Posted on Friday, September 29, 2017

When this Michigan-based maker of high-design site furniture and advanced lighting systems was ready to expand with a new powder coating line, they turned to a familiar supplier.

Landscape Forms, Kalamazoo, Mich., is a leader in high-design site furniture and advanced lighting systems. Their products are found around the world on corporate, college and healthcare campuses as well as in transit centers, city centers, municipal facilities, parks and more. Benches, tables, chairs, litter and recycling receptacles, outdoor power pedestals/charging stations, terrace furniture, sunshades, bike racks, bollards, shelters and planters are among the many products that the company designs, fabricates and finishes.

Landscape Forms adheres to strict sustainability standards and practices in their products, processes, programs and facilities. For nearly 20 years, powder coating has played a large part in the company’s commitment to sustainability.

“About 90 percent of our total product offerings incorporate aluminum or steel and are powder coated,” says Rush Burpee, manufacturing engineer at Landscape Forms. “We’re committed to the environmental and the sustainable benefits of powder coating. Powder also provides our products and customers with unmatched durability.”

Landscape Forms’ clients include familiar brand leaders such as Boeing, Cisco Systems, Disney, Sprint, American Airlines, Herman Miller and Nike. Customers are typically landscape architects who specify Landscape Forms products on their projects.

“All of our products are made to order for customers who choose their colors, so quick color-change capability is key to our process,” notes Burpee.

Decades of Experience in Powder Coating

When products are outdoors 24/7 all year, with a lifespan of a decade or more, the powder coating finish better be tough. The system and equipment that apply those powder coatings better be just as reliable.

No strangers to powder coating, Burpee and Group Leader Adam Dintaman recall Landscape Forms using Nordson equipment as far back as 1999. “Our product offerings were expanding and we had more complex product geometries,” said Dintaman. “We used Nordson Tribomatic® spray guns in a competitor’s booth. They gave us good penetration into Faraday cage areas and good wrap.”

In 2008, Landscape Forms upgraded to Nordson’s high-density, low-velocity color-on-demand system for increased production and fast color-change capability.

In 2015, when Landscape Forms planned to move its powder coating operation from their headquarters to a new 200,000 sq-ft facility at the Midlink Business Park in Kalamazoo, they contacted Nordson about the company’s powder coating technologies. “We had a long history with Nordson and were really interested in their Lean Cell® system,” says Burpee.

Working with Nordson Powder System Specialist Mike Riley and system integrator Midwest Finishing Systems, Landscape Forms decided on a complete, engineered system consisting of the following Nordson equipment:

  • Primer Booth: Lean Cell booth, two gun positioners with oscillators, 12 Encore HD automatic spray guns, two Encore HD handguns and iControl 2 controller
  • Silver/Metallic Booth: Lean Cell booth, four Encore HD handguns
  • Color Booth: Lean Cell booth, paint kitchen, four Encore HD color-on-demand handguns
  • Batch Booth: Vantage 6000 feed center, Encore LT handgun with cup kit

The move to the new facility and installation of the new powder coating line started in July 2015, production testing began in January 2016, and the system became fully operational in February 2016.

“The collaboration between Nordson and Midwest Finishing Systems on our environmental room and the entire system was great,” says Burpee. “Even with so many components, Nordson was able to put together a quote and pricing information and get it to us in a very timely manner. Nordson was there throughout the installation with any kind of support we needed.”

According to Tim Wooley, director of operations at Landscape Forms, the powder line consists of a 4'' I-beam monorail.  “We run the line at 8 fpm, and it is a three-pass system—meaning we can apply three different coats of powder with one pass through the system.” Everything that Landscape Forms coats is either e-coated or anodized, so the company uses a basic alkaline wash followed by three fresh water rinses, the final rinse being a virgin RO halo, according to Wooley.

The gas-fired convection cure ovens were manufactured by Midwest. “We selected and designed these ovens to handle our wide range of substrates and part geometries,” Wooley says.

To ensure that their products can endure the tough environments where they are used, the company must remain diligent in all parts of the process, including after parts have been finished. “We conduct a variety of our own testing in house—corrosion, QUV, xenon arc, adhesion, etc.—as well as have strong partnerships with our vendors to ensure our materials and process are robust,” Wooley says.

Aiming for Perfect Form

The increased efficiencies Landscape Forms has experienced since installing the new line have exceeded expectations. “The new line gives us the capacity to run more products,” says Burpee. “And we’re running about 70 percent faster than before.” Depending on the type and size of the product, Landscape Forms can place between one to five products on a skid. Today, they produce from 500 to 1,000 skids per day, compared to 150 to 300 skids per day with the previous system.

“We’re putting about 20 percent more powder on the product at faster line speeds than in the past, and achieving better transfer efficiency. As a result, we feel our overall product quality is better,” Dintaman says. “Our color change time is also down to about 60 seconds from four minutes.”

With regard to the new equipment on the powder line, operators are giving rave reviews about the handguns. According to Burpee, operators like the gun’s light weight and that the handle position is comfortable. In addition, there’s more interfacing with the handguns and their on-gun controls.

The powder booths are at grade/floor level rather than up on platforms like old-style cartridge booths, which is safer for operators. Operators spray directly into the collector.

They can spray more powder volume with less velocity, achieving better powder containment, less airborne material and less cross contamination.

Landscape Forms only reclaims powder in the primer application, since numerous color changes in the color booth makes reclaim difficult.

“Again, spraying toward the collector allows us to easily collect waste powder into the hopper for removal, as opposed to the old booths, where we needed to scoop out and clean out the hoppers that were below,” says Dintaman.

Engineered for Success

Overall, Landscape Forms is pleased with the installation and the ease with which the new powder line operates. “This engineered system has all the equipment and components operating the way we intended them to be used. We also have more equipment, grade-level booths, better reclaim, more ease-of-use, in a line that is more efficient and more foolproof,” Burpee explains.

Adds Dintaman, “When you look at the size and scope of what we just installed in our new facility, we expect to be using this equipment for the next 10 years.”

Founded in 1969, Landscape Forms is a privately held company. With 400 employees, Landscape Forms was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 15 Small Workplaces in the United States.

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