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Dry Film Thickness (DFT)

The Essential Guide to Measuring Dry Film Thickness (DFT)

Dry film thickness (DFT) plays a significant role in meeting the quality and performance of coatings in various industries. Whether it is a paint finish on an automobile, protective coating on a bridge, or a coating on a metal substrate, the thickness of the dry film is a critical factor. Not only does it affect the lifespan and durability of the coating, but it also determines its ability to offer the expected level of corrosion and weather resistance. If you would like to know more about the significance of dry film thickness and explore its impact on the overall quality and performance of coatings, then continue reading the post.

Understanding Dry Film Thickness (DFT)

Dry film thickness (DFT) is the thickness of a coating or paint film after it has dried and cured on any type of substrate, whether ferrous, non-ferrous, or others. It is one of the critical measurements in a wide range of industries such as automotive, manufacturing, and construction, among others as it directly impacts the overall performance and longevity of the coated surface. Understanding the right DFT is extremely important as it determines the level of protection provided by the coating against abrasion, corrosion, and many other environmental factors.

Why DFT is Significant?

DFT is significant owing to the following reasons.

  • Coating Integrity: The DFT directly affects the integrity of a coating system. Maintaining the recommended DFT promises optimal protection and extends the lifespan of the coating. The right level serves as a protective barrier against corrosion, moisture, and other external factors that can compromise the quality of substrate.
  • Performance and Functionality: Proper DFT contributes to the coating's ability to meet these functional requirements. Each type of coating, such as primers, intermediate coats, and topcoats, has specific DFT requirements to ensure the desired properties, including chemical resistance, UV protection, abrasion resistance, and aesthetic appearance.
  • Compliance with Standards and Regulations: Several sectors have stringent standards and regulations that govern coating systems. These standards often establish minimum and maximum DFT values that must be met to comply with the standard, and thus avoiding potential legal issues.
  • Adhesion Strength: The right DFT level greatly influences the strength between the coating and the substrate. Insufficient thickness can lead to poor adhesion, resulting in coating failure or premature degradation. By adhering to specified DFT values, the likelihood of such issues can be prevented.

Role of DFT in Meeting Quality Standards and Warranty Requirements

As DFT of a coating is a critical factor in determining its ability to provide the desired level of protection and performance, it undoubtedly serves a critical role in meeting quality standards and warranty requirements in various industries. For instance, in the automotive industry, manufacturers must meet specific quality standards to ensure that coatings on vehicles offer the effective protection against UV radiation, moisture, and chemicals and other environmental factors

Adding to the above, companies often provide warranties to ensure customers that their products will perform as expected within a certain timeframe. To guarantee compliance with warranty requirements, the DFT of coatings must meet the specified thickness thresholds.

Methods to Measure DFT

There are several ways of measuring DFT, and one of the most popular amongst them is DFT gauges. They are electronic devices that use different methods to measure the thickness of a coating on a substrate. The most common types of DFT gauges are:

  • Magnetic Induction: Magnetic induction functions by creating a magnetic field that penetrates through the coating and measures the thickness of the underlying substrate.
  • Eddy Current Gauges: Eddy current gauges, on the other hand, use magnetic fields to induce electrical currents in the coating. The measurement is based on the changes in these currents. They are designed with a digital display that shows the thickness measurement in micrometers or mils. Some gauges also have additional features such as data storage, statistical analysis, and Bluetooth connectivity for data transfer.

Since there are several types of gauges available with different measurement capabilities, it is important to select the right DFT gauge for your specific application. Factors to consider include:

  • Type of coating being measured
  • Expected thickness range
  • Level of accuracy required

How to use a DFT Gauge

The usage of DFT gauge is simple and straightforward. To use a DFT gauge, place the probe of the gauge on the coating surface and take a reading. The gauge will display the thickness measurement instantly on its screen. However, to get the accurate results, it is critical to conduct proper calibration before usage.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right DFT Gauges for Accurate Measurements

There are several factors to be considered when choosing the right dry film thickness gauges for your application. Following is some of key factors to keep in mind:

  • Gauge Type: DFT gauges are available in several types such as magnetic induction, eddy current, and ultrasonic gauges. Each type has its own pros and cons, so it's important to understand your application's specific requirements and choose a gauge type accordingly.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Ensure that the model you choose has a user-friendly interface designed to simplify the measurement process and reduce user errors. Look for gauges with intuitive menus, easy-to-read displays, and clear instructions.
  • Accuracy and Precision: The accuracy and precision of the gauge are crucial for obtaining reliable measurements. Invest in gauges that offer a high level of accuracy and precision.
  • Measurement Range: DFT gauges come with different measurement ranges, so select a gauge that can measure the desired thickness range of coatings precisely. Ensure the gauge has the necessary range to handle both thin and thick coatings as per your needs.
  • Probe Size and Shape: The size and shape of the probe can significantly impact measurement results, especially in areas with tight access or curved surfaces. Consider your application requirements and choose a gauge with a probe that can easily reach and conform to specific surfaces.

Best Practices for Accurate Measurements

Accurate measurement of dry film thickness is critical, especially in industries, such as automotive, aerospace, and construction. Users can follow the best practices listed below for using electronic DFT gauges correctly.

