Some people say modern architecture has transformed the face of the world. Cities of steel and glass rise to the sky creating magnificent skylines. The iconic structures that cities are known for are often as cold and hard as Chicago winters. Centuries ago we used to build large structures out of wood. Those days may be gone forever, but the warm, soft feel of wood does not have to be.
Today, architects are using a process called Dye-sublimation on powder coating to provide long-lasting steel and aluminum structures and highlights that appear to be made from mahogany, walnut, teak and other natural wood grains. I-beams in pine and storefronts in maple are replacing the dry, cold look of painted iron and anodized aluminum.
Most architects are familiar with powder coating. It is the sustainable, non-solvent, non-hazardous and non-flammable cousin of wet paint. Powder coatings have been around for almost 100 years, and are used on many products. The possible choices for powder coatings used to be limited to standard RAL and Pantone colors, metallic, hammer tone, wrinkles and few textures. Certainly, a basic array of choices to be sure.
Enter Dye-sublimation decorated powder coatings. This is a process used in the textile and fabric industries for many years, so the technology is hardly new. An image is printed on a paper or film using colorfast, UV stable inks or dyes. The images can be practically anything. Rich wood grains, marbles, granites, patinas, photos, geometric patterns, etc. A mahogany storefront or curtain wall, a pine soffit on an apartment building or a 100ft cherry flag pole are easily obtainable. Marble column covers, rusted steel ceiling panels, a building-sized mural, or even outdoor street artwork are easily achieved and competitively priced.
Warm, natural finishes are making a comeback, and the downside of expensive maintenance and limited use due to weight and weather ability for wood, stone and natural finishes are now a thing of the past. The possibilities are truly endless, and a warmer, softer face of the world is upon us.