Electrostatic Painting Guide

Why Restoration With Electrostatic Painting Makes Sense

The most common places you might see an electrostatically painted surface include offices that use metal furniture as well as workplaces, gyms and schools with locker rooms.

Other places and items that can benefit from the advantages of the electrostatic painting process are:

  • File cabinets and storage shelves in large offices, storage facilities and retail stores
  • Exterior metal walls on commercial or industrial buildings
  • Fences and railings at historic landmarks, public recreational areas or amusement parks
  • Tubing for air ducts in commercial, industrial or school and other public buildings.

Commercial electorstatic painters and electrostatic painting equipment manufacturers often refer to the device designed to atomize and spray the paint as a “sprayer” or “paint gun.” That’s because it’s ergonomically designed to fit in your hand like a gun.

What Is Electrostatic Painting?

Electrostatic painting is a process that uses specialized equipment to electrically charge and fluidize powdered pigment, then spray the particles as a coating onto a surface.

Classified as one of the “dry painting” systems of the powder paint it uses, the electrostatic painting process eliminates volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), hazardous pollutants (HAP’s) and solvents that are often found in other painting processes.

The electrostatic charge used in this painting process acts in two ways:

  1. It causes charged powder particles to behave like a liquid as they move through the air and land on the targeted surface.
  2. It facilitates attraction of unlike charges to each other. As positively charged particles seek the nearest ground, a mutual pull connects them, then bonds the coating to the grounded surface on which it’s sprayed.

The bonded coating made possible by the electrostatic painting process protects the surface underneath from corrosion that may be caused by moisture and oxidizing elements in the air. A high-quality finish restores the appearance to like-new condition.

For porous substances, like wood, the electrostatically coated surface can protect against moisture that attracts mold and fungus and can cause rot. On projects for which wood, plastic or another conductive, more negatively charged material is the target, special prep steps may be needed to ensure proper coating and a quality finish.

A Brief History of Electrostatic Painting Technology

Electrostatic finishing was founded in 1931 by Harold Ransburg, when, as a young man, he had to leave university studies to help his father’s business, Harper J. Ransburg Co. in Indianapolis, IN. During Harold’s work of painting stoneware and metal housewares, he experimented with equipment known to charge paint particles, and developed a system of electrostatic painting called the “No. 1 Process.” The process was widely used for painting of munitions and supplies during World War II.

As he continued experimenting, Ransburg learned he could negatively charge the atomized paint particles and also charge the item to be coated — or make it a neutral ground — creating an electrostatic field. This field then pulls paint particles to the item. Through innovation, Ransburg developed the No. 2 Process in 1948 and introduced a spray gun for that process in the mid-1950’s. The electrostatic painting process and equipment became more widely used in the 1960’s.

Advancements, including applications outside of painting, continue today. Commercial and industrial businesses, and institutions like schools, hospitals and governments, can benefit from electrostatic painting technology and processes that have been refined for more than 80 years. At Alpine Painting and Restoration, we use this dependable process to make your projects the best they can be.

How Does Electrostatic Painting Work?

From the start to the end of the electrostatic painting process, the operator uses the specialized equipment to atomize the paint and control the connectivity and flow between it and a grounded target.

To receive a charge and be electrostatically attracted to its surface target, the conductivity and resistivity measures of paints used should be known. Electrical resistivity represents a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. Paint with a low resistivity readily allows the movement of an electric charge.

Conductivity represents the reciprocal quantity to resistivity and a measure of a material’s ability to conduct an electric current. For some projects, water-based paints may be too conductive and not used with electrostatic painting equipment.

In powder coatings, conductivity agents are not needed as much because the electrostatic paint gun nozzle atomizes the particles. Fewer conductivity agents contribute to a reduction or elimination of pollutants.

The Locker Target Example

As an example, let’s look at a project for which you would hire a painting contractor like us to complete — restoring lockers in a high school gymnasium locker room. We would refer to the lockers as the “target” on which the paint will be sprayed.

Before spraying, we will complete preparations typically done to surfaces that will be painted. For metal surfaces, this includes steps to remove dirt, contaminants, loose paint, rust, scratches or graffiti.

