Powder Coating Technology Advancements

7/8/2015

For over 30 years, Quality Industries has satisfied the increasing coating requirements of its customers.  In the 1980s, QI began its journey—starting as a liquid coater—and adopted the best of wet line technologies available at that time.  In the 1990s, QI installed its first powder coating line, taking  advantage of emerging powder technologies to improve performance and compliance to tightening environmental regulations.  

In 2015, QI has taken another major step forward—investing $3.7 million in a new powder coating system, and adopting the latest, state-of-the-art technologies.  In the process, QI has advanced its coating capabilities to further improve quality, increase throughput, and assure compliance with ever-changing environmental regulations.   With this custom-designed machinery, QI has sought to optimize processing capabilities throughout its entire coating system—creating new capacity, improving throughput, reducing downtime, achieving higher energy efficiencies, and guaranteeing better overall quality.

 

Scalable System to Meet Growing Demand 

At QI, we started our new design with an upgraded conveyor system.   By replacing the existing enclosed-track system with an I-beam, this advancement allows us now to hang larger, heavier parts without strain and increases line speed.  We have also implemented an improved loading and unloading process, utilizing advances in parts identification technology.   Further, a new barcode scanning system enables our system (which recognizes 240 recipes) to follow the part all the way down the line—from hanging to unloading.  Whether it is washer spray pressure, oven temperatures, or powder application, the part recipe will adjust the parameters of every component of the system to the ideal setting.

Next, we have designed the washing system to accommodate longer and wider parts, expanding our process capabilities even further.  We have also included back-flushing processes to pump excess rinse water to the previous chemical stages (when there is a demand)—minimizing what would have otherwise been waste.  Additionally, an extra rinse stage has been added between the cleaner and conversion coating to further improve our adhesion and corrosion performance.

Further, our improved washing system has an energy-saving mode that reduces spray pressures and operating temperatures when the line stops.  It is equipped with sensors that constantly provide feedback to a chemical monitoring and feed system—reducing costly chemical waste and enabling a much more consistent treatment of substrates.  Finally, the monitoring system tracks real-time patterns in usage and efficiency and, when combined with other performance data, improves our quality.

 

Technology Creates Efficiency

We have designed our oven systems to maximize space and efficiency.  In that regard, the oven system’s energy-saver mode reduces temperatures when the line idles and raises them for thicker metals, and the ovens are encased with six-inch insulated panels to prevent thermal conduction through the walls.  By adding cooling tunnels after each oven, we are also able to reduce the conveyor travel time in these spaces by 30% and virtually eliminate the radiant heat emitted to the shop floor.  Combined with a faster line speed, these advancements allow us to process parts in nearly half the time of our previous system. 

Completing our new system is the Nordson ColorMax® NII spray booth, housed in an environmental room.  The Nordson system provides exceptional features to improve our speed control and efficiency.  First, the new booth has a smaller footprint than the earlier Excel models, and makes it possible for all colors to be sprayed without changing out bulky hoppers.  The booth is designed to change colors in as little as 10 minutes—much shorter than the 30-minute color changes of our last system.  Second, the booth uses state-of-the-art cyclone technology to reclaim unused powder and recycle it back through the system—continuously rejecting any unusable powder, and sending it to a collection area for disposal.  Third, the booth uses 14 automatic spray guns on oscillating arms and three manual spray guns (to reinforce areas which are difficult to reach).   And as the parts pass through the system, the detection system identifies the height, width and length of each part and positions the spray guns accordingly.  In summary, this combination of new process capabilities allows us to apply the optimal amount of coating while maximizing our transfer efficiency.

 

After months of planning, construction, and startup, QI has taken a major step forward—significantly advancing its powder coating capabilities.  Through these efforts, QI will maintain its longstanding tradition as a high-quality coating facility, while opening the door for wholly new opportunities.  

The future looks as bright as the colors we coat here at QI.