Paint Line Sustainability at Quality Industries
If you could design a paint line from the ground up, what would your priorities be? For our team at Quality Industries (QI), they were combining value and quality with efficiency and sustainability.
To that point, we recently designed and built a brand new paint line to accommodate bigger part profiles and a new powder coating system. Alvin Allen, Paint Quality Technician, noted that QI’s Paint Line Implementation Team had surprisingly great freedom to design this new system, and address the priorities that were most valued by the team. The improved line now enhances efficiency and sustainability through vital environmental and energy considerations.
The paint line’s washing system was specifically redesigned with environmental and energy conservation standards in mind. And it was built on the environmental innovations that QI had achieved in the past. Before the new system was conceived, QI had already transitioned to a more environmentally-friendly, zirconium-based chemical process.
"Other options, such as zinc phosphate, require wastewater treatments,” Allen said. "Zirconium is a much greener process. We made the move to zirconium about four years ago as a way to reduce our impact on the environment.” And those efforts continue now with the addition of a new parts washer design that helps to further reduce discharge.
“Originally, it was a five-stage system designed for smaller parts and liquid coating,” Allen said. “But when we converted the paint chemistry to a powder coating system, we found ourselves with the great opportunity to rethink design and functionality.”
With a blank canvas to design the system, the Paint Line Implementation Team added an extra washer as the sixth stage in the paint system. "We added the extra rinse as a buffer,” Allen said. "This additional stage meant that we didn’t have to overflow as much water to mitigate the alkaline cleaner carryover, and that reduced the amount of waste water that we put down the drain."
Also, QI designed the washer to reduce energy consumption. The previous system had butterfly valves to control the spray pressure and surface impingement. “In the past, you had a dial indicator that you would adjust to get to the correct spray pressure,” Allen said. “The problem was that the motor ran the same RPM and used the same energy regardless of what that setting was, which meant that we often used more energy than was necessary.”
The new system now uses variable frequency drive (VFD) motors, which reduce RPMs, depending on the spray pressure selected. These new motors also have a soft start, consuming less energy. Over time, this will significantly reduce aggregate energy consumption at QI, as well as provide more precise process control.
Another area of redesign in the new system was the oven configuration which, with a reduced footprint, now shortens the time necessary for a part to be cured. “With this better oven design and insulation, we are able to get a better cure profile and, as a result, cure more parts in less time using less gas,” Allen said. “Earlier, we had a 40-minute oven; now we have 20-minute oven.”
The configuration of the new oven also offers an energy saving mode for times when the line is stopped, such as a lunch break. In this and other instances, the ovens go into a “low-fire” mode, which reduces the amount of gas being consumed, lowering the temperatures in the oven until it is time to resume curing.
QI’s experience with this new paint line technology has been resoundingly positive. The line is far easier to use and is much more efficient. Further, it provides greater environmental value to our community (and customers) by reducing discharge and emissions—while achieving greater energy efficiency. With this state-of-the-art new paint line in place at QI, we are very proud to be doing our part to achieve greater sustainability and reduced environmental impact.