Color plays critical role for manufacturer serving up coil coated architectural wall panels
April 2013 - New York Fashion Week runways were awash with head-to-toe vivid brights balanced against what Pantone LLC, Carlstadt, N.J., the world’s color authority, calls novel neutrals like dusk blue and jade green. But fashion designers aren’t the only ones taking their cues from Pantone’s Fashion Color Report Spring 2013. Valspar’s Coil and Extrusion Coatings Group, Dallas, also monitors color trends closely. “Paint colors follow fashion and automotive,” says Jeff Alexander, vice president of sales for Valspar’s Coil and Extrusion Coatings Group. “We’re seeing a demand this year for more vibrant colors.”
The Coil and Extrusion Coatings Group is a leader in coil and extrusion liquid coatings for North America with manufacturing facilities located worldwide. Part of Valspar’s Industrial Coatings Division, the group manufactures a variety of coil and extrusion coatings for markets that include HVAC, appliance, building and other OEM applications. The company’s coil coatings offer an environmentally friendly yet cost-effective way to paint thin sheets of steel or other metals.
Alexander says he also is seeing a rise in requests for coatings with solar reflectivity and improved weatherability, as well as coatings that can withstand transit abrasion and job site handling while enhancing the flexibility of metal panels for forming. Valspar’s primary coil coating products are created using fluoropolymer, silicone polyester and polyester resin technologies.
The paint company’s products caught the attention of Centria, Moon Township, Pa., when the commercial construction manufacturer performed a periodic review of its suppliers in the early 2000s. “We have had experience with all the major coil coating companies,” says Tom Horensky, director of purchasing for Centria. “It quickly became apparent to us that Valspar’s coil coatings supported our goals for producing high-performance, highly aesthetic architectural systems and building envelopes. Those systems represent the largest segment of our business, so it made sense to us to team up with a supplier who was top of the line in coil coatings.”
Centria provides a comprehensive line of exterior metal building products and services for commercial, institutional and industrial building applications. The company has developed cladding and roofing systems with unique thermal and moisture protection technology. In addition to coil coating and producing its own wall panel products, Centria also supplies coil coated services to manufacturers for use in appliances, furniture, engineering components and other finished goods.
The company primarily uses galvanized steel and some aluminum to manufacture custom-length, coil coated panels as short as 4 feet up to 50 feet and longer. Centria also has developed zinc and stainless steel panels, which are processed as bare substrates. “We coil coat the majority of our metal,” says Horensky. “The Valspar Fluropon family of products provides us the most trouble-free coating systems in the industry. We also experience a very low rate of quality problems. As a result, the yield we get on our metal is high while scrap is minimal.”
Valspar’s Fluropon coatings contain 70 percent proprietary polyvinylidene fluoride resins, ceramic pigments and other select inorganic pigments. The coating family gives Centria the color retention architects demand while resisting ultraviolet radiation, chalking and chemical degradation. Adhesion and flexibility support post-forming performance to enhance appearance over the life of the panel.
“We work on a molecular level to produce and enhance our own resins and pigments because we want to control our raw materials and processes from start to finish,” says Alexander. “We’re able to specially formulate our coil coating systems to run on Centria’s lines. These highly engineered products are subjected to accelerated weathering and rigorous field testing at our Fort Myers, Fla., test facility. As a result we’re able to minimize rejections for color, blistering or adhesion.”
“When a custom color is developed and shipped to us, it has to be exactly what we originally approved and what the architect had in mind,” says Horensky. “In our industry it is not unusual for companies to receive paint that isn’t the right color match and doesn’t work with the line. Because Valspar is able to get it right the first time, it allows us to eliminate downtime and rejects on our paint system. We also retain the window we need to perform the meticulous processing that gives architects and designers the high-performance custom work they are asking for without losing production time.”
Once metal is coated, Centria rewinds the coils and ships them to one of its manufacturing plants for fabrication into custom-length wall panels. “We don’t make cookie-cutter type products,” says Horensky. “Each project involves custom-sized coil coated panels. We work with standard widths [and custom widths]. Our product variable is the panel’s length.”
The aesthetics of the coating systems and the panels themselves is essential for Centria to meet the requirements of the architect involved in the design of a structure. Structures can range from stadiums, universities, hospitals and entertainment centers to NASCAR track facilities. Centria technicians work closely with architects to understand the project’s performance requirements, as well as their design concept and the visual impact of the finished structure. “Requirements might focus on panel performance, panels that can support a sustainable structure or aesthetics,” Horensky explains. “Color is critical. These people are artists, and it’s our job to meet their needs.”
Striking a balance
Once Centria receives a color swatch from the architect, the sample is sent to Valspar’s laboratory for matching. Color matches are then shared with the customer. “It takes Valspar technicians and our coil coating line experts working with the architect or designer until we get it right,” Horensky adds. “Valspar does a great job of matching colors for us.”
Color matching can be challenging. “Architects have their own ideas about the colors they want,” Horensky explains. “This year we are seeing requests for blues, oranges and greens, but our top 10 colors include a lot of silvers, whites, off-whites and earth tones. The predominant trend for us continues to be silver and whites. We have custom-matched at least 200 different shades of silver coatings that also had a requirement for reflectivity.” The company has seen a growing trend over the last decade for metallic paint systems.
In the realm of high-performance paints, extremely bright colors tend to make long life cycle performance requirements more difficult to achieve. Centria works to strike that ideal balance between appearance and performance, says Horensky.
Centria measures project volume in terms of pounds, linear feet of coil coated metal and square feet of panels shipped. Its Ambridge, Pa., coil coating line can support steel and aluminum from 18 inches to 48 inches wide and coil diameters up to 72 inches. Maximum coil weight is 30,000 pounds. The company’s second line in Cambridge, Ohio, can run steel in widths from 18 inches to 62.5 inches and aluminum in widths from 24 inches to 62.5 inches. Maximum coil diameter is 72 inches for both metals with a maximum coil weight of 40,000 pounds.
A small job may take just one truckload of panels while a construction project for a stadium could take more than 50 truckloads. Centria may have a few weeks to get material fabricated and shipped to the job site, or in the case of a large project like a power plant, several years.
Regardless of job size, Centria’s coil coating lines coupled with Valspar’s quick response time, allow the company to ramp up and meet customer time frames. “Our automated dispense systems mean we can make small or large quantities of paint for coil coating in virtually any color or shade in short order,” Alexander says.
In addition to following color trends, Centria is developing new metal panel systems. Fresh shapes, panel profiles and installation methods are being considered along with innovative ways to provide air and watertight panels with enhanced thermal and water penetration performance. “Our panel development goes hand-in-glove with paint,” says Horensky. “Our in-house coil lines coupled with Valspar’s expertise positions us to jointly develop new coating systems to fit innovative panel product development and introduction. We’re working with Valspar to develop new coatings for special applications like marine and corrosive environments. We also have systems that change color depending on your viewing angle of the metal.”
Valspar is investing $30 million to expand its Minneapolis-based research and development campus, which is expected to open next year. “We’re bringing together research chemists and engineers to support the need for ongoing innovation with customers like Centria,” Alexander says. The Minneapolis expansion, along with the recent opening of a second research and development center in China, will boost the company’s efforts to develop new breakthroughs in resin, pigment and application characteristics.
“That’s the great thing about working with people with imagination,” says Horensky. “We get to do something new every day.” MM
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