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Industrial Gas Catalytic Infrared Systems

MDF Powder Coating

The Industry Leader In MDF Powder Coating Systems

Heraeus Vulcan bring MDF powder coating benefits within reach of all manufacturers. We have been at the forefront in developing the technology which enables MDF to be powder coated. Over the last 10 years we have designed and built some of the largest MDF powder coating cure ovens in the world. We have also had significant involvement in the development of a single coat oven cure system, along with the industry leaders.

Why Powder Coat MDF?

The short answer is:

  • It provides a tougher finish
  • Less expensive to apply than liquid
  • New single coat systems are available which allows powder coated MDF to be used in high humidity atmospheres
  • The market always demands improved functionality for less cost

Here's a more detailed explanation:

MDF has proven itself as a worthy replacement to plywood or chipboard. It is dense, flat, stiff and easy to machine and can be finished in a number of different ways such as paint, varnish, veneer and laminates. This has resulted in MDF being adopted by many flat pack furniture manufacturers and retailers, including the largest in the world, Ikea.

Ikea's suppliers have extensively adopted wet paint systems, which has been the obvious way to go. But there are inherent disadvantages to liquid finishes:

  • Over spray losses for liquid finishes can be as much as 75%.
  • Around 80% of liquid finishes used in the USA are solvent based and present environmental issues.
  • Even aqueous based finishes still contain some solvents contained within the resin structure
  • The storage and transportation of liquid finishes requires the use of IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers). These require special handling and storage techniques.
  • In order to create a smooth finish, cut edges require one or two primer coats, smooth surfaces require at least one primer coat, before the final top coat is applied.
  • The extra part handling operations that are involved during the finishing process simply add cost to the finished part.
  • Liquid finishes still suffer from the problem of edge cracking in a high humidity atmosphere which makes them unsuitable for bathroom furniture.

The good news is that technology has moved on, and Heraeus Vulcan have been developing MDF powder coating oven systems which overcome the inherent problems of MDF:

  • MDF is heat sensitive, and scorches easily
  • MDF is not naturally conductive, so getting powder to stick to MDF prior to curing is a challenge
  • When heated, MDF "out gasses" through the cut edges. This causes pinholing in the final finish, as the powder cures

Heraeus - Vulcan's MDF powder coat ovens have been so successful they are now used by Ekoltech, a major supplier of flat pack furniture to Ikea.

MDF Powder Coating – The Technical Challenges

In order to become the world leader in this technology we have had to identify and overcome a number of technology challenges. The issues that surround MDF powder coating can be summarized as follows:

  • Being a wood based substrate, MDF is not naturally conductive
  • MDF quality varies between suppliers and grades
  • How to improve powder adhesion during application
  • When heated, MDF “out gasses” from cut edges. This causes pin holes to appear in the powder coating as it gels and cures
  • If the MDF gets too hot during curing, it will burn or scorch
  • Moisture content varies between grades, manufacturers and storage conditions
  • Higher moisture content can make the substrate more conductive, allowing better powder adhesion, but the downside is that it also causes edge splitting and cracking

MDF Powder Coating – The Solutions

The technical problems surrounding MDF can be mitigated by:

  • Careful selection of MDF
  • Maintaining stable storage conditions for the MDF
  • Using a two coat system of primer (to seal the edges) and top coat
  • Using a low bake powder system

In order overcome the inherent limitations of curing powder on MDF, Heraeus Vulcan has achieved the following:

  • Development of a two oven system for pre heat of the MDF before powder application and a final cure oven
  • By understanding the required time v. temperature profile, PLC control systems have been developed
  • Careful design of the oven and catalytic heater positioning ensures even heating of edges and surfaces

The result of this development means that two coat MDF powder coating systems are capable of producing a very good quality finish suitable for kitchens where a tough and attractive finish is required. The only potential drawback has been the performance of these finishes in a high humidity atmosphere such as a bathroom.

MDF Powder Coating – The Future

Heraeus Vulcan has been addressing this last issue of high humidity applications. Over the last three years we have been working with our partners to develop a single coat oven cure system which meets the requirements for high humidity applications. This corner of the market has been dominated by liquid finishes which do not have the inherent toughness of powder coated surfaces. Please read our Latest News for further details of our progress.


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