Is this a valid technique? (Color application to metal)

OK, so I got into a discussion about our robot with someone on my team. I was told that we may “ionize” the robot and put some color on it.
I said that ionizing it would put a charge to it and kill our electronics (maybe not to that extent but anywho…)

Here is the conversation and you tell me (if you know) who is right or wrong, or if we are both right.

Me: ionize the arm???
Them: not yet
Them: post WPI
**Me: dude… LMAO
**Them: the side panels will be shined like chrome by tomorrow
*Me: :-*
Me: ionize??? LMAO I hope not, or all our electronics will be fried. Maybe you mean powdercoat it?
Them: no, ionize
**Me: what the heck does that mean?? you’re going to make it have static shock and kill the electronics??
**Them: elgin youre blonde
Me: no i’m not… you are
Them: ionize is to put color into the metal, the arm is negatively charged and the color stuff is psoitively charged and it is attracted then the arm is returned to normal
**Me: OMG
Me: dude… it’s called powdercoating
**Them: no its not
**Me: yes it is
**Them: powdercoating is another substance
Them: ionizing leaves the metal smooth and the color is all the way through
**Me: WHAT?
**Them: powdercoating leaves a powdery feel and the color is surface
Me: so it soaks into the actual molecular structure of the metal?? no way!!
**Me: you’re going to turn our robot into a sponge
**Them: the metal keeps its integrity
Me: lol
Me: ok…

OK, so I’ve seen the powdercoating process on American Chopper, so I know what is involved with that.
My question is “Is ionizing a valid process to put color on metal in the way he descibed it?”

Sounds like neither of you know what your talking about (But Elign is more right, he’s not pretending as much!)

Elgin -

The word your teammates are looking for is “anodize,” which is a process by which color is bonded to metals. If you look at our robot from this year, the base is anodized blue.

Wow Dan, that technique totally slipped my mind. Maybe that’s what he meant.

but anodizing doesn’t go “all the way through”, it is just a surface covering, right?

My understanding is that it is not a covering at all. Strong chemicals alter the chemical properties of the metal changing its color for the first couple thousandths of an inch or so.

The anodized layer itself is not coloured–that is a dye added during the process (for example, Bosch structural extrusions are clear anodized 6063-T6 aluminum). It hardens the metal surface, but doesn’t penetrate very deeply into the substance. The colour is certainly not all the way through.

Maybe what they’re thinking of is a process like electrostatic paint application (similar in concept to powdercoating), where a conductive liquid paint with an electric charge is sprayed at a grounded object. The attraction increases the transfer efficiency of the coating, but doesn’t produce any unusual effects w/r/t the metal’s structure. Once again though, this doesn’t much fit what they’re describing.

Here is a pretty good explanation Apparently, anodizing electrochemically induces oxidation of aluminum. The porous aluminum oxide is then filled with dye.

There are all kind of techniques these days for getting color onto metal. It depends on what the metal is, what kind of color you want to lay down and how durable do you want it.
Anodizing is used for aluminum, it can be handled a variety of ways but generally uses electric current and a conductive bath to form an aluminum oxide layer on the surface of the metal. The layer is porous so adding a dye will color the layer but the surface is only as durable as the base material. (aluminum oxide is conductive by the way.)
“Ionized” coatings as I understand them set up an electrical potential difference between the part and the application tool or sprayer. The coating is then attracted by the part in the process and produces a better surface than just a sprayed paint alone.
Powdercoating uses a similar technique but the powder is then heated to a point where it melts into a consistent layer which has bonded to the base metal.

All of these techniques are used to overcome the difficulty in adding color to metals that do not take paint very well or on metals that require exotic or toxic primer coats for the color coat to stick.

In any case, the above coatings require some harsh environments for the processes and I would recommend that all electrical parts be removed from the robot before any work is begun.