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Industrial coatings come in many different forms. Regardless of the type, their primary function is protecting the surface beneath them. Using industrial coatings means making an item last. They protect against corrosion, fire, and water, as well as other damaging materials and processes. These coatings are most often used to protect steel and concrete from corrosion, but they have other uses as well. They are easy to clean and have a pleasing visual aesthetic, creating a polished look on floors, tables, and other pieces. 

Industrial coatings are often applied over paint or powder coatings. They function as the final layer to protect a surface, so there is some degree of preparation prior to application, whether the surface is steel, concrete, plastic, or another material. This includes cleaning and abrasive blasting, and the area may need priming before the final coating. 

Different industrial coatings are used for different purposes, depending on what kind of protection is needed. For example, epoxy coatings are often used for protection in water and are commonly used indoors. Meanwhile, polyurethanes can be used outdoors on everything from dams to ships. Using the wrong type of coating—or no coating at all—can mean a piece doesn’t get the protection it needs and therefore breaks down faster and needs to be replaced sooner.

Industrial coatings come in a few basic types: epoxy, polyurethane, fluoropolymer, and polysiloxanes. Their applications vary, but each of them is important for the right situation.

Related: Everything Engineers and Product Manufacturers Need to Know About Industrial Metal Finishing

Epoxy

Epoxy coatings are often used indoors on floors and furniture. They are made up of two parts: a base and a curing agent. By changing the quantities of each of these parts in the mixture, it creates different types of epoxy coatings, each of which serves a specific purpose. Some work well as protection against moisture while others are more chemical-resistant.

Epoxy is typically used indoors or in any outdoor application that will not be exposed to sunlight. They perform well submerged in water, like at water treatment facilities. Poor performance and chalking under UV light are one of their few drawbacks. Otherwise, epoxy coatings are resistant to abrasion and can vary in thickness based on how they are applied.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane coatings come in two distinct types: aliphatic and aromatic. It is crucial to distinguish the two, as confusing them could mean ineffective protection. Aliphatic polyurethane coatings are ideal for outdoor environments and retain color well. Aromatic coatings, on the other hand, react similarly to epoxy coatings in sunlight. They become chalky and break down easily, making them more suitable for submerged environments.

Polyurethane topcoats are often applied to bridges, ships, and concrete floors. They have a wide range of use, but if this type of industrial coating is used, it must be professionally done. Unlike epoxy, polyurethane emits harmful carcinogens, and protective gear is necessary for application. They are also notably more expensive than epoxy coatings.

Fluoropolymer

Fluoropolymer coatings come in many types and brands. These coatings have low mass chemical compounds that make them popular as non-stick coatings. In other words, they work well for cookware and are often used in pots and pans. 

Their use goes far beyond cookware, though. They have many desirable properties that make them useful in a wide variety of situations and environments. For example, they are excellent in high heat, and they are insulators, which makes them perfect for use in the electrical industry. They repel water and are corrosion resistant. These features mean that fluoropolymer coatings are some of the most versatile industrial coatings available.

Polysiloxanes

Polysiloxane coatings were developed in the 1990s, which makes them a relatively new type of industrial coating. They are abrasion- and weather-resistant, and they have the benefit of maintaining the appearance of a polished surface. However, they do not always resist corrosion well. For this reason, they are often combined with other industrial coatings.

Polysiloxane coatings are often paired with epoxy. This can add additional corrosion-resistance and diversify their use. It makes them last longer and increases their benefits for both indoor and outdoor use. The biggest problem, in this case, is that polysiloxanes are much more expensive than other kinds of industrial coatings and pairing them with another coating type will increase that cost.

Why Use Industrial Coatings?

It is important to know when to use industrial coatings and which ones are appropriate for the project at hand. Knowing which coatings are best for indoor versus outdoor use, as well as how and where to apply them goes a long way in creating a lasting finish on a project.

Not every situation calls for the use of industrial coatings. When determining whether a coating is necessary, it is helpful to look at the purpose of a piece of equipment or surface. This will indicate what type of coating is ideal for that situation, as well as the required thickness and strength of the coating and how to improve the area’s functionality with a coating. 

There are several applications for industrial coatings and choosing the best one starts with knowing the reasons why a surface may need to be protected.

Corrosion

Industrial coatings are best known for protecting steel and concrete from corrosion. Corrosion is a chemical process that breaks down steel, concrete, and other metals. The process accelerates when these surfaces are exposed to water, oxygen, extreme temperatures, and certain chemicals. Over time, this process can cause significant damage to unprotected structures and surfaces. 

Industrial coatings are one of the best ways to guard against this type of problem. Many coatings repel moisture and other corrosive materials, which prevents them from being absorbed by the surface beneath and ruining the material. For this reason, it is crucial to know which industrial coatings are suited to specific environments. For example, putting epoxy in a sunny outdoor area would create more problems when the coating breaks down under the UV rays. Playing to the coating’s strength will create lasting protection and require less maintenance.

Fire Protection

Some industrial coatings are put in place to protect a surface against fire damage. Sometimes, fire protection is an insurance prerequisite for a company or facility, and some coatings are especially well suited to this purpose. Fluoropolymers, for instance, are a great choice here, as they function well in high heat and are often used with electrical equipment.

Industrial coatings can mean saving a building from severe fire damage or total loss. They can prevent steel from melting in extreme heat, which can mean avoiding major repairs and replacements later. In buildings where flammable materials may create a more extreme fire hazard, this type of fire protection is especially beneficial.

Safety Precaution

Fire and corrosion protection are both forms of safety precautions, but there are other broad safety concerns industrial coatings can address. Sometimes the coatings are designed to create a non-stick or non-slip surface. Fluoropolymers create non-stick surfaces for pots and pans, but they can also be useful on machinery to keep things running smoothly. Conversely, epoxy—sometimes mixed with other materials like aggregate—can help reduce slippage on floors.

Safety is a priority in the workplace and at home. Ensuring that all surfaces are properly protected where necessary makes a project or task more efficient and reduces workplace injuries as well as breakage and repairs of machinery.

Cleanliness

In industrial environments, it is impossible for any surface to stay permanently clean. Cleanliness is a part of safety and functionality, and industrial coatings can increase both. Some coatings resist specific materials and are stronger than others. Some repel water while others hold up against harsher chemicals.

The idea in these instances is to use an industrial coating that is easy to clean. If particles and potentially damaging materials sit on top of the coating, less time is spent cleaning machine parts or spills on surfaces. There is a significant difference between wiping up a mess as opposed to scrubbing it off.

Visual Aesthetic

This may seem like the least important thing when it comes to reasons for using industrial coatings, but it does factor in. After all, any facility should look clean and presentable as well as being safe and functional. Many industrial coatings add a glossy shine to a surface, which may make them appear newer in addition to any practical advantages.

Epoxy adds a beautiful polished look to floors, and polysiloxanes can do the same for outdoor surfaces. This can be beneficial when people from outside a facility enter the building, as polished floors and equipment are likely to draw positive attention.

The variety of industrial coatings makes them useful in endless applications. In fact, they are not only useful but necessary and sometimes required to meet certain safety regulations. Circumventing these types of coatings could spell disaster for a structure or equipment while using them can increase longevity and even prevent destruction.

Many types of coatings are available that can be used in various indoor and outdoor environments, depending on their individual properties. Choosing the proper industrial coating and applying it correctly can make all the difference.

Related: Is Abrasive Blasting the Right Metal Finishing Solution for You?

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