Alternatives to powder coating?

Next year our team would like to make a prettier looking robot and utilize some other colors (mainly red and black) and normally what people do is powder coat pieces, however, the way we operate is progressively making prototypes and we don’t normally have time or money to machine a new product than take it to powder coat. What I’d like to know is what other ways you guys paint your robot. The solution that would be best for us is something you can do at home / at our makerspace that won’t take too long (a day max maybe).


Spray paint, you can also get spray paint that is color matched to a particular powder coat color. Powder coat what you can then spray paint the quick and dirty parts.

ie. Prismatic Powders Paint Color Matches Precisely Matched For Spray Paint and Touch Up Paint


See this awesome post from 95 about how they spray paint their parts (and make a gorgeous looking robot as a result).


My experience with spray paint is that it scratches very easily, at least on aluminum tubing and brackets. You might fare a bit better on PC, but I don’t know. For parts of the frame that don’t see much contact (eg an elevator), you might be fine, but any paint on the manip and around the bumpers is not likely to last long.

Many teams anodize their aluminum (usually with the help of sponsors). Depending on how good you are at planning, you can color some raw stock, use that to build and then touch up the cut ends with the right color sharpie.


Doesn’t spray paint chip quite a lot though? I worry that halfway through the season everything gonna starting chipping off

Build using pre-anodized raw stock, e.g., Home - Mechanical - Building Materials - Extrusion - AndyMark, Inc

Yes it chips, but not so much that its a problem IMO. If you have the time and really want the spray paint to stick you can use an aluminum specific primer.


A well-designed robot does not need paint to look good. Trust me on that. If you have a 3d printer I’d suggest printing exclusively in red so you will still have that color throughout the bot without having to deal with spray paint. You’d be surprised how much of your bot can be plastic :sweat_smile:


Anything in FRC that will scratch/chip spray paint will also damage powdercoat. The robot only needs to look good from 10’ away, usually 30’.
Unless you are doing PC in house and overnight, it’s not worth the time add over spray paint.


Before we drive it for two minutes


In any case of use paint, spray paint or powder coating. The quality of the result is very dependent on the prep done to the parts. So making sure that the parts have consistent and clean surfaces before painting. Any paint solution for making colored parts will chip. And that is due to how aluminum always will have an oxidized surface unless the oxygen is removed when painting (which is not very practical). So any harsh contact with the surface will easily go through the oxidized layer and therefore chip the paint. The only way to get around this is through anodizing the parts, which takes some testing before being able to make an efficient and consistent process for the team. This is because anodizing parts infuses the dye into the surface layers of the aluminum. Spray paint is definitely faster than powder coating or anodizing, but with any choice take note that there is often a change in dimensions, so be careful to tape off any important holes such as bearing holes or pockets.

Spray painting is a great alternative to powder coating if done right. We anodize some of our robot parts and it works relatively well as our school’s AP chemistry teacher does it for us. Some of the downsides to anodizing when compared to spray painting is that it’s more difficult and there’s not as many color options.

Here’s a photo of our robot this year for reference, the hooks on the climber were some of our anodized parts


How about decals? 1293 uses the heck out of big 12” square ones, and we can do it without disassembling stuff.

(I didn’t have a good photo of the robot or pit cart on my phone, but you can buy a vowel.)


Try wrapping:

Our sheetmetal sponsor powder coats for us, but sometimes we have a late addition that doesn’t get powdercoated. This year we used the wrap for those pieces.

Yellow circles show wrapped pieces.


I wish we could anodize.
Impossible in Hawaii. :frowning:


We used spray paint this year and it ended up looking pretty good. The parts that got primer on them before the spray paint held up way better against scratching and we put a clear coat over all of the parts to reduce chipping even more.

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Why? Environmental regulation?

We have been using Automotive Vinyl wrap for years. The only place we’ve seen issues is on elevators where the bearings rub against the vinyl.

Here is an image of this year’s robot: with black and green vinyl, but it is available in many colors.