For every project, prep work also includes mixing the paint according to instructions provided by the electrostatic painting equipment manufacturer. Adherence ensures proper atomization, viscosity, conductivity levels, even application and safety.

When we start the painting process, we will use the paint gun equipment to charge the paint particles. Electrostatic painting equipment manufacturers refer to this as atomizing the paint. Scientists and engineers refer to the process as ionizing the paint particles.

The charged particles of the paint gun create an electrostatic field between the paint gun nozzle and the grounded target. Principles of electrostatics come into play. With the paint particles atomized, the grounded locker target pulls the oppositely charged particles to it. We use this attraction to guide the flow of the charged particles through the paint gun nozzle.

The paint particles land and bond only to the open surface area that’s grounded. As the particles coat the target, the charge dissipates and returns to the power supply through the ground, completing the electrical circuit. Because the charge of the target locker surface changes once the bond between the unlike charges occurs, the coated area stops pulling paint particles to it.

The electrostatic process is completed with an even, high-quality application of the coating. Most of the atomized particle spray from the paint gun lands on and bonds to the locker. Engineers call this “high transfer efficiency” and have measured this paint application efficiency rate at over 90 percent when optimized.

How Can an Electrostatic Painter Be That Accurate?

With the right tools, a commercial painter can use electrostatics to influence the path of the paint because the particles are small enough to be controlled by the charge from the paint gun. At indoor project sites, the painter has added influence to minimize air currents that might interfere with paint particle flow, and, therefore, has more control over how fast the particles move to the target. This gives the electrostatic paint gun operator the power to optimize paint and time use.

The painter’s selection of paint also contributes to the effectiveness of the electrostatic painting system equipment, as some particles accept an ionizing charge more readily than others. Equipment manufacturer engineers consider this when designing and producing the products, and they will recommend the products that meet the highest transfer efficiency standards while balancing finish quality standards.

What Is Wrap or Wraparound?

Electrostatically charged paint particles are so attracted to the grounded target that they tend to coat the side, edge, corner and backside surfaces that aren’t facing the atomizer. This tendency reduces touch-up and clean-up labor, and it increases the ratio of surface covered to paint volume.

What Equipment Does Electrostatic Painting Require?

Equipment required to paint items brought to an electrostatic painting facility differs from equipment required to go to a client’s location where on-site work will be completed and proper grounding safeguards applied.

Here we focus on equipment for commercial, industrial and institutional painting or restoration projects that must be completed at the location of the items to be painted. The electrostatic painting process equipment for this purpose must be a portable system that includes the following:

  • Paint gun with atomizer: The main piece of equipment for electrostatic application of paint. Over time, paint guns have become lighter in weight, optimizing their portability to work at client sites. Most important to the design of the gun are its ionizing apparatus and sprayer with a resistive, high-voltage circuit that builds in safety. These may be automatic or manual. This design works ergonomically to make finger control of the on/off switch and handling of the spray nozzle simple. Many paint gun designs integrate voltage control to allow the gun operator to easily adjust between a range of voltage levels.
  • Bell: At the end of the nozzle, the bell controls the delivery rate of the paint and the paint application rate. The bell can be switched out depending on the size and shape of the objects to be painted as well as other requirements of the specified project.
  • Tank: The tank holds the paint until it’s pushed up through the fluid hose to the paint gun. Tank sizes range in gallon capacity, allowing electrostatic paint system operators to choose a reservoir size that fits the project size, mobility needs and space limitations of the work site.
  • Compressor: This system component controls the mechanism that pushes the paint from the tank to the paint gun. Compressors include pollution control functions and safety features.
  • Power supply for the paint gun and compressor: This is basically a generator with a series of high and low voltage power settings for electrostatic paint applicators, adjustable to the operator’s use of a gun or industrial rotary atomizer. The power supply controls the transfer efficiency of the paint gun while maintaining safety. Display panels on the power supply unit allow the operator and worksite manager to easily monitor and adjust voltage or current. Safety features include displays that indicate cable faults or overloads, and a reset switch.
  • High voltage cable: As part of the electrostatic painting system, an integrated part to ensure safe operation.
  • Fluid hose: Connects the compressor to the paint gun, serving as the channel through which the paint particles travel before atomization.
  • Cart: Designed to organize the system components, the cart allows for easy portability of the equipment to and at the work site. Like other components, the design integrates system safety.
  • Accessories: These come in the form of finishing applicators that can be attached to the end of the paint gun nozzle. Painters will use these according to the project needs and worksite specifications.
  • Multi-valve assemblies: When needed, multiple valves make changing fluid supply easy for projects requiring multiple colors or application of various coatings.
  • Flow control systems with monitors: These allow operators to more efficiently control paint usage.

