Monday, June 3, 2013

Ceramic coatings, a few thoughts...

I've been spraying a lot more ceramic due to my desire to push the finish in our industry as I feel it answers many of the negative characteristics found in liquid paint and powder.  It is very thin, scratch resistant, light weight, and bonds to the substrate at the molecular level.

Due to this, I've fielded a number of inquiries from other builders, so I thought that I'd share a few thoughts from a post on VS about prepping a frame for ceramic.

As with any finish, the most important item you need to focus on is the aesthetic you desire of the final product. The required elements to achieve that can be sorted from there.

If you are sending out your frame, communication with the finisher is key. Insure that your vision of the final product is clearly understood by the contracted finisher, that both you and he are confident it can be achieved, and then request his pre-requisites for the frame preparation before shipping as each individual's abilities and equipment vary.

With ceramic, the fabricator needs to understand that it builds and covers less than any other applied finish, around .001". This means that any imperfection in the frame will be visible in the final finish. There is no hiding stray file marks, irregular tig beads, or that tiny run of silver that you thought you filed smooth. I would suggest carefully inspecting your frame, if questionable areas are found, spray a little krylon grey primer over the area and allow it to flash dry. This will magnify any imperfections so you may take corrective action while being easily removed. Once satisfied, we can move on to the next step.

Go ahead and ream/face/tap/final prep all your critical areas. The ceramic builds so thin that these potential finish marring actions can be completed beforehand allowing you to move to assembly upon receiving your product back. After completion, wipe up all remaining tapping/cutting fluid, rinse well with a quick evaporating solvent (acetone or ISO alcohol), and then blow out the entire frame with compressed, filtered air.

Your applicator will media blast the frame, place it in a solvent bath, fume off the frame in an oven or bake box, then apply your ceramic finish.

While not difficult to apply, the range of variables in carrier/suspension/hardener can result in vastly different visual finishes, making this a truly fun product to work with. This also makes it extremely fussy dependent on the experience of the applicator, insure that he is comfortable with the medium, specifically with thin walled bicycle tubing which can and will create nuances in bake time.

I've spoken here and in other media about additional factors, such as positive and negative masking, cure times when working with multiple colors, etc, so we are getting a pretty good resource compiled.

Here are some pics of the latest ceramic finish, an aluminum fat bike frame I did for a friend that owns a local shop who is thinking about contracting his own line of bikes.  This finish incorporates multiple colors, masking with bare AL, and custom graphics... check it out!



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