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issue: August 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Finishing & Metal Preparation
Racing to The Finish


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by Jill Russell, Assistant Editor

As appliance makers continually strive to differentiate themselves aesthetically, the finishing industry is responding with new technologies and materials.

Nordson Corporation’s Versa Spray® II spray gun coats parts for a variety of applications. The company offers a system that allows color changes to occur within minutes.

“Whether it is a recycled or spray-to-waste system, Nordson uses control systems that apply powder in a uniform process at higher transfer efficiencies,” says Ken Kreeger, director, North American Powder Equipment. “Our booths have a specifically designed canopy material extraction system that helps enhance overall first-pass transfer efficiency and color change-ability.”

Now, more than ever, appliance OEMs are searching for unique ways to provide the “finishing touches” to their products. To meet the growing number of OEM demands, industry suppliers are experiencing a rising market. In fact, the U.S. market for paints and coatings increased 3.9 percent after 3 years of declining rates, according to a recent study conducted by Business Trend Analysts. In 2004, sales are expected to reach U.S. $18.2 billion compared to an estimated $16 billion in 2003.

In order to increase brand awareness, meet consumer needs, and create a unique product design, appliance makers are turning to their finishing suppliers to provide the means to do so. As traditional coatings and finishes such as porcelain enamel and anodized metals continue to provide benefits such as added durability, application versatility, and long-term resistance, suppliers are racing to add innovative technologies to tailor materials to current and anticipated trends.

Timeless & Timely Techniques

In general, the finishing industry has found what works best when it comes to durability, resistance, and variation of applications. However, new technologies being added to already-proven methods are raising the bar.

“ The quality of both porcelain enamel and powder paint finishes continue to improve to meet the ever more demanding expectations of the appliance industry,” says Brad Devine, market development manager of Ferro Corporation (Cleveland, OH, U.S.). “Porcelain enamel has lost share in the appliance market versus powder paint in the past due to a cost differential, but today many appliance producers have found this is no longer valid,” he notes.

According to Mr. Devine, since the introduction of electrostatic powder technology in porcelain enamel coatings, the total cost of porcelain enamel applications is less than a 10-percent premium compared to powder paint for most applications, making the finish a top choice within the appliance industry.

The integration of different metal finishing applications, specifically with stainless steel and aluminum, has added a whole new element to end product finishing. Primarily dealing with commercial appliances, Saporito Finishing Company (Cicero, IL, U.S.) says it sees aluminum and stainless steel as the leading materials in that segment. “Virtually all the stainless steel we process is passivated, which is a chemical treatment that hastens the natural passivation process,” Jeff Logan, director of Technical Operations for Saporito, tells APPLIANCE. “This process gives the stainless steel an oxide coating that is very tenacious, giving the steel its excellent corrosion resistance.”

Saporito says its hardcoat aluminum also provides appliance makers with a durable and resistant material. “The hardcoat offers excellent heat emissivity at higher thickness similar to that of a black body,” explains Mr. Logan. “[The future material] is easily aluminum with hardcoat due to its cost compared to stainless steel and its weight-to-strength ratio. The hardcoat is also extremely abrasion-resistant and receptive to non-stick finishes.”

 

The QuaNix 4200 takes coating thickness measurements over either steel or iron, while the QuaNix 4500 takes measurements over steel and aluminum.

According to Gardco (Pompano Beach, FL, U.S.), the units take measurements ranging from 0 to 40 mils and 0 to 999 microns. Readings are confirmed by an audible beep, and no calibration is required. The units feature an automatic on/off switch and one-hand operation.

Color Considerations

Consumers are demanding a color choice when it comes to appliance selections, and as the number of new housing and remodeling projects increase, the number of consumers wishing to coordinate kitchen and accessories, does too. “We are seeing multiple color choices in the appliance industry,” says Ken Kreeger, director, Nordson Corporation’s (Amherst, OH, U.S.) North American Powder Equipment. “Decorators are now using a variety of different color schemes in kitchen and laundry areas. The demand within the industry is to have more color choices.”

As a result, Cullen Hackler, executive vice president of the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI), believes the use of porcelain enamel will grow. “Color fashion will move away from the plain look of stainless steel and demand variety,” he says. “Porcelain enamel will answer the challenge. Other materials will enter the design equation, including aluminum, copper, and brass that porcelain enamel can duplicate.

“ New powder coating technologies,” Mr. Hackler continues, “along with recent manufacturing process rationalization have leveled the playing field and give appliance makers the opportunity to use more porcelain enamel in today’s designs.”

In order to keep up with the color craze, Nordson is currently offering powder coating systems that can change from 1 to 10 min. “For those running spray-to-waste, the color change will be under 2 min with an enhanced manifold system that allows you to switch from one color to the next in less than 1 min,” Mr. Kreeger tells APPLIANCE.

“Older powder spray systems that would previously require two to four spray booths, can now be handled by a one-booth system. New control systems allow customers to change the flow rate and voltage for any given part at any time and can store up to 255 settings on a flash card, which can be easily accessed and edited by the operator,” he says.

Challenging the Issue

Besides developing new technologies to adhere to current consumer trends, finishing suppliers are also looking ahead to anticipate the next development, while also keeping the industry’s standard issues in mind—the environment and cost.

“Customers continue to push for zero defects, price reduction across the board, and next day delivery,” says Mr. Logan of Saporito, a finishing contractor company. “This coupled with the increasingly stringent requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on our industry requires a metal finishing shop to always partake in the endeavors of continuous improvement, quality control, and cost reductions through internal process analysis and productivity improvement. Failure to maintain these programs makes all the difference between prosperity and failure.”

Greg Stanek, business manager of Market Development for Industrial Coatings for Wyandotte, MI, U.S.-based BASF agrees that environmental issues will continue to have an impact in the future. “I think in the future, it’s going to be more pre-paint and more powder coating and that is because appliance makers will continue to have increased pressure from environmental issues, and powder being a close-to-zero volatile organic content (VOC) product helps with that,” he says.

 

Graco Inc. (Minneapolis, MN, U.S.) says its ProMix™ Easy proportioning system is designed for single-color, two-component spray finishing applications, can monitor ratio performance, and is compatible with all spray technologies, including air spray, air-assisted, and electrostatic.

The proportioner is said to handle a flow rate as low as 20 cc per min.

Anticipating increased regulations, BASF has started to develop chrome-free primers as well as ultra-violet and electronics beaming coding, which are said to lower energy consumption to cure coatings at higher line speeds, operating under virtually zero VOCs.

In addition to environmental concerns, suppliers and appliance makers are constantly challenged by cost. Paul Brancaleon, president and COO of Premier Tool and Die Cast Corporation (Berrien Springs, MI, U.S.), confirms, “Cost and foreign market pressures are the major influences today.”

According to the company, it changed an alloy to a low-corrosion aluminum material for an HVAC application, eliminating all coatings and ultimately reducing the price of the product. “For high-end, high-visibility appliances, we see a lot of buff and polish applications,” Mr. Brancaleon notes. “For low-visibility products, we see a matching coating to the surrounding area, a protective coating for the applications, or no coating at all.”

As long as appliance producers work to tailor the needs of consumers, suppliers will be sprinting to be the first to add a new technology, devise a new material, or apply a new coating to a product to help meet demands.

 

More from our August 2004 Feature:
Finishing & Metal Preparation

 

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