When this automated parking garage maker needed a green, robust finish for its modular, steel construction frame, they chose powder coating to get the job done.
By Sharon Spielman
Parking garages the world over
are subject to the corrosive
elements tracked in by vehicles,
including dirt, oil, grime, road
salt, and anti-icing brines. Traditional
concrete garage floors can take the
abuse pretty well. But what about
an automated, conveyorized vertical
parking structure that is made of a
modular steel frame? Without the
proper finish, the steel would corrode
in no time.
This is why it made sense to Andy
Callender, U-ParkIt engineering
manager, and Robert Enns, a fomer
NASA engineer—both of whom were
brought on board in 2009 to upgrade
the U-ParkIt product and technology—
to choose powder coating for the
structure’s finish. (See sidebar on below for more on U-ParkIt.)
Callender explains that U-ParkIt
NA equipment was designed not only
with final function in mind, but fabrication
as well. “Laser cut, bent metal
construction provides U-ParkIt with
durable, cost-effective fabrication,”
he says. “However, traditional wet
painting methods can add additional
handling—and therefore cost—to
the project. By having conversations
with our fabricators during the
design process, we could ensure that
both parties could be profitable and provide a quality product that will
perform for years.”
Callender explains that the fabricator
they used for this project, I & M
Machine and Fabrication Corp., in St.
Joseph, Mo., uses powder coating for a
majority of their customers, allowing
them to provide a completed product
without moving components off site
for final finish. “This helps maintain
our budgets and schedule, and reduces
handling damage risk knowing that all
the processes are under one roof,”
“I & M has process controls and
procedures that maintain a consistent,
durable finish that will keep our
equipment protected and looking
great for years,” Callender continues.
“On larger parts, we don’t have
to be concerned that the paint finish
will be uniform or the components
properly prepared before finish application.
With components being cured
on the same conveyor line the finish
is applied the chances of the finish
being damaged is eliminated. Parts do not have to be moved from a paint
booth to a drying area where foreign
material can attach or atmospheric
changes can affect the paint cure
According to Richard Canaday,
estimator/quoter at I & M, the
U-ParkIt structure utilizes materials
of both gauge and plate on weldments
making cross sections that are widely
different in their baking characteristics.
“We can hang up to 144" x
48" on our loop line and up to 1,000
pounds, taking between 2:15 and 2:45 to complete the loop,” Canaday
explains. He says they load and
unload manually, leaving gaps in the
line for color change, and their batch
system can handle to 30' x 10' x 10'
and also uses a loop system. “If masking
or plugging of holes is necessary,
we use Mighty Hook green polyester
high-temp tape for masking, and
silicone plugs for holes and threads as
necessary,” Canaday reveals.
Canaday says that as they walk
a weldment through the powder
coat process, they start with a pass
through a Wheelabrator, utilizing
steel shot. “If necessary, we make a
couple of passes. This mechanically
removes a great deal of metal scale,
weld scale, and laser scale.”
He continues, “On the conveyor
continuous loop line, we use many
additional steps using chemicals supplied
by Galaxy. First, an acid concentration
of 2.7-3.1 percent, followed
by a neutralizer at 2 percent, then a
phosphate cleaner at 3 percent, a soft
water rinse, sealer at a pH of 5.0-6.25,
followed by a dry-off oven.” The loop
line has both automated and manual spray guns. The automated booth is
12-head Nordson, and the manual
booth is a Wagner, both currently
using Nordson guns. “Generally we
can adjust the settings in the booths
to reduce any Faraday effect. The loop
line ovens are natural gas ITS.”
Canaday says the batch oven line
is a simplified line as compared to the
loop line. They manually clean the
items, and then, if necessary, use 3M’s
Scotch Brite or sand imperfections,
then seal the weldment using the same
Galaxy chemicals. The oven on their
batch system is a Reliant, gas-fired.
Canaday explains that on both
lines, when they have both thick and
thin cross sections, they often preheat
the material, remove it from the oven,
and then powder coat. “The thinner
sections cool much quicker than the
large cross sections and therefore are
not too hot to coat. Giving the large,
maybe 1" thick, sections a head start
accomplishes the bonding we need.
We often use most of the over bake
time allotted by the powder manufacturer,” he says.
Powder supplied to I&M is delivered
by as many as eight vendors, but
Diamond Vogel and PPG are their most
used suppliers, Canaday says. “Being
a job shop, we must be able to access
RAL colors quickly, and acquire smaller
batches than skid loads. We have had
good success with the small specialty
vendors’ products as well.” He adds,
“Experience and a watchful eye is
always necessary along with good powder
Leaving Small Footprints
Because the structure is vertical and
does not require ramps (see video at
www.uparkit.com for how the structure
operates), it can save up to 60 percent
of the space needed for a conventional
car park building, while parking the
same number of cars. This means its
footprint is smaller than a conventional
vertical parking garage.
