Powder: The Clear Choice for Microwave Antennas, Support Equipment

Posted on Sunday, June 1, 2014

Microwave radio transmission is commonly used in pointto- point communication systems on the surface of the Earth, in satellite communications, and in deep space radio communications. Because the antennas that are utilized to transmit these microwaves reside outdoors, they are continually subject to a variety of harsh elements.

Radio Frequency Systems (RFS), Meriden, Conn., has been in business for 41 years, beginning as Cablewave Systems in 1973 and then changing its name to Radio Frequency Systems in 1999. In 2011, RFS knew they wanted to make a change to its finishing line, according to Jim Moquin, senior manufacturing engineer, at RFS. “The majority of our products are installed outside, from mountain tops to off-shore locations under extreme hot, cold, wet and dry weather conditions,” Moquin says. RFS was using a two-part urethane wet paint to finish the antennas. “Due to the environmental issues of using solvents but with the need for a durable finish, we worked with a systems house to come up with a solution.”

RFS went with a semi-automatic powder system that was designed and fabricated by T&S Enterprises, who brought in Parker Ionics after hearing what RFS was looking for. According to John Cole, president of Parker Ionics, “[T&S was] familiar with our Pulse Power technology and the high quality of our booth systems. Based on their knowledge and understanding of the needs of the customer and the capabilities of our powder application equipment, they felt Parker Ionics equipment was the optimum choice for RFS.”

To help RFS with the transition from liquid to powder, Cole says, “We demonstrated our application technology as well as some of our booth color change capabilities. We then invested in training the finishing team at RFS on the proper application of powder coatings in their plant.”

Moquin says, “We have an excellent relationship with Parker, and they offer top-of-the-line equipment. We have had only very minor problems since the installation, and those were mainly just wear-and-tear replacement parts.”

Semi-automatic Powder Line Garners Zero Rejects

After all the machining for the antennas and the support systems is complete, parts are hung on the overhead conveyor line. “The ‘start’ button in pushed, and parts advance into the spray wash booth where they are cleaned and treated with a chemical from Calvary Industries Inc.,” Moquin reveals. Parts then then proceed into the drying oven for a set time and then travel to be cooled off. After parts have cooled down to a set temperature in the cooling area, they are conveyed into the Parker Ionics powder paint booth (see sidebar above).

Personnel lifting platforms are used to accommodate the various sizes of products being manually painted, Moquin says. RFS finishes parabolic dishes that range in size from 1' to 12' in diameter as well as shroud assemblies, dehydrators and other support systems for the antennas. Different paint modules are used to collect and reclaim the different colors being applied.

“When the painting is completed, the operator pushes the release button to allow the product to advance into the cure oven for a specific amount of time vs. temperature to fully cure the powder paint. Then completed the product leaves the cure oven and advances to the unload station to removed,” says Moquin.

Since its installation, Moquin says that there have been zero rejects from the powder paint process. “We have excellent painters who have the experience to apply the correct thickness of powder paint consistently,” he says. Samples of the wash/treatment solution are sent out every two months for analysis and sample painted panels are sent through monthly for in-house mechanical testing, he adds. The company’s facilities department performs routine preventive maintenance on the equipment to make sure everything is ready to go. Parker Ionics’ Cole adds, “Pulse Power claims to reduce powder consumption between 10 to 25 percent, depending on the amount of Faraday cages on the customer’s parts.”

The systems house’s out-ofthe- box thinking along with Parker Ionics’ training and customer service has made powder coating the clear choice for Radio Frequency Systems.

Sharon spielman is editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine.  She can be reached via email at sspielman@powdercoating.org