High-performance coatings for logistics

FreiLacke supplies almost all of the coating materials for Still forklift trucks

The silver and orange Still forklifts are used all over the world in plants, warehouses, forwarding companies and on construction sites – in some cases around the clock. In their day-to-day work, the versatile working machines lift heavy and often abrasive loads. “Because the room to manoeuvre is limited in many places, the vehicle coating must be extremely tough and impact-resistant to sustainably protect surfaces from damage. That is the reason why nearly all the parts are powder coated,” explained Gerd Fleischer, who works in the quality department at Still in Hamburg. One exception is the bright, orange-coloured counterweight, which due to its solid design is coated with a structural wet coating (RAL 2000) from FreiLacke.

With the aim of introducing a new coating system and as a result of the positive experience with the counterweight coating, Fleischer’s coating team turned to the family-run company based in the Black Forest to produce a new powder coating solution. “We had to act fast so that the production flow remained uninterrupted,” said Matthias Adelsberger of the FreiLacke sales department. “As some of the parts have particularly thick walls, Still opted to use a low-temperature powder coating and bake it at relatively high temperatures of up to 230 °C. Our developers also had to take into account the up to 60-minute baking times.”

Technological standard powder coatings

FreiLacke soon presented a silver-metallic solution that almost immediately ticked all the boxes in terms of results. “Adhesion around the welded seams was an initial problem,” declared Adelsberger, “so we had to work on the metering a bit until we got the perfect result.”

A year later, the Hamburg logistics specialists once again turned to FreiLacke. The issue was to upgrade the anthracite coating (RAL 7021) for the front parts, such as the lifting mast, to the same technological standard as the silver powder coating. “We wanted both powder coatings to have uniform characteristics,” explained Fleischer. “As the surfaces frequently come into contact with diesel fuel and other liquids, in addition to a high impact resistance level and excellent corrosion protection, good chemical resistance was also an important factor.”

Gloss level challenge

At 30 GU measured at a 60-degree angle, the gloss level requirements that had to be met for the anthracite material were almost double those of the silver coating. For this very reason, Bernhard Baumann’s R&D department developed a completely new powder system. After roughly a year in development, it was this system that was used to coat the front parts of the forklift. “PT5102D has very good mechanical, light and weather resistance levels as well as excellent surface hardness“, confirmed the developer, Baumann. “The material usage is approximately 0.12 kg/m² at a coat thickness of 80 µm, with corona spray guns used for application. In terms of the coating’s resistance, the corrosion creep in both condensed water and salt spray testing was less than 1 mm after 240 hours.” The matt coating is now available in all the standard colours.

Material almost entirely from a single source

Conversion to the new material was fairly straightforward, affirmed Gerd Fleischer, with no change at all necessary in terms of application technology. “We use the same technique as previously, even the baking time at 230 °C remains the same.” The finished surfaces are extremely impact- resistant and the gloss level is also spot on. On top of all that, the in-house paint shop team are thrilled with the high quality of the coating. Matthias Adelsberger summed it all up, “The successful introduction of no less than three FreiLacke products means that around 80% of the electric and diesel forklifts are now coated with products that stem from the Black Forest”. In the meantime, PT5102D has gained yet another user.