Manufacturers of electrostatic painting process equipment sell the components as integrated systems. This ensures reliable operation, quality finishes and safety. At Alpine Painting and Restoration, we use Ransburg equipment to ensure quality control and that your project comes out smoothly.

Top Five Benefits of Electrostatic Painting

The benefits of electrostatic painting come from the technology that leverages electrostatic principles. A combination of paint application equipment and paint formula technology has revolutionized our ability to restore commercial, industrial and institutional assets.

Because of innovations in technology over eight decades, you can realize the following benefits in choosing restoration over discarding or replacing valuable or expensive items:

1. Reduction in Wasted Paint

When you hear painting and restoration professionals talk about the electrostatic painting process, you’ll hear them often refer to the paint as “coating.” When you watch the electrostatic painting process, and how the paint particles wrap to the surface as the sprayer moves around the corners and curves, you’ll understand why.

It’s the wrapping quality the paint takes on that maximizes the amount of pigment that attaches then bonds to the surface and reduces the amount of paint that misses the target. The transfer efficiency, or percentage of the paint used without waste, is a high percentage of the amount loaded in the sprayer.

That waste reduction could translate to savings of anywhere between $25 and $75 per gallon of paint, depending on other high pressure or air assisted method the electrostatic coating process replaces.

2. A Smooth and Seamless Electrostatically Painted Surface That Looks New

The quality of finish achievable with electrostatic paint application can truly make a facility with some years behind it look new. 

3. Fast Painting and Dry Times Mean Shorter Down Time for Your Business

Similar to air spraying methods, the electrostatic process makes paint application fast. Electrostatically applied paint dries faster than wet spray methods and doesn’t require high-heat ovens. You no longer have to wait for weeks with rooms temporarily out of use or for fumes to dissipate. Normal business can resume within days.

4. A Durable Finish for Your High-traffic, Heavy-Duty Use

The bonding properties possible with the electrostatic process make for strong protection against corrosion, weather wear and heavy use. Durability can be especially valuable where your assets may be exposed to indoor or outdoor humidity and moisture.

5. Overall Savings in Money and Time

The next time you’re considering discarding items that are still functional but “look old,” consider having a contractor that specializes in electrostatic painting take a look. You may find that restoration is a viable option. The right coat of paint could extend your original investment and protect a still valuable item for years.

Trust Alpine Painting and Restoration for Your Facility Painting Needs

When choosing a painting and restoration contractor for your commercial and industrial needs, you’ll want one whose business longevity reflects the enduring trust of satisfied clients. You should also choose a contractor whose electrostatic painting equipment operators are knowledgeable in all aspects of the process, equipment and materials, and disciplined in their safety practices.

For restoration and painting, and especially budget-conscious, safety-imperative methods like electrostatic painting, the level of trust you’ll need is high. Alpine Painting and Restoration has been delivering safety at the worksite and high-quality final results to satisfied customers since 1990.

We’ve seen many technologies and methods come and go for almost three decades now. Today’s electrostatic painting, which has been around for the last decade, may improve or eventually be replaced by another technology or method — but our approach will always be to apply current methods and technologies for durability, longevity and budget. Our customers will always see that in the quality of service and safety we deliver on-site, including our safe use of equipment and grounding practices.

To learn more about commercial and industrial electrostatic painting for commercial and industrial assets such as building interiors, exteriors and equipment, contact us online or call us at 215-348-4410. We can show you samples of the quality surface protection, durability and aesthetic presentation electrostatic painting delivers for your most valued assets.

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