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Boost Flexibility, Quality, and More with IntelliFinishing

Posted on Monday, July 27, 2020

Manufacturing Resources International designs, engineers and fabricates BoldVu® LCD displays, maintaining the industry’s largest install base of outdoor LCDs with deployments in over 50 cities around the globe. 

However, MRI had one central challenge – the company’s powder coating was outsourced, leading to critical inefficiencies. To solve this problem, MRI turned to IntelliFinishing, which provided an automated powder coating system for the company that elevated every aspect of MRI’s operations. 

The Challenge: Long Lead Times, Inconsistent Quality
Owner Bill Dunn said MRI’s problem was a simple, yet weighty one.

Because the powder coating of critical parts for the company’s LCD displays was outsourced, Dunn said wait times for parts to return to MRI’s shop floor were becoming excessive, and the quality of the finished product wasn’t consistent with the expectations of MRI’s client base.

“I was looking for a way to take my powder coating in-house,” Dunn said. “My clients have high quality standards, and we needed quicker turnaround. My vendors providing powder coating had a lot of quality issues, and it was taking at least four weeks for parts to return to our shop floor.”

Another obstacle was the size of the parts MRI manufactures. Many total about eight feet in length, with some reaching up to 20 feet long. So, if MRI was to bring their finishing in-house, they needed a system to handle a wide variety of parts from small and thin to very tall parts, to very long and wide parts.

Simply put, MRI needed a faster, more consistent finish on their parts, and therefore an automated powder coating line with a very flexible conveyor and process system that would operate in a tight footprint, partially in their existing facility and partially in an addition added to their facility.

A Custom IntelliFinishing Solution
"I looked at several traditional systems when I considered IntelliFinishing. Although IntelliFinishing’s initial price was a little higher than the alternatives, when you consider it from a cost-per-square-foot basis, as well as for its ability to do far more than the other systems, it was actually the least costly for me, saving me a ton of room for other processes,” Dunn said.

To meet MRI’s unique needs, IntelliFinishing designed, engineered and built a high-quality automated finishing system with shuttle capabilities. See the MRI system in action in this video.

The system can handle parts up to 20’ long by 5’ wide by 8’ tall, and up to 800 pounds per loadbar. While these dimensions are its largest part option, usually it handles parts that are much smaller and lighter with common sizes being 6’ to 8’ feet long by 4’ wide and about 6” deep.

This flexibility allows all of their part sizes to move through their three-stage wash, energy-efficient drying ovens, through a powder coating booth and into one of two cure ovens. Each carrier of parts is assigned a recipe at load that is unique to the type of parts loaded. Due to this recipe capability, the part finish is optimized for the part and powder being applied without the usual compromises of chain based finishing systems. Also, quality and energy savings are enhanced due to the lack of a chain that can introduce contaminants, dripping lubricants, and heat absorption/transfer.

“All of your moving parts are well above and outside of the wash. They are well above and outside of the ovens. They don’t get hot. They don’t get dirty. We haven’t had the system that long but so far, it’s been maintenance free.”

The system includes two shuttles, and each passes through a set of system-integrated sliding doors to move from inside the main building into an adjacent space constructed for the wash and oven equipment.

To facilitate loading, MRI decided to add an integrated system lift. The lift helps them hang up to 20 of their 4’ x 8’ product frames and in two sets of ten per carrier, each in a horizontal position and suspended from one another to maximize part density. As each frame is attached, they lift the hung frames just a few inches and then attach the next frame. Once all frames are attached, the lift takes the whole set of parts up to system height, in line with the conveyor and then moves the set of frames to the first shuttle for transport to the wash lane on the other side of the system.

Not only does the system give MRI the finishing quality and volume capacities they were looking for, they also use the system to thoroughly clean and dry their critical non-finished parts. For this process, MRI loads these parts, runs them through their 3-stage wash and a dry off oven, but then routes those carriers back to the unload station without passing through the powder coating booth or final cure ovens. This was a process that was previously done completely by hand, thus saving an abundance of labor, and providing much more consistency and cleaner parts for their high-tech LCD screens.

Finally, MRI also uses their curing ovens, on occasion, to harden selected aluminum parts by cooking them overnight at high temperatures. This is called precipitation hardening.

According to Dunn, one of the most impressive aspects with the installation of the new powder coating system was how professional IntelliFinishing was relative to all the projects he has been involved in historically and during this most recent expansion.

“We just went through an 83,000 sq. ft. expansion. We have added north of $10M in new capital equipment. Again, without hesitation or question, the IntelliFinishing crew, process – they were hands down the best to work with. Very efficient. Very thorough. Very easy to work with. It was amazingly smooth and painless.”

A High-Performance System Ready to Boost Efficiency for Years to Come

The addition of an IntelliFinishing system has brought a wide range of benefits to MRI’s operation, including:

     · Consistent, high-quality finish on the frames, bases and backs of LCD displays that allows them to withstand harsh outdoor conditions for years.

     · Elimination of traditional chain methods, allowing for each carrier to have its own finish recipe and path through the system.

     · A system that takes up half the space of quoted alternative options with greatly increased process flexibility.

     · Ability to process parts as needed on a day-by-day basis, keeping up with fabrication and assembly, thus providing JIT manufacturing.

     · Near-total elimination of finishing-based rejects.

“I use the IntelliFinishing system as a ‘closer’ for when prospects for our LCD monitors come to look over our plant. Just like us, it’s high-tech and high quality.”

You can hear Bill Dunn’s complete thoughts on his IntelliFinishing system here.