Posted in: Racking & Masking

Collaborative Effort Resolves Masking Issue

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013

By Sharon Spielman

Several vendors working together was key in coming up with a masking plug that would reduce the paint-in-thread problem that a major agricultural OEM was having.

When a major agricultural equipment manufacturer was having issues with powder coating and paint getting into the threads of their finished parts, they assembled a team of its suppliers, process control engineers and masking companies to find a solution.

Among the masking companies involved, was Engineered Products and Services (EPSI) According to Todd Schuh, a senior design engineer at EPSI, “After the manufacturer proposed the problem, it wasn’t very long until we found a solution—less than a few weeks.” The masking company dialed in the requirements and used the OEM’s own research to find out what the exact needs were. “The manufacturer was trying to find what worked across the board for them, which was the most difficult thing—to see what would work with all their suppliers and find something that everyone agreed upon. They expected a lot of work on their vendor side to help solve the problem. They wanted to know where to control the paint, and so they really relied on their vendor base to help them make some of the final decisions,” Schuh says.

Because EPSI did its homework first, the final solution did not take long to perfect. Schuh reveals that there were two different version of the masking plug. “The first version worked; and then we made some improvements with color and tip, speeding up the customer’s process by allowing them to identify the tip by color. And even if it got painted over, the user could decipher the correct tip by shape. Then there were material specs, we dialed that in as well to find the material. That was probably the biggest jump from the first version to the final version,” he says.

The masking plugs are made from silicone. Heat resistance is up to 600°F short-term, but according to Schuh, the main operational range is about 450 degrees F.

Properly installing and removing the plugs is important for the success of the finished product Schuh concludes, “Finally, it was a great collaboration of all the vendors involved, and a lot of hard work. A ton of effort was put in; they actually took time to make plates with roughly 100 walnuts on it, to test it, to figure out statistically how efficient it would work.” He continues, “They went above and beyond testing. As competitors of each other, it was very interesting to see how well they worked together to give us input. We would be on conference calls with 10 competing vendors, blending their concerns and figuring out a solution. That was an interesting process."

Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine. She can be reached via email at

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