Inside Look: High-Performance Conveyor Line Coating Applications at AIC

Want a real look at our line?  Skip down to the end of the article for the video of our line.

What type of work do you do?

The parts that we coat on our conveyor line vary widely – we do wah wah pedals, for example, often 5,000 of those in a single day.  And for those we do colors, usually black wrinkle but also very specific colors like candy apple red or purple.  We have electrical boxes that we do in bright yellow – for safety.  We also coat computer shelving, earthquake retrofit parts.

We put Glyde Coat (AIC’s proprietary lubricious coating – a cost-efficient powder PTFE blend) on the earthquake retrofit parts so that they can slide as a building moves.  We put the same coating on wheelchair parts so the seat can slide up and down easily.  It’s a coating that is slippery but also hard and durable.

On our conveyor line we also do very high level parts – for major auto manufacturers, for example.  We do the parts and then the paperwork that goes with those parts – PFMEAs, PPAP reports. And, of course, custom travelers.

We can process runs from 200 parts up to 10,000 – and we can get that done in a day or a day and a half.  It’s a quick turnaround.

 

Is there something different about the line itself?

Starting out, our line was like a lot of other conveyor lines for coating applications, but over the years we have developed it quite a bit, and so we’re really proud of what it can do.

It’s a 465-foot line, made by IPE.  We’ve really perfected the wash cycle, which is a four-stage iron phosphate wash.  The the final rinse – the DI rinse – the parts per million are so minimal that the parts are incredibly clean – just one or two parts per million.

In terms of maintenance, we do daily, weekly and monthly maintenance.  We have found that our commitment to rigorous maintenance has really paid off – because there’s nothing worse than having a problem pop up in the middle of a run.

In the spray booth we have a coater on either side, and we rotate our coaters out about every two hours.  You don’t want a coater to get tired, and we want them to stay fresh.  We also pipe in cool air into the coaters’ suits.  People come into our shop on days that it is hot and think – look at those poor guys in the suits, they must be miserable, but actually it’s just the opposite.  They have nice cool air coming into their suits to keep them comfortable.

We have a reclaim booth for high volume, ongoing jobs, so we are able to reclaim coating in those situations and lower costs.

Our oven temperature is established by the coating manufacturer, but also by us and our knowledge of the substrate and the coating.  We do a custom set-up sheet for every part, and on that sheet we define all the aspects of the process including the oven temperature and time.

 

How do you maintain quality on extremely high volumes of parts?

On our line, everybody is quality.  The person hanging the parts is looking for quality.  The person blowing the water off is quality too.  Sometimes we’ll have a person on the outside of the booth with a flashlight to look for bare or heavy spots, so that we can catch that part before it goes into the oven.  We’re committed to the idea that anybody can stop the line.  It needs to be a real quality issue, but anybody can stop the line – and over time that has made a big difference in assuring efficiency and great quality.

When we are running a brand new job out there, I like to have the customer there on the day of the very first run.  Sometimes they will see things, catch things, and so we can see things together right away and take care of them right away.

Over the years, we have realized that contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to run Class A parts on a conveyor line.  We have done light colors that are really difficult to do, but we take the time to wash down the floors, stick to our process and eliminate contamination so we can get great results.