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Taking into Account Environmental Conditions in Defining Coating Specifications

Updated on July 19, 2019
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Phillro Industries is a family business that has been established as a specialist supplier of high quality, reliable coating equipment.

Whenever we are about to embark on a project, any kind of project, it's always best to first clearly define the project's goals and to necessary conditions by which the project can be deemed a success. Sun Tzu, the Chinese general and philosopher behind the seminal The Art of War whose various texts has been repurposed far beyond the warfare wrote that "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win". In layman's terms, preparation is always important.

In construction projects, we all want buildings that are durable with a solid foundation that could last for years. Those are all very noble goals but also unhelpfully vague. Present those very same goals to construction companies and they would probably be left scratching their heads at the ambiguity of the goals. This is why cities and regional governments are specific when it comes to buildings' safety and regulations and the same approach should also be used when drawing up a coating's specification.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Thanks to Japan's very unique location, situated right at a crossroad where several continental and oceanic plates meet, the small island nation is volcanically active and has to withstand frequent earthquakes and sometimes, resulting tsunamis. This isn't all bad however as Japan's unique location is also the reason behind Japan's signature onsen (hot springs) culture. Despite these frequent earthquakes however, the impact on Japan's population has been somewhat muted, especially in contemporary times, with only the 1995 and 2011 being notable enough to garner notable mentions in the headlines.

One of the reasons for this is that Japan as a nation has been properly equipped to handle these earthquakes, quite possibly more than any other nation in the world. Tens of thousands of buildings in Japan are fitted with shock-absorbing devices that would reduce damage and prevent collapse in the event of a major earthquake. This is just one example of how environmental conditions can affect a construction specification. In other places where earthquakes aren't common, those devices might seem like a bit of a luxury but in Japan, they're a necessity.

To a lesser degree, the same thing also applies to coating. Certain coatings might have to withstand extreme working temperature that is not typically seen in other types of coating while others might have to last far longer than the usual because of the impracticality of maintenance. The difference in safety regulations in countries where the coating is supposed to operate also adds other restrictions on the type of coating available to you and all of these factors should always be taken into account when drawing up coating specifications.

How a coating durability is defined

How long is too long when it comes to the durability of the coating? Everyone has different standards when it comes to the word 'durable' and as a good starting point; it would be a good idea to define this durability in terms of specific years. The parameter for durability in a car coating would be vastly different with a coating used for offshore platforms where maintenance can be very impractical and expensive to perform. Even though it's very unlikely to define with certainty just how many years a coating is supposed to last, try to narrow down the range of years as much as possible.

With certain types of coating, their service life is affected by the thickness level at which they're applied. However, additional thickness means additional weight and in applications where lightness is a necessity, it's important to keep this thickness level from going overboard, requiring the use of gauges such as Elcometer 510 to ensure you're staying in the recommended range. This additional weight could also prove to be overwhelming to the bond between the substrate and the coating, which could potentially lead to delamination and premature failure of the coating.

In certain environments, a coating's durability might be referring to something else other than time. I've mentioned before about how certain applications might require the capability to withstand extreme working temperature. In applications relating to chemicals, a degree of chemical resistance would also be required to prevent premature failure. Other definitions of durability include impact resistance, which is a factor on coatings that are applied to certain tools and machineries. The word durability can be malleable and it's important to know beforehand just what kind of condition the coating is about to be placed in beforehand.

Taking safety into account

Coatings are often made up of chemicals and just like any other chemicals; some of them can be toxic, both to the environment and the population. Typically, coatings are at their most toxic during application and the curing process as that's the time when a large number of VOCs are emitted into the air. If the coating is applied at a controlled environment, it might be possible to take the necessary steps to limit exposure to these harmful VOCs but if the coating is applied directly on site, the type of coating you could use might be somewhat more limited.

Environmental safety is even more important when the coating is applied at structures that comes into repeated contact with a large body of water, such as when dealing with marine vessels and coastal & offshore platforms. It's important to ensure that the coating used in these applications won't cause any damage on the ecosystem. Water pollution can have several disastrous ramifications down the road and they're always heavily regulated by the government so always pay attention to the coating you're using if any of the above situations apply to you.

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