A Blast Into Powder Coating

Posted on Monday, April 4, 2016

By: Sharon Spielman

When a mobile blasting company saw so much of its product having to be outsourced to be finished, the owners decided to expand the operation, enter the powder coating finishing industry, and become a custom coater itself.

What began as a family-owned mobile blasting company in 2010 is now a full-service custom coating company. According to Cory McCabe, co-owner and vice president at Memphis, Tenn.-based Prime Restoration, the company started as a family-owned mobile blasting company that has evolved into a full-fledged custom coater that now does business under the name Prime Powder Coating & Abrasive Blasting. Suzann McCabe, Prime’s majority owner and president of the company, and David McCabe, the owner of McCabe Construction Co., who does business in the residential and commercial insurance industry, helped to get the business up and running by supporting the system for removing smoke and soot from framing and timber in burned out homes.

Cory McCabe explains, “Our blasting then expanded and opened up to the automotive and industrial markets where we were removing paint from cars, prepping steel and structures for coating. We were seeing so much product leave the facility to be coated somewhere else that we knew we were missing the biggest piece of the puzzle in our operation—the coating.” He goes on to say that they had always had a fascination with powder coating and knew there was a market with the growing popularity and demand for high quality finished products with a fast turn-around. “We knew that powder coating was the most environmentally safe way to apply durable coatings with a quick turnaround without releasing negligible amounts of VOCs into the atmosphere.”

Prime decided to start with its batch operation, which consists of a 25-foot downdraft spray booth and a 25' x 12' x 12' curing oven. “Our blasting processes went hand in hand with the batch operation, giving products the best possible surface to be coated,” McCabe says. Not long after the batch operation was up and running, Prime began its plans to design a new powder coating line with the help of Diversified Finishing Systems. “We have grown tremendously over the past five years from having only two employees to now having 15. And we project to add seven more positions in the next year,” he reports.

Game-Changing Expansion

Prime Powder Coating & Abrasive Blasting cut the ribbon on their new 8,200-sq.-ft. addition and stateof-the-art, 700 lineal foot powder coating line at the beginning of February 2016.

“The expansion of our operation was vital. With only being able to support portions of the customer powder coating needs, the production line allows us to fulfill an entire order vs. a partial order. It was a game changer, no doubt,” McCabe says.

The original East Facility at Prime is 3,200 sq. ft. and can accommodate parts up to 25 ft. long and 12 ft. high. For large parts that are not open to chemical pretreatment, Prime’s media blasting operation follows the SSPC standards to ensure every part is properly cleaned and prepped for coating applications. The company offers a range of blasting capabilities to tailor to just about every job. “Our blast wash system is one of most effective surface preparation options available,” according to McCabe. And the 25-ft. spray booth with 10 ft.-wide door openings gives Prime the capability to run large size parts.

But as any manufacturer knows, logistics and time lines play huge roles in day-to-day or even night-to-night operations, making Prime an ideal place for coating parts. “We also know that our customer demands precision in labeling, shipping and counting parts, which is cumbersome to a small-scale operation,” McCabe says.

The growing popularity and demand for high quality durable coatings was also a major influence in the decision to expand. “We wanted to be able to accommodate several different industries and accommodate various parts and part sizes,” he says.

All of these factors led Prime to open its West Facility, which features a three-stage washer, manual coating booth and digitally controlled dry-off and curing oven. With the help of Tom Braden and Don Burger at Diversified Finishing Systems, the equipment was chosen based on Prime’s specific needs.

Stage 1 of the 60-ft. stainless washer from George Koch Sons LLC provides a phosphorous-free, single-package, cleaner and pretreatment. “This enhances the performance of subsequently-applied organic liquid and powder coatings,” says McCabe. This is followed by a rinsing stage and then another rinse or optional sealer.

The 1,075 sq.-ft. direct gas-fired convection style combination dryoff/cure oven is designed and manufactured by Col-Met Engineered Finishing Solutions. It has 6" insulated walls and a 2" insulated floor

The Nordson Excel 2002 powder booth, along with Parker Ionics and Gema box-fed units, complete the line, which operates at 6 feet per minute. This new line allows Prime to finish a theoretical part size of 60" x 30" x 84".

Prime tailors to every part with multiple racking options for parts large and small. As for masking, Prime does have masking requirements. “Mighty Hook and Caplugs have been our go-to suppliers,” McCabe says. There are some products that require more intricate masking than others, though, and that is when manual masking is required. “For example,” he says, “we have had products that we have run on production that require a two-tone finish and some parts that require no paint in certain areas at all. When the instances come up it is vital to our customers that these needs are met to ensure there are no issues when these parts are put into the field and or assembled for end use.”

The expansion has allowed Prime to open its doors to new clients that have a demand for high-volume powder coating. “We have been able to reach out to more of those types of customers, whereas in the past we could not,” McCabe explains. “With the additional capacity, we are able to offer faster turnaround times on large scale orders. Having these capabilities also allows our large batch operation to also have a faster turnaround time.”

Prime Evolution

What began with a five-unit fleet of blasting rigs—which are used-in house every day for surface preparation at Prime and are all set up to go mobile—has evolved into something much bigger. McCabe says that Prime offers a range of specialty field coatings as well and that they use their machines, from MMLJ Manufacturing in Houston, to remove old coatings and to prep surface prior to applying coatings. “Our blasting service has played a major role in our company and has helped us to grow into the company we are today.” And that company is one that gives back to its community. Prime has helped in the restoration of playground equipment for local park conservancies, assisted in the coating of statues and public displays around the city, rendered their service to local historic neighborhood committees by removing unwanted graffiti from underpasses in and around their community, and they also support the needs of food distribution plants around the city and with the manufacturers who still require industrial liquid finishes.

So when McCabe says, “We value productivity, quality, cost effectiveness, environmental friendliness, and of course the needs of our customers,” believe him. “With our expansion we are better able to uphold these values and we hope that while we grow, we are able to help our customers’ businesses grow, too.”

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