With its nearly endless color and texture possibilities, eco-friendliness, and durability, prepainted metal’s popularity is on the rise when compared to other materials. With the technological demands of modern fabrication techniques, manufacturers may wonder if prepainted metal, despite its upward trending, can handle the rigorous processes of manufacturing, such as embossing and rollforming, while maintaining adherence to government regulations. They need not worry. Prepainted metal is proven to meet and exceed these requirements across the board.
More and more fabricating work today is being done on painted metal substrates because many customers do not want the panels to look like simple painted metal panels. Instead, customers want panels that have the appearance of slate shingles or pieces of tile. As a result, the panels undergo a lot more bending and elongation, so prepainted metal is already meeting the demands of the fabrication process in many ways.
Here are just some of the ways prepainted metal meets the challenges faced by fabricators of building materials and more.
Prepainted metal meets durability requirements
The durability requirements of prepainted metal are expressed typically in terms of color fade and degree of chalking, both of which have to do with maintaining the aesthetic appearance of a prepainted metal panel. Warranties for prepainted metal roof panels are in the range of 20 to 40 and even up to 45 years, significantly longer than those of shingle roofs. Prepainted coatings are designed to be scratch-resistant and will not crack or peel. Prepainted metal panels are designed to be sufficiently flexible to meet the demands of complex shapes. Prepainted panels are also designed to withstand harsh weather and provide excellent corrosion resistance through the use of state-of-the art pretreatments and multiple coatings. These coatings are applied to both sides of the metal to enhance its long-term durability. Prepainted products are designed to be scratch-resistant and to reduce the appearance of oil canning/waviness, dents, and other imperfections found on long panels.
Prepainted metal improves manufacturing processes
Today’s prepainted metal is designed to withstand many familiar fabrication processes, including roll forming, stamping, and embossing.
Many fabricators that do stamping or embossing make the switch to prepainted metal because it eliminates the need for in-house paint production of a previously fabricated bare metal part. This approach reduces cost, frees up storage space, and avoids many of the insurance-related challenges associated with post-finishing coating operations. By using prepainted metal systems, manufacturers can utilize the space taken up by in-house painting operations for other needs, such as storage, office space, or new production lines. Fabricating bare, uncoated metal usually requires some kind of lubricant. The process of lubricating bare metal prior to fabricating is not perfect, and—under some circumstances—the lubricant mist can fall onto the floor, creating a slip/fall hazard. Prepainted metal does not require a lubricant during fabrication, so slick spots are eliminated and slip/fall hazards are minimized.
From a technological standpoint, prepainted metal can increase a manufacturer’s efficiency. From material to part, the transfer efficiency of the coil-coating process is nearly 100 percent—as opposed to post-painting operations, in which only 60 to 80 percent of the spray ends up on the intended part. Since the metal is coated flat, the prepainting process provides uniform pretreatment, priming, and topcoating. Manufacturers also have several coating options, depending on what level of weathering performance is needed for the application.
Prepainted metal meets aesthetic needs in building and non-building applications
Prepainted metal products today can provide a great number of customizable solutions for building and non-building applications. Modern innovations allow prepainted metal products to take on the look and feel of popular materials such as stone, wood, and shale. Companies that make prepainted products offer countless colors, including those with iridescent and color-shifting properties, to meet the aesthetic needs of the customer. The toughness and flexibility of prepainted metal enables its fabrication into the most demanding shapes for any industry.
Prepainted metal helps manufacturers meet environmental regulations
Manufacturers and fabricators that use in-house systems often do not consider the environmental impact and burden that comes with the disposal of materials, the cost of cleaning materials, and the responsibility to abide by new and ever-changing environmental regulations. Prepainted systems and prepainted products help reduce not only the carbon footprint of the manufacturer but also that of the customer.
For example, unlike wood or shingle roofs, roofs of prepainted metal are 100 percent recyclable, so the materials don’t have to go to a landfill when the end user is done with them. Prepainted metal manufacturers use a fraction of the energy consumed by post-painting operations and efficiently handle waste water for a variety of metal pretreatments and mill oil contaminants. Companies like Steelscape are taking steps to reduce the use of waste streams and harmful chemicals and to use solar panel roofs to reduce energy consumption.
Manufacturers and fabricators that use prepainted products can help qualify their buildings and earn credits and tax savings for LEED, Energy Star, and other cool-roof codes and standards. As part of certifying a building to be LEED compliant, solar-reflective prepainted metal roofs can earn LEED points by helping to reduce the urban heat island (UHI) effect. The UHI effect can be seen as an increased temperature in large cities with a high volume of human activity along with a paucity of trees and other vegetation. Solar-reflective materials also help reduce the temperature of a building and therefore reduce energy consumption for cooling. Solar-reflective roofs are also compliant with ENERGY STAR®, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.
For manufacturers and fabricators concerned about the processes involved in prepainted metal, they can rest assured that coated-metal operations have long understood and answered the demands and innovations required to make them successful. While incorporating prepainted metal in a product or project comes with a learning curve, and although many contractors have not yet been exposed to the technology, continued education on the materials and their capabilities can help manufacturers and their customers reap major benefits should they choose to use them.