Powder Coated Wood in Healthcare

Featured in Surface & Panel, Written by: Clint Ellenberg, Business Development, BTD Wood Powder Coating

In recent years, major advancements in techniques, powder, and substrates have resulted in powder coated wood finishes that can be found in an ever-increasing number of markets. One such market is healthcare, and there are numerous market-specific needs that make powder coated wood attractive for healthcare applications. Of course, this market has its own challenges—both the benefits and challenges will be discussed through the course of this article. Briefly, wood powder coating is a method of wood finishing that uses electrostatic energy to create adhesion between a special powder and a medium density fiberboard (MDF) substrate. Although there are a variety of approaches to powder coating MDF, the end result is a crosslinked finish that is attractive, durable, and that seamlessly encapsulates the part.

Design and Durability

Integrated pulls are a design that continues to increase in popularity. “Many of our hospital and nursing home customers love being able to design integrated pulls into their door and drawer fronts,” said Heidi Hansen of BTD Wood Powder Coating. “First of all, integrated pulls are safer for patients, as they are one less obstacle to bump into in an exam room or bedroom. Secondly, there is less risk of damage to the door or equipment when moving equipment or cleaning the room. Finally, integrated pulls remove the risk of wires or cables snagging on a protruding handle.” Integrated pulls are made possible by powder coated MDF because the powder fully covers the part, regardless of machining or part details. The powder can adhere in tighter spots and intricate shapes where laminates simply will not work.
One requirement in healthcare that is constant with almost any customer is the need for durability. Powder coated wood fits the bill nicely, as it is durable across a variety of dimensions. First of all, the part is coated in 5-7 mils of fully bonded coverage. Although liquid paint is compatible with the aforementioned edge profiles and integrated pulls, it is prone to chipping and cannot match the abrasion resistance of powder coating. Additionally, powder coated parts have no edge banding to peel and cannot delaminate, a common problem with laminate components.
Of course, durability has different meanings to different customers, and it is important to clarify the application prior to producing a part or product. For example, many buyers of powder coated wood for healthcare have specific demands for resistance to cleaning agents, such as a 10% bleach mixture. According to Craig Fast, VP of Operations for BTD Wood Powder Coating, “We conduct standard stain and chemical resistance testing as part of routine production. However, we often receive specific requests that are outside of the norm; we are happy to test ourselves and always recommend that our customers also test samples we provide. Because powder formulations are customizable, it is often possible to create a formulation that is especially stain resistant, for instance.”

“Many of our customers have rigorous performance standards. Fortunately, we have been able to meet these requirements through research and development,” said Heidi Hansen. “Impact and abrasion resistance are frequent requests, and our powder coated wood is up to the challenge.”

Custom, Seamless, Cleanable Surfaces

A standard goal for healthcare providers is keeping patients safe and healthy while in the facility. Custom edge profiles are a frequent request in the interest of safety, much like integrated door pulls. Powder coated wood offers the ability to incorporate virtually any custom edge profile; customers have seized the opportunity to create soft, rounded corners on occasional tables, and gently radiused edges on millwork or countertops.
Alternately, many healthcare designs are incorporating knife edges into the edge profiles of horizontal surfaces. These knife edges provide a softer approach to the surface and are gentler on elbows. Regardless of the edge profile, powder coated wood is perfectly suited because there is no need for edge banding or seams on any side. Furthermore, ease of cleaning is a necessity in healthcare applications. This is one of several reasons why the seamless nature of powder coated wood parts is very popular; when wiping down a powder coated wood overbed tray or cabinet door, there is no seam for germs or dirt to accumulate. An added benefit is that the level of smoothness attainable by some wood powder coaters makes products even easier to clean.
Antimicrobial surfaces are becoming commonplace in many parts of the healthcare environment. From soap dispensers to toilet flush handles, antimicrobial construction is the norm. This expectation is flowing over to furniture and casework, as antimicrobial furnishings represent another way to keep patients healthy. Powder coated wood finishes are available with an antimicrobial treatment in virtually any custom color or style, and can be applied to any design.
Finally, powder coated wood is popular in healthcare because customers want custom colors for their interiors. Many treatment centers look for neutral, soothing colors for a calming effect; children’s hospitals, on the other hand, often look for bright colors to stimulate the senses or engage visitors. Still other facilities want specific colors to match corporate branding. Regardless of the need, powder coated MDF can be formulated to match any color, whether smooth or textured. This match can be done using a swatch, RAL or Pantone number and is still cost effective in smaller quantities.

Healthcare and Powder Coated Wood: A Perfect Match

Flexible designs incorporating integrated pulls or soft edges, seamless finishes, and custom colors all make for a product that is highly sought after in healthcare applications. Furthermore, powder coated wood is very durable and can meet a wide variety of demanding needs. From door fronts and wall panels to overbed and occasional tables, powder coated MDF is certainly worth serious consideration for healthcare finishes.