Views from the Field: UV-curable powder coatings: Lessons learned
Eight years ago, I traveled to Nashville to give a speech at RadTech 1996 on three-dimensional curing. On that trip, I heard about ultraviolet-light-curable [UV-curable] powder coatings for the first time. Soon, I was immersed in trying to develop and promote this exciting new technology. I am writing this today from Charlotte, N. C., where RadTech is again holding its UV/EB conference and exhibition. I am still talking about UV-curable powder, and I am still excited about it. But clearly, it's been an uphill climb. I am often asked, "What's the problem?" "Why has powder coating on wood failed to grow as rapidly as many imagined it would?" "Why haven't more manufacturers adopted the technology?"
Of course, it doesn't help that in the past few years we have been plunged into one of the deepest recessions the wood industry has ever experienced. That has made it virtually impossible to promote a technology requiring a heavy capital investment based in part on its capability to increase production capacity at a time when many lines are sitting idle. It's also much tougher to find new applications when there is not only less demand but also more cutbacks across the supply chain resulting in far fewer sales and marketing people out there shaking the trees. The economic downturn caused many casualties among the friends of UV-curable powder. But as I look back at all the effort that was poured into the technology, I think some lessons can be learned. Some of these lessons can be useful in other areas of powder coating as well.