Published April 2014
Powder coatings are applied to metal substrates to form highly durable and attractive finishes. They are manufactured and applied without the use of organic solvents; thus, they are highly desirable from an ecological standpoint. Most of the current interest in industrial powder coating technology is in formulations based on thermosetting resin binders, predominantly epoxies and polyesters (saturated types with carboxyl or hydroxyl functional groups). Epoxies are preferred for their overall physical properties, while polyesters exhibit better outdoor weathering properties. This report focuses on powder coatings based on thermosetting resins and discusses only the electrostatic spray method of application. Most of the interest in powder coatings and their best prospects for growth involve these technologies. The major thermosetting powder coatings are based on four chemistries: epoxy, polyester, urethane and acrylic.
There has been some consolidation in the industry in recent years, mainly because powder coatings production has grown more rapidly in areas outside of North America, Western Europe and Japan—in regions where these regions’ manufacturers have much less of a presence. In China, powder coatings production roughly doubled from 2004 to 2013, with most production being by very small enterprises using unsophisticated equipment. China is now the leading powder coatings producer by far. In Europe, there are at least 100 producers. In North America, there are an estimated 70 producers. In China, there are over 500 producers.
The following pie chart shows world production of thermosetting powder coatings:
World production is forecast to increase at an average annual rate of about 5% from 2013 to 2018.
The powder coatings industry has endured years of low profitability as the industry has increased capacity while demand in the developed world has stagnated. Prices have tended to fall as many producers were willing to sell quality powder coatings at low prices. At the same time, users have become more educated and consider many powder coatings to be commodity-like.
On the other hand, consumption of powder coatings in less industrialized regions has increased and is expected to continue to increase at a strong rate, with average annual growth expected to be about 6–7% in China and 4–5% in other developing nations. There should be some increase in the U.S. market as lower-cost energy supplies will reduce the cost of applying powder coatings and encourage some end users to relocate their operations from areas with low labor costs.
- Powder coatings are used primarily in the following major markets:
- General metal finishing (e.g., furniture, shelving, electrical equipment)
- Appliances (e.g., washing machine tops and lids, dryer drums)
- Architectural (e.g., window and door frames)
- Automotive (e.g., wheels, oil filters, engine blocks)
- Functional (e.g., oil and gas transmission pipes)
Some of the more important trends and opportunities foreseen for the powder coatings industry are the following:
- Continued consolidation of producers.
- Continued rapid growth, especially in less-developed nations.
Intense research efforts to provide powder coatings that can be used in more markets, including wood, plastics and other nonmetallic substrates. UV-curable powders are being developed for medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is used in interior kitchen construction, office furniture, roofing, and wall panels; to date, however, its use is limited.