A Powder Line for the Long Haul

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

By: Sharon Spielman

This Oklahoma-based custom coater can finish parts up to 80-ft long. Find out what a leap of faith into the powder coating arena has done for the industries in mid-America when it comes to their super-size finishing needs.

Located in the American heartland, ABITL Finishing Inc. and ABITL Powder Coating LLC, Tulsa, Okla., serve a range of industries in the oil patch, including industrial, oil and gas, commercial, architectural, residential, automotive, metal fabricators, appliances, marine, specialty, aerospace, electronics and telecommunications.

Fifteen years ago, Mr. Gail Runnels of Select Ventures, took a leap of faith and founded ABITL (an acronym that stands for A Belief In The Lord) Finishing, setting up shop as a custom powder coater. Runnels says the company was formed because of the need for a high-speed, automated powder coating line in that region. Darren Brasiola, senior VP of operations at both ABITL companies, explains. “There are hundreds of painters in the region,” he says. “But there were not a lot of powder coating companies in the area at that time. Powder is cleaner and greener, so powder was the obvious choice for us. Powder set us apart from everybody else.”

Not only does powder set this custom coater apart, but the ability to accommodate the finishing of small, large and super-size parts does as well.

Humble Beginnings

At the outset, ABITL decided to install two lines: one batch line and one automated. The automated line originally was 1,600-ft. long, but in 2005 Runnels decided to add a cool-down run and a loading extension, expanding that line to 1,800 ft. The conveyor line begins with a seven-stage wash that utilizes PPG chemicals. A dry-off oven is next on the line, followed by twin automated 14-gun Nordson powder coating booths. This is followed by a manual Nordson touch-up station. Parts then proceed to a dual-stage curing oven. A now-defunct Indiana-based company called Finishing Systems Inc., built the wash line and the ovens for this line. “Although they are no longer in business, they did a fantastic job for us,” says Brasiola. “The dual-zone oven allows us to utilize one oven with temperature control on both sides,” he explains.

The original batch line, which is located in the same building (referred to as Facility 1, ABITL Finishing), started out at 24-ft. long. “But it wasn’t long before we had requests for 28-ft. parts,” Brasiola says. “So we extended it to 30 ft. That is as long as we could make it with the room we had to work with. It wasn’t long after that we got calls for 36- to 48-ft. parts.”

So, in the fall 2012, ABITL took another leap of faith and decided to super-size their operation. At the time, Runnels owned a 350,000 sq.-ft. tile manufacturing facility located about 15 highway-miles north of Facility 1 that happened to vacate. That building now houses four separate companies, one of which is ABITL’s 100,00 sq.-ft. Facility 2, which houses the super-size batch powder coating line, established in business as ABITL Powder Coating.

Realizing Their Vision

“If you wanted to paint a large part in this region of the country, you had to do exactly that—paint. We wanted to give the industries around us the option to powder coat large parts. We are in the oil patch, so the industries in our area include oilfield large heavy equipment, light poles, traffic signals and traffic sign structures,” Brasiola explains. He says those products either had to be shipped 1,500 miles to be powder coated, or they had to be liquid coated.

When ABITL set out to build this system, Brasiola says they contacted several of the large booth and oven manufacturers. “We had a design in mind,” he reveals. “We wanted an 80-ft. oven that could be shut down to four 20-ft. sections.” This must have sounded like a very tall—or long—order, because Brasiola says the first several companies he approached laughed at him and said it couldn’t be done.

“When we got in touch with TPI in Tennessee, though, they were more than happy to help us design the equipment,” Brasiola says. “They did a fantastic job.” And ABITL got exactly what they envisioned: an 80-ft. oven with slide doors every 20 ft. This way, if the whole oven is not needed, it can be customized to accommodate whatever size parts that need finishing. But at full capacity, ABITL is capable of coating parts that are 16 ft. x 14 ft. x 80 ft. “Essentially, if you can haul it to us, we can coat it,” Brasiola says.

This super-size batch line, which went online in 2013, begins with white blast. ABITL has the only job shop blast area in the region that is under a roof and capable of blasting parts as big as they can coat. “We blast while it’s raining, snowing or any weather conditions,” Brasiola says. They have a Wheelabrator in this facility as well. The blast is followed by a PPG steam iron phosphate, and then primer and topcoat is applied manually by operators using four Gema guns.

When asked what the biggest part they have coated so far was, Brasiola replied, “The largest—or at least the heaviest—part that we have coated so far is a large elbow for a highway sign. That part was close to 10,000 lbs., and if you take the bend out of it, it was close to 45 ft. long.” ABITL has also finished stair windings that wind from the first floor of a building with a large landing in the middle to the second floor. “We have coated complete anodizing lines as well—the overhead conveyor, structural beams, walk rails, etc. That’s a very caustic environment and required a zinc primer under the top coat,” Brasiola explains.

Although most of the parts they finish do not require any special masking, Brasiola says they use Preferred Tape Inc. for all of the high-heat tape needs and EPSI and Shercon plugs when needed.

Powders are specified by ABITL’s customers, but Brasiola says their main suppliers include Akzo Nobel, PPG IFS, Tiger Drylac, Sherwin-Williams and Axalta. “We stock no less than 20 different powder companies on our shelves, however,” Brasiola reveals. What does ABITL’s future hold? “We have looked at expanding into other states. That is always a possibility. If the work is there, we would definitely consider it, just as we would consider expanding our current capabilities should the need arise,” Brasiola concludes.

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