RadEX of Canada – from Pioneers to Ph.D.s in Powder Coating MDF
Posted: 05/28/2014 10:57AM
When it comes to mastering the art of powder coating MDF, persistence has paid off for RadEX, a Canadian custom powder coater. The company began investing in MDF in 1999, and 15 years later is still going strong – though the road hasn’t always been easy.
RadEX started as an off shoot of H&G Powder, an established custom coater specializing in powder coating metal parts since 1986. But when it came to powder coating MDF, there were no manuals, videos, books or instructions to draw from. As the first MDF UV powder coater in Canada and only the second in North America, RadEX has written itgs own book on best practices.
RadEX's customer list includes Marshalls, Calvin Klein, TJ Maxx, Costco and General Electric, validating that powder coating of MDF is a viable alternative to both thermofoil and liquid coating. RadEX attributes a big part of its success to an early partnerships with powder coating systems supplier Nordson Corporation of Amherst, OH. UV and hybrid oven supplier Nutro Corporation of Strongsville, OH; UV powder material supplier Protech Chemical; and various MDF suppliers, such as Flakeboard and Plum Creek.
MDF Power Coating Learning Curve
Rick Grim, plant manager, has been with RadEX since its inception and was instrumental in getting the MDF line up and running. After thorough research on the process, Grim and his team turned to Nordson, a company that also invested heavily in this new process. Nordson equipped an MDF powder coating test lab with an Excel 2000 booth system and a hybrid preheat and cure oven that included electric infrared (IR), gas convection, and the company’s own UV curing lamp technology.
At the time, lab manager Steve Brattoli was quickly becoming the go-to guy in the industry for understanding and overcoming the many process variables of powder coating MDF. Unlike powder coating highly conductive metal parts, MDF is a very different substrate with far more variables when it comes to prepping, preheating and curing powder coatings.
“We learned that it is critical to consider moisture content, density profile, board temperature and board smoothness in the MDF coating process,” explains Grim. “If controlled correctly, these variables can produce a beautiful powder coated finish that is durable, scratch resistant and well-bonded, so it will not delaminate like thermofoils.”
According to Grim and his CAD manager and CNC programmer, Bob Jones, eliminating process variables begins with using MDF that is “powder coating friendly.” This means that the moisture content when entering the preheat oven should be between 7 percent and 9 percent. Ideal moisture content and preheating achieve two things. Preheating drives the core board moisture to the surface making the substrate conductive. Preheating ensures that the core moisture of the board does not outgas during the final cure stage of the process. Density profile has to do with the density of the fibers within the board.