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Prepainted Metal: Today’s Innovations Bring Beautiful Advantages

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The old saying, “As exciting as watching paint dry” could not be further from the truth when it comes to coil coatings. First, the paint that is applied to a metal coil during the coil coating process dries (bakes, really) in just 15 to 30 seconds. A lot takes place in that short period of time: 1) the solvents evaporate (they are captured and destroyed in this environmentally friendly process), 2) the coating flows to produce a smooth surface, and 3) a chemical reaction takes place to create a cured, hard, scratch-resistant yet flexible coating. To the chemists who create this magic, it’s exciting stuff, but it’s difficult for the consumer to appreciate since the process takes place in a factory setting. What consumers can appreciate is what they see when the product reaches the marketplace. So … let’s see what’s innovative these days!

First, let’s talk about beetles. Yes, beetles. Especially the ones that have that cool iridescence. They create that effect by … well, it’s complicated!

But if a bug can do it, why not a coil coating? Thanks to the science behind modern pigment technology, coupled with the creativity of coating chemists, the consumer can choose color-shifting coatings (shown below).

This striking effect attracts a great deal of interest and is becoming more popular with architects these days. While prepainted metal is certainly more interesting than watching paint dry, color-shifting prepainted metal is way more interesting.

In another example of mimicking the natural world, coatings can now be formulated to produce a superhydrophobic surface. Okay, plants did it first …

But nothing in nature can produce a beautiful building exterior in any number of colors that can also preserve its beauty for decades. But who cares, you ask, if water beads up on prepainted metal? Well, consumers do, even if they don’t realize it. If water can bead up and roll off prepainted metal, that water bead can remove dirt while it cascades off the panel. But there are other benefits.

Graffiti can be a big problem. What if a coating not only causes water to bead up but also allows for easy removal of graffiti? That’s innovation!

Graffiti is estimated to cause more than $25 billion worth of damage in the U.S. each year and is an eyesore for building owners and users alike. Modern prepaint innovation includes graffiti-resistant clear coats that allow graffiti stains to simply be wiped away. Issaquah Middle School in Washington State used this finish to great advantage by selecting a distinctive silver metal siding for their new classrooms.

Issaquah Middle School
Graffiti simply wiped away.

Prepainted metal has always been at the forefront of innovation. For example, prepainted metal, used extensively in roofs across America, was one of the first products to feature cool pigment technology. Pigment are the elements of paint that impart color, and “cool” pigments are chemically and physically engineered to reflect infrared (IR) wavelengths. IR is the invisible light from the sun (its wavelengths are longer than those of visible light) that leads to the creation of heat. Reflecting this light improves building efficiency by reducing absorbed heat and lowering cooling costs. Today, this technology is the metal roof industry standard across a broad range of colors, including black and dark colors, contributing to metal’s status as an environmentally responsible roofing solution.

Prepainted metal can be engineered to suit a wide range of applications and environments, including building interiors. An example of modern prepaint technological innovation is the use of antimicrobial finishes in restaurants and supermarkets. This technology prevents the growth of bacteria and mold on metal surfaces while still providing vivid, memorable color and a fingerprint-resistant surface. Applications of this innovative technology include NSF International-certified walk-in coolers, refrigerated supermarket cabinets, food preparation areas, and restaurant interiors. These solutions not only help fast-track health safety certifications but are also an economical and durable surface solution.

A defining trait of prepainted metal is bold color. Metal’s smooth, clean surface is ideal for the application of vibrant pigments used to create color. However, these colors may not be suitable for all purposes, particularly where subtlety or integration are key. Modern building design is increasingly showcasing mixed materials, including the integration of metal with wood and stone. Innovations in prepainted metal technology include textured and matte paint systems that offer reduced sheen and stimulating texture for more effective integration with natural materials. These finish innovations are also used to comply with the strict provisions of homeowners’ associations, which often limit the use of metal due to its reflective properties. The picture below demonstrates how a textured metal product was used to reduce sheen on this prominent roof surface.

Textured metal finish
A home featuring a textured metal finish roof.

Process innovation enables prepainted finishes to include more than solid colors alone. Cutting-edge printing technology allows coil coaters to create unique metal designs and finishes that evoke the feel of other materials, including wood, stone, and oxidized metal. These finishes enable building and product designers to reap the benefits of metal—high product consistency, long finish warranties, and an economical price point—without making aesthetic sacrifices. In the example below, Sky Ranch Middle School in Reno Nevada, sought to improve the integration of a new school into its high desert environment through the use of oxidized metal. The district did not want the unintended consequences of rust runoff and compromised long-term performance, so a prepainted solution echoing the look of oxidized metal was used.  

Sky Ranch Middle School in Reno, Nevada
Rust print up close.

These dynamic finishes can be used in a raft of applications, from exterior siding to product skins and from column wraps to interior ceilings. The available designs are almost endless. So whether the goal is to create a distinctive visual appearance or improve product performance, a prepainted metal innovation can provide a solution.  

Prepainted metal offers a variety of options and features to designers and consumers. Its “green” and efficient manufacturing process protects the environment. Metallic-coated steel, painted with high-tech coatings, provides decades of performance. The prepainted system never needs to hibernate like the beetle, is not concerned at with a killer frost like the plant, and refuses to be conquered by the artistic aspirations of taggers. Now that’s something to get excited about!

A metal planter box with a prepainted wood-look design.

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