Aluminum extruder expands capabilities with state-of-the-art finishing equipment
May 16, 2017 - National aluminum extruder Gateway Extrusions, Union, Missouri, recently invested in a new vertical powder coat paint finishing line, which is now installed, tested and in full operation. The new system enables Gateway to process longer profiles more efficiently and faster than its previous horizontal paint line, and enables the company to serve a broader array of markets.
"Many customers need the longer profile lengths and with this state-of-the-art powder coating line, we can deliver faster and with greater quality the finished extrusion products our customers want and need," said Tom Ziegler, President of Operations for Gateway Extrusions. "The new vertical paint line allows Gateway to handle lineals up to 25 ft., compared with 18 ft. with our old equipment."
The new vertical powder coat paint system offers many advantages. It provides more efficient application of powder, with greater consistent overall coverage and minimal waste. Gateway has increased throughput two to three times over its previous horizontal paint line, running one shift with 10 employees, compared to two shifts with 16 employees on the old line. This has significantly improved productivity and enabled Gateway to reassign employees to other areas where they are needed. The system also allows rapid color changes to minimize downtime and overspray. Following paint application, extrusions pass through a two-stage drying oven, where the metal pieces are warmed in an infrared oven before entering the bake oven. This results in a harder finish than a single-stage bake oven.
Gateway's new paint equipment, acquired after extensive research, represents a collaboration between several notable suppliers to provide the entire system. "We were very impressed with the innovation, engineering, and customization our suppliers brought to this project," said Ziegler. "They worked together very effectively to bring our new equipment online, on budget and ahead of schedule."
The profile handling equipment, which includes the conveyors, pre-treatment booth, dry-off oven, and infrared pre-warming and powder paint bake ovens, was supplied by ABD Equipment Company, based in China. ABD has supplied hundreds of systems internationally and has recently introduced its equipment in the US.
Bulk Chemicals of Reading, Pa., designed the chrome-free pre-treatment wash system to minimize chemical usage and maximize the effectiveness of cleaning and preparing the surface of the aluminum profiles to accept the powder paint. The supplier customized its pre-treatment solutions to work very effectively with ABD's waterfall application system.
International manufacturer Gema of Switzerland supplied the powder application equipment, considered the industry's most advanced, including the vertical track spray gun array and automation software to control paint application. The Gema guns use an electro-magnetic field to sense the aluminum profiles in order to charge the powder paint in real-time, ensuring a highly effective and optional finishing application.
Gateway Extrusions' new paint line features Gema spray application equipment.
Both Sherwin Williams and PPG supply the powder paint, formulated specifically for the new equipment. All Gateway extrusions are finished to meet AAMA 2604 durability performance criteria, and the higher performance standard of AAMA 2605 is also available with the new paint line.
Gateway's paint line is designed with environmental sensitivity as well as effectiveness. The powder reclamation system is engineered for high efficiency. The powder coating booths are equipped with rolling curtains and engineered vacuum chambers that ensure maximum powder re-utilization, with minimal waste. The paint line also features a state-of-the-art real-time water management system to manage pH levels, outflow rate, and temperature to ensure all local environmental requirements are continuously met.
Installation of the new equipment required the construction of a new 50 ft. high building addition to Gateway's existing facility to accommodate the vertical components of the system. Removal of the old paint line equipment and creation of a new shipping area in the front of the factory allows a more efficient flow of materials and products through the building. The overall investment in new plant and equipment was several million dollars.
The new vertical paint line is part of a multi-phase expansion plan for Gateway. In 2015, Gateway purchased its 129,000-ft2 production plant that it had been leasing in the Union Industrial Park, as well as adjacent properties. The company also purchased a new 7 in. extrusion press to upgrade existing equipment. The following year, Gateway expanded capabilities with the purchase and installation of a second press to accommodate 9 in. extrusions. Future plans include construction of new office space, additional exterior driveways, paved parking areas, and new landscaping.