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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Attention to the smallest detail is an important factor in manufacturing industry-leading fall protection equipment. When it comes to guardrails, it might seem that these details aren’t as important (or apparent) as in some other products, but they are there nonetheless.

Take, for instance, the finish applied to Guardian’s G-Rail series of guardrails. What at first seems to be merely a nice shade of yellow paint, is after a bit of investigation turns out instead to be a technologically-advanced, high-performance coating that helps increase the durability and longevity of our most popular guardrail system.

Let’s take a few minutes to better understand what powder coating is, and why it is a superior finish for our guardrails.

What is Powder Coating? How Is It Different from Paint?

First of all, powder-coating is not paint. Paint consists of a colored pigment suspended in a solution which is applied wet, and only after a period of drying (or, more specifically, evaporation for a water-based paint) do the molecules of the pigment bond to each other to create the “skin” of paint we are familiar with.

Powder coating is just that – powder. The particles that will become the finish in powder-coating are very small, dry pieces of polymer resin about the same texture of flour. Since the powder is dry, it can’t be painted on with a brush like normal paint, so coaters employ a technique called electrostatic spray deposition (ESD).

Whoa...what is Electrostatic Spray Deposition (ESD)?

ESD is more of a science than anything else. During ESD, the prepped metal product is given a negative charge and the powder particles are given a positive charge. The worker then uses a special application gun to create a cloud of positively charged powder particles which (remembering your physics) are attracted to the negatively charged metal. This process allows the powder particles to be applied to all surfaces of a part, even the underside, without fear of drips or runs. When the application of powder is finished, imagine billions of individual particles of powder electrically stuck to the outside of the rail.

At this point, the powder is not solidified into the finished coat, so it is important not to touch the rail during this phase of coating, or else the powder could be wiped off the surface. The newly-powdered part is then transferred to an enormous oven where it is baked at 375-400 degrees F for between 10 to 20 minutes (depending on the thickness of the metal) to solidify and bond the polymer powder. Once the part has been removed from the oven and is cool to the touch (about 15 minutes), it is completely cured and ready for use.

What Makes Powder Coating So Special?

For an end user, the benefits of powder-coating over paint are numerous, but perhaps chief among these is the fact that powder coating is far more durable that wet-applied paint. Its ability to withstand impacts, chipping, and scratches is something that just can’t be matched by paint. In addition, powder-coated guardrails exposed to sunlight will maintain their brightness better due to UV stabilizers found in the powder itself. In construction environments where weather can range from sunny and hot to dreary and wet, powder-coating stands up to conditions that would severely test other finishes. This helps maintain not only the look and visibility of the guardrail, but also its integrity by protecting the steel tubing of the guardrail itself.

Like many things, powder coating is not a one-size-fits-all type of finish, and Guardian offers many options depending on a customer’s needs. First, although safety yellow is our standard (and most common) color, we offer a wide range of custom colors to suit specific installations. Second is the finish type itself. The G-Rail system gets two full applications of powder coating for increased protection versus a standard primer and single powder-coat application. In addition, we also offer guardrails that have been galvanized before powder coating has been applied, which has the benefit that if the guardrail is scratched deep enough to expose metal, the zinc galvanizing will act as a sacrificial anode and corrode before the steel will. This is the exact same protection given to many nails used in construction, and acts as an extra measure of protection, especially in high salinity environments where corrosion is a constant enemy.

Powder Coating Is Your Durable Solution to Ensure Longer Product Life

While it might not get the attention of other, more flashy features of fall protection products, proper material coating is vital to keeping our products working as intended, and in the end saving lives. By choosing the right finish for a specific component, Guardian strives to make sure our products not only work as they should the first day on the job, but also for years to come.

Interested in seeing an example of the powder coating process? Check out this video from our friends at Advanced Industrial Coatings!