The installation of a new powder coating
system brings speed, material savings
and efficiency to this Midwestern steel
and aluminum fabricating facility.
Edited By Sharon Spielman
When it comes to metal fabrication, L&W Engineering
in Middlebury, Ind., is said to be one of
the best in the business. With humble beginnings
in 1975, L&W has experienced significant growth in the
past 40 years, now building quality parts for a multitude
of unique customers and earning annual sales in the $40
million range. The company is able to assist customers in
every stage of the process—from research and development
(R&D) to packaging and delivery.
“The level of flexibility we have in our capabilities at
this facility allows us to work with thousands of unique
parts,” says Jamie Peck, director of engineering. “We really
pride ourselves on building a quality product. You know
what you are getting is going to be built with quality and
integrity, and we can provide service for that product if
Braced for the RV Market
One of the largest industries that L&W serves is recreational
vehicles (RVs). Here, among other products, they
design functional and secure TV brackets of all types. The
L&W team works with OEMs on a daily basis—with each
OEM in search of different bracket styles based on their
The typical production process begins with a schematic
of what the part will look like, after which it is checked
by the R&D team to ensure that it will meet the required
performance characteristics. The L&W team then creates a
part profile that is bent and welded by machine or by hand.
Once the part is fabricated, it is powder coated, packaged
and shipped— all done in-house at the L&W facility. The
company powder coats more than 90 percent of the parts it
manufactures, some of which are coated for aesthetics and
some for durability.
“We like to think of our TV brackets as ‘earthquake
proof,’” says L&W President Roger Huffman. “Our engineering team produces product that locks into place, so the
customer is confident that when they head down the road,
it is secure and will perform as expected.”
Powder coating is an integral part of the fabrication
process at L&W. For years, the company went outside to
have its powder coating needs met. In 2014, they began
looking at ways to improve their overall process and the
benefits of outfitting their facility with in-house powder
“We were in search of better control of our lead time
and response time moving products through.” Peck says.
“Our industry is a very quick one. We don’t always have a
lot of time to turn things around. Sometimes, our customers
want their parts in a day. That was one of the key
benefits we considered in-house powder coating—faster
L&W has experienced significant growth in the past 40 years, now
building quality parts for a multitude of unique customers. The company
is able to assist customers in every stage of the process—from
R&D to packaging and delivery.
No two days are the same at L&W’s 250,000-squarefoot
facility. L&W had several objectives in mind for its
investment: reclaim powder, increase line speed, and
achieve faster color change and repeatable coverage. They
contacted Midwest Finishing Systems to help them put together
a turnkey system that would suit their needs. They went with a five-stage pretreatment process. Stage one is an
alkaline cleaner; stages two and three are rinses; the fourth
stage is a Zirconium spray; and the fifth and final stage is a
Halo mist rinse using in-house RO water. Peck says all of
their chemicals are purchased through Lincoln Chemical.
For the powder booth itself, Midwest worked closely
with Nordson Corporation, Amherst, Ohio, to help L&W
react to its customers request for various colors while keeping
the changeover time to a minimum.
To help the fabricator reach its goals, Nordson recommended
its latest automated booth system—the ColorMax® 2
quick color change powder spray system. A fully integrated
system, it incorporates:
- An iControl® integrated control system for closed-loop
digital control of the system, used in tandem with a
PLC-based lean recipe selector (LRS) for automatic
selection of spray settings.
- Twenty Encore® automatic spray guns for precise,
- An Encore powder feed center to maximize powder
usage and recovery.
- Easy-to-clean steel twin cyclones to facilitate complete
cleaning of all surfaces.
- Manual spray platforms on each side of the booth use
two manual spray guns for touch up to Faraday
The system is optimized for efficient, repeatable powder
application and fast, contamination-free color change.
Numerous system features help to minimize powder in
process and aid in system cleaning—providing the ability
to change colors quickly. The fully integrated design of the
system substantially reduces downtime and material waste
for improved productivity.
The company is able to change colors in a
timely matter since installing its new powder
coating system. These brackets for the RV
market have been powder coated and are
ready to be packaged for delivery.
The integrated control system in combination with
the LRS offers an automated method for identifying parts.
It provides the control unit with a part preset number, without flagging every part type. This
allows standard part presets to be
associated with a user-configurable
grouping of similar part sizes. This lets
the operator select a color group manually
to be used in conjunction with a
recognized part type.
“That’s the thing about this industry,”
says Huffman. “You never know
what product will come down the line
next. The flexibility of the Nordson
system has allowed us to be prepared
Midwest outfitted the line with
a gas-fired oven for curing. Because
L&W is a fabricator, they are able to
design and manufacture specialized
racking for some of their parts right in
house, but Peck says they have been
using Mighty Hook for their standard
hooks and racks as well as their masks
and plugs, as many of the parts they
make need to be masked for finishing.
New System, New Opportunities
Since the installation of its new
finishing system, L&W Engineering
has seen substantial improvements in
overall line flow. Prior to installation,
suppliers worked with the fabricator
to determine the cost based on their
unique requirements and production
Before the system was installed,
L&W sent drivers back and forth to
outside powder coaters two to three
times a week to deliver and collect
parts. Having capabilities in-house
allows the company to achieve 40 percent
to 50 percent higher productivity.
It has also resulted in better customer
service and a quicker response time.
“The overall flow from powder
coating to packaging and assembly has
greatly improved. It’s less cumbersome
for our workers,” says Peck. “We have
seen about 20 to 30 percent time savings
in comparison to outsourcing.”
Quick color change has been one
of the biggest benefits of system,
with the process of switching from
black to white powder taking just 10
minutes. L&W is also impressed with
the amount of material reclaim being
achieved, which Huffman and Peck
estimate to be about 95 percent.
Peck says that the great benefits
provided by this system are far worth
the cost. “When you buy a Nordson
system, you are getting a whole lot
more than what you think you’re getting,” he says, referencing the
company’s 24/7 customer service.
“When expert advice is needed, (they
are) always on-hand to help with any
questions and concerns.”
Sharon Spielman is editor of Powder Coated
Tough magazine. She can be reached via
email at email@example.com.
For more on the companies mentioned in this article, visit their web sites:
Lincoln Chemical Corp.
Midwest Finishing Systems Inc.