U-ParkIt NA’s mission is to give
back one-half to two-thirds of the
major parking lots in urban, downtown
locations for the public to enjoy as public
parks. This is part of the reason their
tagline is: A Green Parking Solution.
The company also wants to leave a
smaller carbon footprint, so environmental
factors were taken into consideration
during the design and fabrication
phases, as well. The U-ParkIt
system significantly reduces pollution because cars are turned off as soon as
they enter the system. EPA data shows
that this technology implemented for a
500-car garage would save more than
6,000 gallons of gas annually as well as
eliminate 1,000 pounds of hydrocarbons
and 3.5 tons of carbon monoxide
every year. The structure’s design also
allows for maximum collection of
storm water runoff. And the electricity
supply requirement can be as low as
According to Callender, “Because
one of the benefits of the U-ParkIt
system is reducing pollutants, it only
makes sense we try to maintain a
green attitude toward the fabrication
and finish of our equipment. Powder
coating has negligible VOC emissions
and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs),
so maintaining a relationship with fabricators
that can minimize their impact
on our environment fits with U-ParkIt
The original automated U-ParkIt system was created by New Zealand-based Ahu in 2003. In 2006, Ahu, with the trade name U-ParkIt, set up an agreement with Kansas City-based U-ParkIt North America (NA). U-ParkIt NA was set up to be the sales and distribution arm of New Zealand’s U-ParkIt, serving potential opportunities anywhere in North America. In 2009, U-ParkIt NA purchased the entire portfolio of technology and distribution rights from U-ParkIt (Ahu) with the agreement that U-ParkIt NA would have ownership throughout all of North America. Once ownership was transferred to Kansas City in 2009, U-ParkIt NA hired NASA Engineer Robert Enns and Mercedes Benz and Tesla Engineer Andy Callender to upgrade the product and the technology.
To further support the growth of the company, in 2011 U-ParkIt NA hired Retired Admiral James Whittaker as president and CEO. With a strong resume in administration, Admiral Whittaker spent the next three years working with private entities, municipalities and other potential users, explaining the system and the green benefits that the U-ParkIt garage provides.
By 2014, with the technology upgrades of Enns and Callender completed and the administrative leadership of Whittaker, U-ParkIt NA was in a position to bring its fully upgraded system and green technology to the Automated Parking Garage market. Whittaker and CFO Tom Rost then hired Kevin Macdonald and Budd Busceni as sales and marketing representatives. The goal of the addition of a new sales and marketing team was to strongly promote the product through a combination of U-ParkIt NA technology details and green benefits. Because of nationwide parking shortages, space limitations, safety issues and environmental concerns, the company correctly determined that the time to sell the concept was upon them.
Advantages of the automated, vertical garage include the following:
Portable. U-ParkIt is built using a robust steel modular construction frame that can be dismantled and relocated.
Modular. All cells are built to specific dimensions capable of being expanded for the addition of more car parks as required.
Efficient. The modular nature enables assembly on location, resulting in short installation and commissioning times.
Effective. U-ParkIt can be installed underground, on reasonably flat surfaces, within existing structures, on the side or on top of buildings.
Space Saving. U-ParkIt can save up to 60 percent of the space needed for a conventional car park building, while parking the same number of cars.
Excavation Saving. U-ParkIt can save more than 60 percent of the excavation needed for a conventional ramp garage.
Cost Effective. U-ParkIt can park up to three times the number of cars that can be parked on a conventional car lot.
Time Saving. Patrons no longer have to waste time looking for an empty parking space.
Secure. Cars can only be retrieved by those with appropriate authorization. There are no places for robbers to hide.
Protective. All cars are stored undercover thus protecting against harsh weather conditions such as hail storms, heavy rains, extreme heat and sun exposure and snow. Cars are not accessible to the public eliminating minor incidents such as dents, finger dings, paint scratches and head/rear light breakage.
Reduced Maintenance Costs. U-ParkIt uses interchangeable electromechanical motors giving it a significant advantage on competitive systems that use hydraulics.
As of February this year, the company is constructing the world’s first U-ParkIt NA automated parking garage. The system is being built on The Fields Group Auto Campus located in Northfield, Ill., a Chicago suburb. The expected completion date of the project is early June 2015.
To see a video of how the structure operates, visit www.uparkit.com. For more information about building a structure, contact Kevin MacDonald at 847-650-9139 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Budd Busceni at 312-771-6327 or email@example.com.
Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated
Tough magazine. She can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on companies mentioned in this article, visit their web sites.
Galaxy Chemical Corp.
Wagner Systems Inc.
Wheelabrator Group Ltd.