cheaper than the others. It needs a low temperature to cure, making it ideal for sensitive surfaces.
Super durable polyesters: These are among the best powder materials available today and bring excellent durability compared to standard polyester powder.
Fluoropolymers: These powders have superior weathering and color retention properties. Hence, it is perfect for items like doors, windows, and curtain walls.
Epoxy and polyester hybrids: This hybrid brings the properties of the individual powders and high weather degradation properties.
Benefits of Powder Coating Stainless Steel
Powder coating provides a refined finish to stainless steel compared to paint. It offers many more advantages:
You can choose from various colors, custom patterns, and textures when powder coating stainless steel. This way, you can add more traction to parts like handholds and walkways. The final finish is thick and does not drip or need sanding. Overall, it enhances the appearance of your stainless steel surface.
Powder coating protects stainless steel from wear and tear through weathering, impacts, scratches, or stains. Powder coated components last long, and you can easily use them outdoors without corrosion. In other words, powder coating increases the lifespan of your stainless steel.
Powder coating stainless steel is a cost-efficient process compared to painting. It uses an electrostatic gun where you can set the amount of powder to fire onto the stainless steel, reducing overall material waste. Overall, the powder itself is also cheaper than paint.
Powder coating is more environmentally friendly than painting. Painting releases solvents and fumes which harm the environment. These substances adversely affect those who are exposed to them. Powder coating does not cause these effects and also keeps the environment cleaner.
How Long Will Powder Coating Last on Stainless Steel?
Powder coating, in general, lasts much longer than paint.
On average, powder coating stays strong for 10-15 years because of its durability and corrosion resistance. Due to their greater durability, you can find them on bicycles, bikes, cars, and many everyday items.
Is Paint or Powder Coating Better for Stainless Steel?
Powder coated stainless steel is better than painted stainless steel as it provides an even finish. Painted stainless steel requires a round of sanding to smooth out its surface, while powder coating is quickly accomplished using a gun and a curing process.
Powder coat is usually thicker than paint and ensures higher durability. While both processes give you plenty of color choices, it is more flexible in powder coating.
That said, powder coating is slightly more expensive in the short term than painting. Powder coating makes the stainless steel more rigid and durable than painting.
Bottom Line: Can You Powder Coat Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel can be powder coated using colors of your choice. The process changes the surface texture and makes it more resistant to corrosion.