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The Evolution of Protective Coatings and Applicators


By Kevin Coleman

With three decades of experience in the protective coatings and equipment industry, I can attest to the fact that coatings have evolved quite significantly in recent years. The makeup of today’s protective coatings involves complex chemistry, particularly with respect to the advent of nanocoating technologies and the ability to manipulate coatings for specific purposes.

The environment and EPA requirements have played a role in the evolution, and coatings manufacturers have responded by compensating with solids, chemistry and technology. In addition to your classic three-coat protective coating system typically used for applications like tank exteriors and bridges (i.e. zinc, epoxy and polyurethane), we are seeing many specialized formulations for specific applications today–and they are becoming much more sophisticated.

Bridge steel
© / arsenisspyros

Protective coatings have progressed beyond the classic three-coat system typically used for applications like tank exteriors and bridges.

In the area of fire protection, we now have cellulosic fire protection coatings for office spaces with cellulosic flammable materials. To protect against fires in petrochemical refineries and mass storage facilities, there are hydrocarbon fire protection coatings.

Ship hull
© / Tverdokhlibov

Anti-fouling coatings keep aquatic life off ship hulls and allow them to glide more easily through the water with less friction, enabling better fuel efficiency.

For the maritime industry, anti-fouling coatings keep aquatic life off ship hulls and allow them to glide more easily through the water with less friction, enabling better fuel efficiency. Protective coatings for steel have also evolved, with DTM (direct to metal) coatings serving as both a primer and topcoat for metal applications.

At the same time coatings have advanced, the equipment to apply them has evolved as well. These advanced coatings require sprayers that will apply materials at higher pressures, as well as accurate heat control and ratio accuracy.

Titan Helix sprayer

At the same time coatings have advanced, the equipment to apply them has evolved as well.

Ways in which coating developments have changed application include:

  • Less harmful solvents and more solids in the composition of the coatings, making them thicker–requiring more pressure to atomize them. Case in point: Ten years ago, 7,200 PSI pumps weren’t even needed, but higher pressures are required to apply many of today’s advanced coatings.
  • Many materials require heat when being applied, so it has become essential for spray equipment to provide consistent, accurate temperature control.
  • Many complex coatings are plural-component and chemical and coating manufacturers know at what mix ratios their chemicals and coatings will perform best. Ratio accuracy is imperative, and equipment outfitted with electronically integrated proportioning becomes critical to ensure proper chemical cross-linking and cure.

In years to come, coatings will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the protective coatings industry. Likewise, the equipment we use to proportion and apply those coatings will evolve as well. I look forward to being part of the progression as manufacturers of both coatings and equipment expand solutions to meet the changing needs of their end-user customers.


Kevin Coleman

Kevin Coleman is the market manager for High Performance Protective Coatings (HPPC) at Titan. With more than 30 years of experience in the coatings and equipment industry, Kevin’s role includes managing and assisting with the design, manufacture and distribution of coatings application equipment.



Tagged categories: Coating Application; Paint application; Air spray; Airless spray; Coating chemistry

Comment from Bob Wolf, (2/10/2017, 9:26 AM)

I agree with Kevin. I believe the equipment industry has done a good job in keeping up the changes in the coating industry.

Comment from Billenda Nabors, (2/16/2017, 4:43 PM)

Great article!

Comment from Bob Dahlstrom, (2/21/2017, 6:59 AM)

Keven, you are correct that "Ratio accuracy is imperative, and equipment outfitted with electronically integrated proportioning becomes critical..." I believe that equipment used to apply coatings will continue to evolve and develop as we "replace human judgement with science" and as computing, robotic and other technology continues to develop.Who knows, maybe soon we will hav flying robots capable of spray coating applications.

Comment from bart de cremer , (2/23/2017, 2:22 AM)

Easy to read and corrrect article

Comment from moukey lin, (5/29/2017, 5:13 AM)


Comment from Erik Andreassen, (10/3/2017, 9:49 PM)

Great article Kevin, the equipment development is vital to our industry. What we also must take into account is the training of the personnel that will use this state of the art equipment. That's why I am continually involved in the training of applicators and their use of such equipment.

Comment from Andres Sanchez, (10/16/2017, 6:33 PM)

Great article Kevin.

Comment from Andres Sanchez, (8/3/2018, 5:31 AM)

Thanks Kevin Great’s articles ever

Comment from philip davis, (11/3/2018, 1:58 PM)

Great article, for those of us who have been at this for quite awhile will smile as we walk down memory lane but it's imperative that we take heed fo what Erik said and train the applicators for at the end of the day the buck will stop there.

Comment from Fábio Kränkel, (11/3/2018, 8:20 PM)

I have seen a lot of good solutions on both sides, coatings, and equipments. However, the questions to be answered, is really, how much is important to protect his asset (or from the end-user customer)? How much are you disposal to pay for that? Whether it is really important, much investments in train all the employees, people, painters, and assistant ought to done.

Comment from mike studley, (12/17/2018, 3:25 PM)

With these higher solid paints will you want more than a 45-1 kingpump, shouldn't have any problems if you have the paint temperature

Comment from Dalton J, (1/19/2020, 11:03 AM)

I concur with Kevin on this. Being in the field of epoxy coatings has surely enabled to have different perspectives on coatings.

Comment from Tony Bochniak, (9/18/2020, 10:45 AM)

Kevin, application equipment has come a long way to keep up with the evolving coating materials. Precise, accurate, consistent applicator techniques continue to be a challenge. See this new robotic application equipment at for the newest technology.

Comment from Renny Mchull, (12/15/2021, 4:55 PM)

Looks like coating have been developed and improved over the last several years.

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