Beware of start-up companies building powder coat ovens, booths and guns!
There are many new companies advertising online that sell low-cost alternatives to brand name products. These companies often don't have the experience, financial resources or technical expertise to offer equipment that will be a sound investment for your shop.
Established manufacturers have invested thousands of dollars in design, engineering, and product support. This investment helps assure that their products are safe, work properly, and will be supported for years after the sale. By taking short-cuts around these critical steps, which are both expensive and time consuming, several small start-up companies have introduced new products to the marketplace. They offer very low prices, but the equipment represents a poor value overall. The ten major concerns listed below should be considered before you purchase coating equipment from any company:
1. Make sure the company is licensed properly and has insurance on their business. How long have they been in business? Are they members of organizations such as the BBB, their local Chamber of Commerce, or trade organizations such as the Powder Coating Institute? Do they strictly build coating equipment, or is it a "side business" to help bring in additional money? All of the major brands are built by companies that focus solely on manufacturing and supporting coating equipment. When checking out vendors, you will typically find that most have pricing and lead times that are fairly similar. Most manufacturers of large coating systems have leads times of 2-14 weeks. Smaller systems may take up to 6 weeks to deliver. Lead times that seem unreasonably long, or sound too good to be true, should be suspect.
2. Confirm that the major components of the equipment being provided are intended for industrial use in coating equipment. The burners, motors, electric elements, cascades, controls, etc. should be listed by UL or ETL laboratories for use in ovens or booths. These listings help assure that the components will operate safely and effectively. All reputable companies in the equipment industry offer only products that use listed components. If the supplier cannot immediately provide the listing numbers so you can reference them online, BEWARE!
3. Make sure that the manufacturer has product liability insurance for the products they are manufacturing (Very Important). If they don't, any damage that is caused by their equipment in your place of business will probably not be covered by your insurance company.
4. Do they have a qualified person that will travel to your place of business for warranty or customer service issues? Do they have service and support people that are experienced with the coating industry? Are they financially able to support the product they are selling you long-term? If not, they may go out of business and leave you without any options for repair to your equipment. Equipment down-time and poor support after the sale can ruin a thriving coating operation.
5. Powder booths have to be built to a specified formula to ensure the proper air change ratio or you could
possibly have an explosion. It is not as simple as putting a fan package on a box with filters. There have been environmental rooms in industrial settings that burned down because the booth inside the room was not built properly. Although less of a safety issue, improper air volume or air speed can damage the filters in the booth. This can cause powder to blow all over your shop or cause the booth to work improperly and waste your time and money.
6. If your oven is not built properly you will have a problem with "hot and cold spots." This can leave your part with an uneven cure. It also causes your fuel costs to go up, since you have to get the coolest area of the part up to the proper curing temperature. Uniform heating is critical to fuel efficiency. All established brands of gas fueled ovens use either overhead or side-mounted duct to introduce hot air into the oven. Beware of any design where hot air blasts directly into the oven through the rear wall or only one side wall. Also pay attention to the exhaust system that is used. Gas ovens must have a powered exhaust of an appropriate size. Too small of an exhaust is dangerous and won't meet code. Too large of an exhaust wastes money by drawing too much hot air out of the oven.
7. More important than fuel efficiency is safety. The codes that govern the manufacture, installation and operation of curing ovens are quite strict. An improperly built oven can cause property damage, injury, or death. If you are in an area where you are dealing with code inspectors, it is very possible that you will have your equipment "red tagged" and will not be allowed to use it if it does not meet code. There are countless cases where shop owners have either had to perform expensive modifications on-site or remove no-name equipment and replace it with new equipment from an established manufacturer before being able to operate their coating system.
8. Today you can build your own oven and booth in kit form. All of the components are off the shelf items when you buy from an established, reputable company. The walls can be ordered to size and arrive ready to be fastened together at your shop. The electrical controls come pre-wired and are ready to be mounted. Assembly directions are there for you or your contractor. Diagrams will show your electrician exactly how to run the electrical wire. Your powder booth and oven will be fully supported by a qualified manufacturer or sales company. We will soon post a list of these qualified companies that you can contact and have them send you a quote.
9. Ask every vendor you are considering for at least five (5) references who have purchased a booth or oven from them and have been using the system for at least two years. When you call the references, ask in detail about equipment down time, maintenance and repair costs, and support after the sale. Typically a shop owner or coating technician will be much more open and honest about how the equipment operates than the price they paid for it.
10. If practical, visit the manufacturer or sales company you intend to buy from. Check out their facility, even if just to visit a sales office. Ask to see a demonstration of the equipment that you want to buy. If they cannot demonstrate products at their facility or at a customer's shop, I would not order from them. Also, clarify the exact origin of the equipment. If you think you are buying from a manufacturer, make sure they actually build the equipment themselves and don't just put their label on equipment built at another factory. Most manufacturers use either regional distributors or online distribution companies to sell their products. This assures that their end-customers get the best level of support. When you buy equipment from a distributor, your support comes from him, so make sure you are comfortable with the relationship.