From dark and dramatic to traditional and timeless, the finish of a faucet offers a distinguishing design element that can transform the feel of any interior. Combining careful craftsmanship with pioneering innovation, Delta Faucet Company’s Brizo and Delta brands carry a comprehensive catalogue of faucets and fittings for the kitchen, bath and shower that is further refined by inventive finish capabilities. Whether creating a striking contrast or cleverly complementing the aesthetic of a surrounding space, each unique faucet finish presents an opportunity to elevate an environment and express individual style. The Brizo and Delta product portfolios deliver a wide range of finish options to choose from. With options abounding, careful consideration of the full range of finishes and an understanding of the inventive processes used to create them are paramount. Knowledge Bank interviewed Delta Faucet Company’s Seth Fritz, Industrial Designer and Manager of Design Futures, and Joe Elmer, Principal Finish and Materials Engineer, to gather insights into the story behind the extensive selection of Brizo and Delta faucet finish options.
Can you speak to the unique advantages of the vast array of Brizo and Delta finishes?
Home décor is a form of personal expression, and we offer a variety of finishes to personalize kitchen and bath spaces. There’s a lot of thought and research that goes into our selection. We develop our finishes to have longevity—a timeless quality that will look great in homes today and a decade from now. For some models, we’ll design accent pieces—like wood or concrete inlays for handles—to further customize the faucet. We’re also very purposeful about the finishes we offer on each architecture, selecting options that can transform the look of the faucet—from classic and elegant to contemporary and edgy, sometimes even mystical.
Where do new ideas for finishes come from?
Finishes are a beautiful mix of art and science, and we’ve combined both in our Design Futures team. Our core team, which includes a designer, a chemist, and a futurist, focuses on color, materials, finishes, and trends with a two-to-five-year outlook. To inspire new ideas, we track trends, work with amazing trend-spotting agencies all over the world and pay close attention to how people are living in their homes. Sometimes, we’ll uncover a new technology that will enable us to do something differently, and that can spark our imaginations as well.
In 2011/2012, we launched the Jason Wu for Brizo™ Collection in Matte Black finish. At the time, it was a risk, but one that was backed by lots of data. We’d seen the Matte Black finish trend in Europe but not domestically. We also had Jason’s guidance, support, and confidence in the finish. A couple of years after launch, the finish blew up in the United States and is now popular across the entire building industry.
Could you share insights into the steps involved in the manufacturing finish process?
Step 1 – Texturing: Before many parts with specialty finishes are plated, for example those in the Brilliance® Luxe Steel™ finish, they go through a texturing process. We have highly skilled operators texturing products by hand, and we operate robots that buff some of our spouts. Just as product design is an artistic process, the buffing/texturing process is artistic as well. The product becomes an extension of the artist, a reflection of his or her own handiwork. Our operators use different techniques to produce various specialty finishes. For example, they crisscross the lines to reveal a Venetian Bronze® finish but use only straight lines in one direction to achieve a stainless look. Every buffed part is carefully inspected by experienced operators to meet our visual requirements. This attention to detail is what provides our customers with consistent quality.
Step 2 – Plating: Before products are plated, they are first cleaned to remove any oils or residues, and then are rinsed to remove the cleaning agents. The plating process for chrome (the most popular finish) consists of two stages. Firstly, nickel provides the heaviest layer of protection and creates a reflective surface that adds luster and shine. And secondly, a chrome layer is used for durability and corrosion resistance for long-lasting performance. With our computer-controlled, state-of-the-art plating system, we can apply different finishes on different products at the same time. Each of our finishes has a unique ‘recipe’ that’s programmed into the plater. Each parts rack is coded with a different number, so the machine knows which tanks to put each rack in and for how long. Parts are automatically placed into different tanks according to the precise finishing formula. Superior plating and finishing requires exact science. Our chemists monitor and adjust the chemical compositions of the plating liquids throughout our facilities to ensure quality and consistency.
Step 3 – PVD: Products with our patented Brilliance® finishes go through yet another process—physical vapor deposition or PVD. The PVD technology was actually developed by NASA, and Delta Faucet Company was the first to use this finishing process on plumbing products. PVD adds two elements to the faucet: color and an even more corrosion- and scratch-resistant layer. Here’s a brief description of the PVD process:
- At the center of the PVD chamber is a coil with a zirconium rod. Zirconium is one of the world’s most corrosion-resistant materials.
- A vacuum is created within the chamber to remove any particles that could potentially contaminate/impair the finish. The entire PVD room is a clean, climate-controlled environment to help reduce the number of particulates in the air that could potentially contaminate the finish.
- An electric charge is applied in the chamber, and vaporized zirconium particles are fused onto the parts. Brilliance® finish molecules embed deep within the faucet’s surface, creating a strong, durable finish.
- We use proprietary formulas—various combinations of gasses—to create different finishes.
Our associates visually check parts when they’re loading and unloading them from the plater and the PVD chambers. They also run a finish test on PVD-finished parts to ensure the finish adhered properly during the PVD process. Our focus is on quality and ensuring each faucet that goes out the door meets or exceeds customer expectations for quality.
What is entailed in the organic coating process?
Organic coatings give us an opportunity to offer finish colors, such as Matte Black, that we cannot achieve through plating or PVD finishing. The process for applying organic finishes is a little different. Here’s a quick description:
- Parts go through a multi-stage cleaning cycle.
- The coating – either a liquid coating or powder coating – is efficiently applied to our parts.
- The parts go through an oven to cure the coating and make it homogeneous with the surface of the part.
- A sample set of parts is taken to our Quality Assurance department for testing.
Can you share any insights about the use of PVD technology for plumbing projects and how you’ve continued to expand and optimize it?
While emerging trends are the driving force for new finishes, the PVD process offers us the ability to create a lot of diverse finishes. All PVD finishes begin with a zirconium base, and we modify the gasses in the chamber to alter the color. We can also change the look of the finish by using different substrates—either polished or textured parts—giving us even more design flexibility and finish options.
What role does performance testing play in your product finishes?
We design our kitchen and bath faucets for long-lasting performance, including years of everyday use and cleaning, and we stand behind them with our limited warranty. Rigorous testing is absolutely essential to our finish development and manufacturing processes to ensure we’re meeting our performance standards. All of our finishes are certified and CSA compliant, and there are several industry standards that our finishes must meet. We also have Delta Faucet Company internal standards that go above and beyond industry standards. During the development process, we use a variety of different tests to check the durability of our finishes, including corrosion and immersion testing, chemical testing to test chemicals used in common cleaning products, and scrub testing.
During the manufacturing process, we also test samples to ensure that finishes are adhered appropriately. Examples of these tests include subjecting finished parts to our salt spray chambers, which simulate harsh, real-world conditions; harmonized thermal cycle tests that measure how products perform when subjected to extreme hot and cold temperatures over and over again; and x-ray machine tests to check levels of coating thicknesses.