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Coil Coating: Then and Now

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image1Announcer: There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly, and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure.

This Halloween season, Hulu ran a month-long “Huluween” event presenting movies and shows, past and present, with scary, spooky themes. One of the shows was “The Outer Limits.” Remember “We control the horizontal. We control the vertical. …”? Perhaps you are too old to admit it, or too young to have even heard of it. In either case, I might have said, “Boy, you really missed something.” But, after watching a few episodes of this 1963-1965 sci-fi series in 2018, I found myself saying, “What did I ever find entertaining about this?” Of course, back then I was 12 years old. The Cold War was hot, nuclear annihilation was a big concern, and science was exploding. The U.S manned space program had begun in 1962, the light-emitting diode (LED) was developed (although its practical use was questioned), and the immortal Lava Lamp was invented. That 12-year-old kid did not realize that another momentous event had taken place in 1962—the formation of the National Coil Coating Association—but today he thinks it might be pretty interesting to compare the NCCA “then” to the “now.”


Substrates: Then and Now

In a sense, there are many similarities to the substrates from then and now: Aluminum and metallic-coated steel are still the dominant materials. But metal producers needed to refine their processing technology to accommodate the need to post-form coated metal effectively. Aluminum alloys evolved, as did the zinc metallic coatings on steel—first with a modification with aluminum (Galvalume), and more recently with the addition of magnesium. These advances in aluminum and metallic-coated steel technology led to today’s substrates that provide the necessary mechanical properties to fabricate intricate designs for the construction, appliance, heating and air-conditioning (HVAC), transportation, and packaging markets. Then-and-now pictures of the production of aluminum and metallic-coated steel might not necessarily show the dramatic advances that one sees when comparing a 1960s TV show to a 21st century show, but the progress is there.


Cleaners, Pretreatments and Coatings: Then and Now

Before the process of coil coating came into use, cleaners, pretreatments, and coatings were certainly available. In the case of coatings, “baking enamel” was a term used for decades to describe the process of putting enamel paints through a baking oven to cure them, and these enamels always were applied over a pretreated substrate. One of the biggest differences between then and now is “rate.” Pretreatments and paints used in a baking enamel application had long cure times—certainly many minutes. In the earliest days of coil coating, line speeds were about half the speed of modern coil coating lines. To many, this may not seem like a big deal: Double the line speed, cut the cleaning, pretreating, and coating-cure speed in half; how hard can that be? It is in fact a very big deal, and today’s pretreatments and coatings look nothing like they did in the past. We now utilize environmentally friendly, dried-in-place, roll-on pretreatments that produce essentially no waste. The coatings used these days have advanced to match the fabrication and durability demands of the market. Then-and-now pictures cannot do justice to the appearance of today’s coatings, thanks to advancements in the chemicals and polymers that are now being used.


Markets: Then and Now

In the earliest days of coil coatings, the metal webs to be processed were quite narrow, and early uses of prepainted metal included venetian blinds and aluminum siding. But modern coil coating lines can easily handle substrates up to 60 inches wide or more! This capability has opened the doors to applications and markets not considered possible back in the 1960s, such as:

  • Roofing—Prepainted metal roof panels are produced in a wide array of shapes to meet any design need. A prepainted roofing system can transform metal roofing into profiles that look like clay tile, slate, cedar shakes, shingles, and more. In addition to beauty, longevity, and functionality, prepainted metal is available with “cool” infrared-reflective pigment technology. This technology saves energy (and money!) on cooling by helping reduce a building’s interior temperature.
  • Walls—Prepainted metal is a perfect choice for both interior and exterior wall panels. Metal wall panels are available in a large number of differing profiles, including ribbed, insulated, and metal composite architectural styles.
  • Garage and Entry Doors—Prepainted metal is a perfect fit for manufacturing exterior doors, with its ability to be stamped into deeply drawn and detailed shapes, its resistance to weathering, and its economic benefits and environmental advantages.
  • Interiors—Prepainted metal is used extensively in interior building design. Sometimes its use is subtle and becomes an integral part of the design, and sometimes the metal itself is the major focus of the design. Ceiling tiles, backsplashes, ceiling grids, wall panels, wainscoting, and column surrounds are some of the uses of prepainted metal for interiors.
  • Appliances—Washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and small appliances all utilize control panels that are prepainted, but those new brightly colored washers, dryers, and pedestals are prepainted, too! The metal outer bodies, doors, and interiors of refrigerators are often made using prepainted metal. Many coil coaters even emboss the metal coils after painting, adding a unique look to refrigerators and freezers.
  • HVAC—The use of prepainted metal provides excellent product appearance, higher product performance, increased productivity, and numerous economic advantages. The coil coating process has been a proven method of applying high-performance coatings over various metal substrates for many decades because the coils are uniformly cleaned, pretreated, and painted as a flat surface, ensuring a secure bond of the coating to the metal.
  • Transportation—The truck trailer industry is successfully using prepainted polyester and acrylic coatings, which can be silkscreened and perform beautifully over the road for many, many years.

Over the last 50+ years, much has changed. The manned space program ended in 2012, although new privately owned U.S. space firms are planning launches in the near future. LEDs—the invention looking for a use—are everywhere today. And coil coating is a robust, sustainable process technology that provides solutions to a large variety of industries. “The Outer Limits” was the first sci-fi TV show to embed universal themes and cautionary messages in its 49 episodes, and it is said to have had a profound influence on the producers of the original “Star Trek.” So, in keeping with the sci-fi theme, not in “then” terms but in “now” terms, it appears that users and producers of prepainted metal have a bright future. So I think it’s fair to say, “Go forth and prosper.”

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