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What is E-Coating? Applications for E-Coating

What is e-coating? E-coating or electrocoating is a process that uses electrical current to apply paint to a metal surface. Its use in manufacturing grew out of the 1950s and 60s, but this technique is still in high demand today.

So what is e-coating best for? The answer is that companies use e-coating to protect a wide range of metals in a diverse array of industries. In addition, it is considered to offer numerous benefits that other coating methods like spray-painting can’t provide and is regarded as one of the most professional techniques.

At Minnesota Industrial Coatings (MIC), we use this method to produce the highest quality finishes for our customers. We work with our client partners to ensure that the final results are beyond excellence and take every care to ensure that all work is completed and delivered in a timely fashion. Here’s why we love e-coating and some of the benefits you can expect when you choose e-coating. 

Want to learn more about the eco-friendly, state-of-the-art methods used by MIC? Get in touch today.

What Materials are Suitable for E-Coating?

A stack of aluminum pipes ready for e-coating

The e-coating process involves preparing a metal part using materials like zinc phosphate to improve adherence. The metal part is then dipped in a bath filled with paint solids with a positive or negative electrical charge. Finally, the part is cured in an oven and sometimes given an extra finish.

The high degree of precision and evenness that you can achieve is a significant reason for its popularity, besides its impressive ability to resist corrosion. But what is e-coating applied to? 

The main requirement for any metal to be treated with an e-coating is that it must possess electrical conductivity between 0-400v. You can treat many metals in this manner, including gold, brass, and composite materials that possess the right level of conductivity. However, some common choices include:

Aluminum

This metal is used in many manufacturing applications due to its lightweight nature and versatility.

Stainless Steel

This metal is one of the most popular materials in the construction industry. The coating process can improve its corrosion protection significantly, especially when it is exposed to the elements.

Chrome Plating

Chrome plating is often used to improve the resilience of a surface. Electrocoating adds an extra layer of protection and an aesthetically pleasing finish.

Copper

As copper discolors quickly when in contact with oxygen, it benefits from the completeness of coverage you can achieve with this method.

What are Some Common E-Coating Applications?

A technician using a microfiber cloth on a  shiny red care treated with e-coating

The coating system is used in a wide variety of industries, from aerospace manufacture to jewelry production. Below, we discuss some industries that use this technique.

Aerospace

The method is commonly used in aerospace manufacturing due to its excellent corrosion resistance. Aviation components must stand up to the intense conditions experienced by aircraft, as even the slightest problem can be catastrophic at 40,000ft. Because of their extensive exposure to UV rays, aircraft will often be given a further coating to protect against damaging UV light — this is often a powder coating.

Aerospace manufacturers are increasingly looking to make aviation more environmentally friendly, which is another reason for this method’s popularity in this industry.

Agriculture

Maintaining farmland involves harsh conditions and high exposure to moisture and dirt. Traditional painting methods also suffer from heavy scratching in these applications.

What is e-coating good for? Resisting wear and tear as well as corrosion. This enhanced resistance makes e-coating ideal for agricultural applications.

Furniture & Homeware

Household items from wall brackets to metal-framed chairs often use this method. It offers a cost-effective way of providing a full, even coating for objects that may have nooks and crannies (like a wall bracket) and need to have an even layer. The method is often favored for mass-produced hardware for this reason.

Jewelry 

Plate jewelry can lose its color due to wear and tear, and its appearance can also suffer due to oxidation (especially silver plate). However, even solid jewelry metals can benefit from e-coating for preventing scratches and discoloration. The intricacy of jewelry is another reason this method is widely used.

Vehicle Manufacturing

If you’ve ever been impressed with how scratch-resistant some modern cars are compared to 30 years ago, this is due to the widespread adoption of e-coating in vehicle manufacturing. While it has been used in the industry since the 1950s, advances in the process mean it is firmly favored by manufacturers in today’s industry.

What are Anodic E-Coating and Cathodic E-Coating Used For?

A red metallic finish on a car

The type of coating used for industrial applications depends on the metal part being coated. Sometimes anodic attraction is used and sometimes cathodic. The technical difference is that:

Anodic means that the metal part is charged to attract particles with a negative charge in the paint bath

Cathodic means that the metal part is charged to attract positively charged particles in the paint bath

In practice, the anodic method produces results that are less corrosion-resistant. However, this method can be achieved at a lower cure temperature of below 200F. This method is, therefore, sometimes used for heat-sensitive applications.

The cathodic method produces a more corrosion-resistant finish, sometimes complemented with an extra metal finishing layer to prevent damage from UV light. This is the method that tends to be common in applications like aerospace or vehicle manufacturing.

What are the Benefits of E-Coating?

What is e-coating? Metal parts being prepped for E-coating?

So what is e-coating best for compared to other paint methods? The major benefits of this method are listed below.

Corrosion & Damage Resistance

As noted, corrosion is a serious issue with many metals used in manufacturing. Traditional paint solutions have a limited ability to prevent corrosion compared to the powerful barrier provided by electrocoating. 

The e-coating layer is also far more resistant to damage from scratches and general wear & tear than other paint applications. This helps maintain a pleasing aesthetic and further prevents exposure to water vapor that can cause rust and corrosion. 

Complete & Even Application

By submerging the metal part in a solution, you can apply a very even layer of paint. The paint also has less of a tendency to gather in small corners, making the application more efficient, and you’ll avoid unsightly build-ups. The submersion also ensures that difficult-to-reach areas are fully covered.

Cost-Efficiency

The method is very cost-efficient because the excess paint is recoverable and reusable after a dipping. It can be performed in very large batches, so it suits high production volumes. It also requires less manpower than other painting methods.

Environmentally Friendly

What is the environmental impact of e-coating compared to solvent-based paint application? It produces almost no HAPs (hazardous air pollutants) or VOCs (volatile organic compounds), so it is one of the most environmentally friendly methods available today. 

What is E-Coating Best For? The Verdict

man and woman in blue shirts looking over large tubs of solution

The diversity of applications and benefits of e-coating is enormous. It’s corrosion-resistant, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and compatible with a variety of metals. It’s also easy to apply when you work with a high-quality and experienced provider.

Our team at Minnesota Industrial Coatings only relies on the best materials for our work, tailoring our processes to your needs and communicating with you every step of the way to make sure you get the results you’re looking for. We’re always happy to talk about our eco-friendly practices and the technologies we use to provide you with the high-quality finish that you deserve. Contact us today to learn more about how MIC can help you with these solutions.

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