In Pursuit of Excellence

by | May 28, 2024 | Aluminium

By Angus Mackie – Qualicoat Chair

It is rare to find an industry where competitors work together to jointly research and raise the quality of their product or service, even rarer when it takes place on a global stage. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, the pursuit of excellence is ever ongoing, something the Qualicoat Membership has been working on for the last 38 years.

Angus Mackie

Architectural powder coating was once considered as just a form of ‘paint’ to coat aluminium profiles to cover up imperfections such as profile marks and oxidisation to offer a coloured appearance. Coatings at that time lasted a few years, longer if the coater prepared the profiles correctly. How this has changed to today. Architectural powder coatings used on many high rise buildings are expected to offer a lifetime of protection. Most of the work undertaken over the last few decades to achieve these high performance finishes, has been completed in working groups of licensed Qualicoat members who form the complete supply chain of powder manufacturers, pretreatment suppliers, applicators, equipment suppliers and test houses.

Today, all specifiers of architectural aluminium know the benefit of specifying the Qualicoat label and involving members at an early stage in any development to get the very best coating specification for a project in any location across the globe. Supporting the Association Specification, which is updated yearly and is freely available from the Association website, is third party accreditation. All licensed members are subject to independent, unannounced inspections by an independent accredited test house to ensure the complete membership are following the latest edition of the specification. Only when it can be demonstrated that a member is in compliance will they be offered a licence to use the Qualicoat label.

Members of Qualicoat UK & Ireland are inspected by the independent test house IFO which is located in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany. All Qualicoat licensed powder coaters across the UK & Ireland are inspected twice a year where a report and samples are taken. Reports are issued to the Association and licences can be revoked if procedures laid down in the latest specification are not being met.

Key to quality control is the licensed member’s Laboratory Technician who constantly monitors process parameters and the testing of product finishes during each working shift. Over the last few years the Association has made it mandatory that all Qualicoat licence holders own laboratory technicians attend a refresher training course at least once every two years. Run by IFO in the UK, this ensures that the latest developments in the Qualicoat specification for production monitoring and production testing is implemented and maintained. This, in turn, ensures compliance with the specification when unannounced applicator plant inspections are undertaken every six months. Passing these quality audits ensures that an applicator maintains their licence to offer the Qualicoat specification.
Members of the UK & Ireland Association meet four times a year to discuss the latest developments in the specification with the last meeting being held at IFO’s testing laboratory and offices in Germany. At the meeting members not present attended via weblink.

It was reported that a further six powder coat applicators in the UK & Ireland are being inspected this year and hoping to become licensed Qualicoat applicators. This will bring the number of licensed applicators in the region to over thirty.

Discussion on harmonising more closely with BS EN 12206 is something that is being worked on. Already the associations specification covers most [of] this national standard, but work is underway to try and fully encompass the standard in the associations Specification

Qualicoat 3.0 which aims to tighten the specification of aluminium extrusion, especially when recycled content is present, seems to be gathering pace. Currently specified on a per project basis, some extruders are now showing an interest in offering the alloy specification as a standard product. The tighter specification has proven that the tighter alloy specification offers an extended life expectancy for coatings.

Finally, it was discussed that a further optional label was to be added to a licensed member status. Currently members can apply for a ‘Seaside’ qualification, it is hoped that a further ‘Preox’ label will be added which will indicate that a Qualicoat member can also offer an anodisation pretreatment process alongside more traditional applied pretreatment systems.

Following the Members meeting, delegates were treated to a visit around the IFO testing facilities.

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