By Kelvin Russell, Precoat Metals
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog regularly, you already know that prepainted metal is the substrate of choice for metal buildings, HVAC products, appliance products, and more. The list of applications for prepainted metal is endless, as are the reasons why prepainted metal is the substrate of choice for so many products. To be honest, this long list of reasons is not the subject of today’s post, save one: aesthetics. So many beautiful colors! Color and texture can make blockbusters out of the ordinary products we take for granted. In addition to the performance benefits of prepainted metal, its almost limitless beauty is quickly rising to the top of the list of reasons why consumers choose it for any number of applications. But then tradition steps in and says, “You can’t use metal here, it has to be wood!” Well, phooey. Now what?
The solution comes in the form of coil-coated printing. The truth is that prepainted metal prints have been around since shortly after coil coating began some 60+ years ago; however, the demand for prints on prepaint was scarce at that time and for some time after. Since demand breeds innovation, technology development to support printing on prepainted metal really didn’t commence until prepainted metal applications moved beyond the metal building and into our homes, offices, and recreational pastimes. Now that prepainted metal is being specified not only for performance but also for aesthetics, many prepainted products these days are designed to reproduce the look of a more traditional substrate, such as wood. Finally, technology has caught up with demand and prepainted metal can now satisfy any number of markets and applications. And all of this offers the additional performance benefits prepainted metal provides.
Take the garage door, for example. It used to be made from real wood (it still is if that’s your preference), but now that the virtues of metal have been realized, metal now occupies the lion’s share of that market. Garage doors made of prepainted metal became available in a variety of solid colors and profiles to match almost any home exterior, and the life-cycle cost associated with these doors is second to none. But later, tradition stepped in and said, “A garage door must be wood.” This outcry was actually a good thing, not only because traditions exist for a reason, but also because wood is a beautiful-looking substrate. The demand for metal plus the beauty of traditional wood gave rise to the wood facsimile on metal. Today, thousands of garage doors with woodgrain prints are installed every year, and the growth for this market is in double-digit territory for the foreseeable future. Woodgrain finishes for other applications have seen increasing demand for some time, and you will find them on any number of building components and office products such as wall panels, soffit panels, entry doors, file cabinets, and more.
Tradition has also revealed a demand for what some might consider an unconventional finish – rusted metal. What? That’s right: rusted, aged, or otherwise weathered metal. There is a certain charm about Grandpa’s barn with the rusted “tin” roof and the weather-beaten wood plank sidewalls. Of course, we don’t keep anything valuable in there, because it leaks like a sieve, and the rodents have chewed through the wood. But what if the barn were made out of high-performance metal roofing and siding products printed to look rusty and old but actually weren’t? The benefits of modern high-performance panel profiles with modern high-performance finishes have made this concept a reality. And if you want the charm of a weathered finish on your installation, it is available today from a number of manufacturers.
Now, a rustic appearance is interesting, but perhaps what you want (need?) is a nontraditional modern aesthetic that will complement a high-profile architectural installation including, say, custom flat composite panels with abstract angles and curves that will be installed on a new professional sports venue or a major airport renovation. Yep, you can get those, too. Custom patterns such as brushed metal, accent stripes, and other “wallpaper” patterns are available, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, a unique print can be custom engineered to fit the unique profiles of the many custom metal cladding products serving the architectural community. These custom finishes for exterior-grade applications are available in premium PVDF finishes and come with traditional long-term warranties
Demand is on the rise, and technology is keeping pace. That means you can expect the arrival of more exciting and unique print technologies to provide aesthetic solutions for all markets, ranging from traditional substrate facsimiles to modern, nontraditional colors and finishes that will help establish new traditions. Either way, the endless color and print combinations available provide limitless creative solutions for any project.