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How to Spec Your Tubular Steel Products for Durability

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Tubular steel products can be protected in two ways: choosing a strong, durable material from the get-go (such as 300- and 400-series stainless steels) or covering the steel with a protective coating. Sometimes, if your application is extremely corrosive, steel tube manufacturers will recommend both.

To properly protect your tubular steel products, steel tube manufacturers need to know how your tubing will be used. Different environments, stresses, and contact materials must be taken into consideration when choosing the best protective process.

Tubular Steel Products End Usage

Application - What will the steel tubing be used for? Building, infrastructure, consumer goods, machinery, components? This will tell your manufacturer whether your products will be used for industry, commercial use, or daily life. Some coatings are better for consumers, while others are more economical for industrial applications.

Environment - Will your tubular steel products be used indoors or outdoors? Is there plenty of harsh weather (snow, salt water, running water), or will it be used in a calmer indoor environment? How strong does the coating need to be to stand up to the elements? Thicker, more durable coatings can cost more in the short-term, but are a better long-term investment for corrosive environments.

Material - Different steel alloys can require different types of coatings. More durable stainless steels are more expensive to start, but require less protective coating. Carbon and mild steels are relatively cheap, but require thicker and more durable coatings due to low corrosion tolerance.

Preparation - Will your product need to be prepared for coating? Does the surface need to be smoothed or roughened, or do they need to remove dirt, grime, or a previous coating? Surface prep will take longer and cost a little more, but will allow your protective coating to adhere to the material and prevent cracks or weak spots.

Life Cycle Costs - Different coatings spread their costs out differently over their lifetime. For example, liquid paints may require more touch-ups and disposal costs, they can cost more over their lifetime. Powder coatings cost more up front, but require little to no touch-ups and are recyclable.

Ways to Protect Tubular Steel Products

Hot-Dip Galvanization - Galvanization is the process of applying a melted zinc coating to the steel surface. The coating bonds with the metal, creating a highly durable layer that allows for preferential corrosion. Galvanization is mostly used on mild, carbon, and other raw steels.

Galvanization is relatively inexpensive, can cover almost any shape or size product, has low maintenance requirements, and lasts a very long time. Speak to your manufacturer to find out if galvanization would work for your product and application.

Powder Coating - When steel is powder coated, the powder is sprayed onto the products. It initially adheres through a static charge, and is then baked onto the product to cure the coating.

Powder coatings are smooth, consistent, durable, and come in many different colors and textures. Although the powder has a higher initial cost than paint coatings, it lasts much longer and won't crack, drip, or chip. Powder coating is great for any number of industrial or commercial applications.

Painting - Generally, painting is the least durable coating available. Paint is relatively cheap due to its time on the market and popularity, but it doesn't hold up well under high stress, high traffic, or rough weather. However, if your application is mostly aesthetic, low wear-and-tear, or in an indoor environment, paint may be the most cost-effective option.

Paint requires frequent touch-ups and maintenance, but it's easy to find paint coating vendors. Liquid paints are available in every color of the rainbow and more.

Want to protect your tubular steel products?

Steel tube manufacturers are very familiar with the need for a protected, durable product. If you want to give your product a longer life and lower maintenance requirements, talk to your manufacturer about protective coatings and more durable materials.

If they can't provide the protective coating services that you need, they can certainly refer you to a great vendor.

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