Steel Fabricator Saves Costs with Zirconium Pretreatment

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2012

By Sharon Spielman

When this Iowa-based steel fabricator decided to upgrade its pretreatment process to the newest generation Zirconium, they turned to Bulk Chemicals Inc. for a solution that has saved them money and time.

Radius Steel Fabrication — SOO Tractor, Sioux City, Iowa, prides itself on staying ahead of the curve when it comes to the environment. This is why in the early 1990s, the fabricator opted to make the switch from liquid finishing to powder coating.

With five powder coating booths in two of its plants, Radius Steel is able to process tens of thousands of parts automatically. The company manufactures equipment for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that service the agriculture, mining, heavy equipment/construction, refuse, oil and gas, and other industries.

The confounding number of different parts that are processed through the powder coating finishing cycle at Radius begins with the shot blaster that removes mill scale and iron rust. Travelling by an automated 1,720 feet conveyor system, the parts proceed through a five-stage stainless steel washer, and on to its temperature controlled, Nordson powder coating room. Here, iControl photo sensors automatically adjust powder coating gun movement and triggering to accommodate different size parts and application consistencies. Using powder primarily from Diamond Vogel, PPG, Akzo Nobel and Hentzen, the parts pass through all of the coating booths, but only one booth will have been activated via the Recipe Box to apply the powder. The line then continues to the curing part of the process, beginning with an infrared (IR) booster. Curing is completed in a convection oven for 20 minutes, with temperatures reaching 400°F. From there, parts advance through the cooling tunnel and then to the assembly department. Total time from pretreatment to final cure can take up to 3.5 hours.

A major component of this fabricator’s finishing process is pretreatment. Since July of this year, utilizing Bulk Chemical Inc.’s (BCI) surface technology in its five-stage wash system, Radius has already seen cost savings of 40 percent over its previous nano-ceramic technology. The company also has seen a 10 to 15 minute decrease in testing time dedicated to each titration test—a test that some companies perform several times per day.

BCI’s technical service representative, John Anderson, says, “Radius Steel is a true partner in business that really cares about their customers, products finishes, and most importantly, environmental impact.”

According to Radius’ plant manager, Mike Felts, “We are always striving to become more efficient. Installing the BCI Technology was a simple process that now allows us to quickly increase efficiency in productivity and continue to offer customers the optimum paint finish available. The overall cost savings together with increased productivity help us to be more competitive in the marketplace.”

Ida Covi, Radius Steel’s CEO, adds, “The environment is a number one priority at Radius. Even though Iowa has not mandated that companies use a phosphate-free pretreatment technology, if and when that time comes, we will already be ahead of the curve.”

According to Anderson, BCI reinvests a large portion of its revenue in research and to the development of new technologies that will give their clients a better, more environmentally friendly product.

Covi adds that Radius Steel has been incredibly successful with the powder coated finish of its many products since 1994. The new pretreatment coating method leads to a better manufacturing process. This in turn PROVIDING TOTAL TURNKEY FINISHING SOLUTIONS SINCE 1992 www.powdercoating.com Ovens, Washers, Conveyors, Controls, Environmental Rooms creates not only a more long lasting, durable finish but also a manufactured product that complies with their long reflected conviction to pollution prevention, responsibly managing the company’s potential impact on the environment.

Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine. She can be reached at 847-302-2648 or via email at sspielman@powdercoating.org.