  • Calibration: Before starting any measurements, calibrate the gauge according to the manufacturer's instructions, zeroing it on a non-coated substrate and adjusting the calibration settings as necessary.
  • Surface Preparation: Properly prepare the surface to be measured by cleaning it to remove dirt, grease, or loose particles that could affect measurement accuracy.
  • Placement: Place the gauge perpendicular to the surface being measured to ensure the probe is in full contact with the surface, leading to reliable and precise results.
  • Number of Readings: Take multiple readings at different locations on the coated surface to detect variations in coating thickness and obtain a representative average measurement.
  • Measurement Technique: Follow the appropriate measurement technique for the type of gauge used, such as constant pressure or lifting/lowering motion.
  • Probe Selection: Select the most suitable probe size and shape for the application to ensure precise results.
  • Data Recording: Use a recommended data recording system or software to track and analyze measured data effectively.
  • Industry Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with guidelines set by relevant industry organizations or regulatory bodies for performing accurate measurements and ensuring compliance with quality standards.
  • Substrate Type: Select the appropriate measurement mode (ferrous, non-ferrous, or both) depending on the substrate being measured to ensure accurate readings.
  • Maintenance and Care: Regularly maintain and care for the gauge, including cleaning, calibration checks, and following storage guidelines provided by the manufacturer.
  • Record and Document Measurements: Maintain detailed records of all measurements, including location, date, time, and values, for quality control, auditing, and compliance purposes, as well as future reference and analysis.

Holding the Dry Film Thickness Gauge for Accurate Readings: Some Dos and Don'ts

When it comes to using a DFT gauge to ensure precise measurements, there are certain dos and don'ts that you need to keep in mind, and these include:


  • Maintain a Firm Grip: Hold the DFT gauge with a firm grip to maintain stability and avoid unintended movements that could lead to inaccurate readings. Apply sufficient pressure without pressing too tightly.
  • Ensure the Right Position: Hold the device perpendicular to the substrate being measured to ensure proper alignment and direct contact with the coating for accurate readings. Avoid tilting the gauge, as it can result in incorrect measurements.
  • Use Both Hands: Use both hands to hold the DFT gauge, with one hand holding the main body and the other hand supporting it from underneath. This helps minimize hand shake and ensures more accurate measurements.


  • Avoid Finger Contact with the Probe: Do not touch the probe directly while holding the DFT gauge, as it can interfere with the measurement process and affect accuracy. Use only the designated areas for gripping and navigating the gauge.
  • Do Not Obstruct the Display: Ensure that your hands or any other objects do not obstruct the unit's display, as clear visibility of the readings is crucial for accurate measurement and recording.
  • Avoid Excessive Hand Movements: Minimize unnecessary movement or shaking of the hands to ensure stability and precision in measurements.

Industry Standards and Recommendations on Dry Film Thickness Measurement

When it comes to measuring dry film thickness in various industries, adhering to certain industry standards and recommendations is of paramount importance. A few of the key industry standards and recommendations for dry film thickness measurement include:

  • The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) has established guidelines for assessing dry film thickness within the architectural sector. The AAMA 2603-03 standard is predominantly utilized for interior, light commercial, and residential-grade coatings with a thickness less than 1 mil. For coatings exceeding 1.2 mils in thickness, appropriate standards are AAMA 2604-05 and 2605-05; these are primarily designed for commercial and high-end architectural applications.
  • AS3715 is an Australian standard that focuses on the measurement of dry film thickness in the corrosion protection industry. As per this standard, it is imperative to ensure an average coating thickness, on any significant surface area, shall be a minimum of 60µm.
  • Similarly, AS 3894.3 is an Australian standard that specifically addresses the measurement of dry film thickness on metallic structures. It provides detailed procedures practical test methods for conducting measurements using both destructive and non-destructive methods.
  • SSPC-PA2 is a widely recognized standard that specifies procedures of calibration, verification of accuracy and adjustment gauges, required level of thickness measurements, along with coating thickness restriction levels, among several others.

Things to Consider before Conducting Dry Film Thickness Measurements

It is important to properly prepare before conducting dry film thickness measurements to get accurate and reliable results as you expect. Following is the checklist to follow before conducting these measurements:

  • Familiarize yourself with the specific instructions and guidelines provided by the manufacturer of the thickness gauge you will be using. This helps you follow the recommended steps and thus use the device properly.
  • It is important to take measurements in appropriate locations. Consider taking measurements at various locations that are free from any defects, corrosion, or irregularities that could affect the readings.
  • As mentioned earlier, it is essential to calibrate the gauge to ensure accuracy before taking any measurements. Ensure to follow the calibration procedure outlined in the manufacturer's instructions properly.
  • Ensure to prepare the surface by cleaning, drying, and making it free from any dust, dirt, or contaminants.
  • Set the appropriate measurement parameters on your thickness gauge, such as the type of coating being measured along with the expected range of thickness.
  • To ensure accuracy, take multiple measurements at each selected location. This will help account for any variations or inconsistencies in the coating thickness.

How Important is Calibration, Cleanliness, and Ambient Conditions for Getting Accurate DFT Readings

To ensure precise DFT measurements in manufacturing, construction, and automotive, it is critical to ensure the proper calibration, optimum cleanliness, and right ambient conditions during the measurement process. All these factors together play a crucial role in obtaining reliable and consistent results.

  • Calibration: Regularly check and adjust the thickness gauge against known standards to minimize errors and ensure accurate readings.
  • Maintain Cleanliness: Ensure the surface is clean and free from debris before taking readings to prevent contaminants from interfering with measurements.
  • Consider Ambient Conditions: Temperature and humidity can impact the accuracy of dry film thickness readings. Some coatings may have specific environmental requirements for optimal performance.

So far, we have gained a comprehensive understanding on measuring dry film thickness. However, if you require further details or have specific questions, consider Triplett. The company offers a wide range of electrical testers, meters, detectors and other measurement tools and testing equipment. They can provide you with the specific information and guidance you need to ensure accurate and precise measurements using DFT gauges.

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