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Material Innovation
April 2004
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One innovation exhibited by Fisher & Paykel had nothing to do with what was in its appliances, but what was on them. The New Zealand-based company’s EZKleen finish was one of the major draws at its HomeTech stand. The embossed stainless steel is coated to help prevent fingerprints and scratches and is said to resist discoloration. “This has been tried for many years,” John Bongard, managing director, tells APPLIANCE. “This surface is much harder and clearer than competitive coatings and has UV resistance to overcome that ‘browning effect’ that can occur.”

Troy Scragg, general manager for Europe adds: “It may only be a process we applied to the steel, but there’s quite a lot of technology and science behind it.”

Indeed there is. The coating was 2 years in development and had to overcome many challenges before offering its five main features—clarity, wear-resistance, hardness, UV-resistance, and easy cleaning. According to Mr. Scragg, trying to achieve all of those features in one coating was difficult, as there were often tradeoffs. For instance, the curved design of the refrigerator meant that the steel material had to somewhat be flexible, yet the company wanted to achieve hardness so it would be scratch resistant. “To get formability, you usually compromise hardness,” says Mr. Scragg.

The answer was a specially-formulated fluorocarbon resin that is baked on the steel. In production, after the steel coil unrolls and goes through polishing, the resin is added to the material and then cured in a high-temperature oven. The material, which was originally developed for outdoor building applications, has also passed corrosion tests.

The coating’s easy cleaning feature allows a permanent marker to be wiped off without a cleaning solution. While Mr. Scragg admits that the coating doesn’t completely resist fingerprints, the coating makes it easy to wipe them off without a stainless steel cleaner. “Normally, you have to clean the whole fridge,” he says. “This coating allows you to wipe just a small area of the appliance surface.”

The EzKleen finish will now replace all of Fisher & Paykel’s Inox finish on its refrigeration products. According to Mr. Scragg, the aesthetic difference is barely noticeable. Standard stainless steel has a 140-percent gloss finish, whereas the EzKleen finish has a 120-percent gloss.



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