Monthly Archives: February 2016

Get The Best Finish From Your Powder Spray Booth With These Five Tips

powder spray booth trainingWant to get the absolute best finish possible when powder coating? Whether you just invested in a new coating system or you want to improve the performance of your existing powder spray booth and powder gun, here are five great tips to help you get the most out of your equipment and improve your finish quality.

Before You Start Powder Coating, Make Sure Your Parts Are Clean

No matter what you are powder coating, if your part has any residue, grit, grime, rust, oil or dirt on it, your powder coating quality will suffer. Anything left behind on your parts can cause your powder coating to crack, bubble or flake during the curing process, so you need to make sure every part is clean BEFORE you apply the powder. Whether you need a simple detergent wash and rinse, abrasive blasting and wipe-down, or a multi-stage phosphatizing pretreatment option (check the Reliant’s equipment here), don’t skimp on parts prep. The number one thing that assures a quality powder coated finish is parts cleanliness. (For more on getting your parts clean, read Bruce’s article on pretreatment here)

Make Sure The Parts In Your Powder Spray Booth Have Good Ground

Powder coating is easier to do than wet paint, primarily because the powder sticks to the part as it is applied. That’s because the particles from the powder gun are charged, and your part in the powder spray booth is grounded. The powder is attracted to the part and will form a uniform layer if it is applied with a bit of skill. If you find the powder doesn’t want to stick, or you’re having trouble getting the powder to go on uniformly, make sure your parts are properly grounded. We always recommend using a ground rod that can be connected to your rack, hook or directly to the part– and in some locations you may need a ground rod of 8’-10’ to get best results. (See our article on proper grounding for more information.)

Buy High Quality Powder And Store It Correctly

Fresh powder should be fluffy and without clumps. Storing powder in areas that are hot and humid can quickly cause the powder to become moist and clotted, so find a way to keep your powder dry and relatively cool. Reclose open powder containers promptly to prevent contamination. If you have a good ground and your gun is set up properly, you shouldn’t have a bunch of powder hitting the floor while you spray.

Remember, all powders are not created equal! While all powders have a certain amount of inert filler material, inexpensive powders often have much more of it. Just because a powder costs less doesn’t mean it is the best value. If you want better finishes, buy the best powder you can afford and take care of it.

Give Your Painters The Best Light To See Their Work

Keep your powder spray booth’s light fixtures clean and keep them supplied with fresh wide-spectrum bulbs that are designed for paint booth use. If you have bulbs that are burned out, replace them! It’s amazing how many shops have booths with light fixtures that are caked with powder. Instead of coaters working in light that is about the same quality as sunlight, they’re stuck spraying with green or red or blue light glaring out of fixtures that haven’t been cleaned in months. Problems can also happen in shops that use cheap bulbs that have a warm, off-white color that’s very unlike natural sunlight. Spend the money on wide-spectrum bulbs that have a high color temperature and mimic natural sunlight. This gives coaters a chance to more accurately assess and match colors. Keep the booth clean and the bulbs fresh so they can see fine details and turn out better quality work.

Check And Change The Filters On Your Powder Spray Booth Regularly

If your filters are damaged or clogged, you won’t get good results from your powder spray booth. Almost all booths work on the same principle—air is drawn into the booth from the shop, travels across the part, goes into filters, and then is either returned to the shop or discharged into the outside environment. When filters begin to clog, they put more stress on the exhaust fan. The fan doesn’t perform as well, and less air moves through the booth. This can cause problems with visibility inside the booth and can impact the quality of the finish being applied. Damaged filters can cause the airflow through the booth to change unpredictably. They are often the result of improper handling or poor maintenance. Once the booth’s filters are damaged, you’ll probably end up having to clean the booth’s exhaust system from one end to the other to prevent an on-going problem.

Reliant’s recommended filter change schedule will help you keep your powder spray booth in the best shape.

If you are using a Reliant Finishing Systems powder spray booth, you probably have a three stage spray-to-waste filter system that uses a blanket, a set of polyester “cube”  or bag type filters and a set of true HEPA final filters in metal frames. Alternatively, you may have an array of cartridge filters and a set of panel type final filters. In our standard spray-to-waste booths there are three filters you need to check:

A) The blanket filter is the first line of defense and usually lasts between 3 days and 2 weeks. This filter media is very inexpensive. As a general rule, trying to vacuum and reuse the filter is unwise.

IMPORTANT: Never spray the blanket filter with compressed air in an attempt to dislodge powder trapped in it—you’ll damage the filter and ruin the other filters in the booth if you try to reuse it! Just cut off a new section of filter and replace it once it is clogged.

B) The cube-shaped bag filters are located directly behind the blanket filter. Depending on how often you use the powder spray booth, you’ll typically need to change the bag filters once every 2-4 months. They can collect up to several pounds of powder, which will make them distort and stop working properly. Make sure to service them before the wire frames inside them warp and powder begins to go around them and directly into the HEPA filters! You can vacuum out the bag filters to extend their service life, but remember to take them out of the booth first. We recommend that whenever you replace the blanket filter that you remove, clean and then rotate the bag filters 90° before reinstalling them. This serves to even out the wear and will significantly increase the life of the filters.

IMPORTANT: Never spray the bag filters with compressed air in an attempt to dislodge powder trapped in them—you’ll damage the filters and ruin the HEPA filters in the booth if you try to reuse them!

C) The HEPA filters are the last filtration step before venting the booth’s exhaust back into the shop environment. If your other filters have been cleaned regularly, the HEPA filters should last about 1,000 hours – which works out to anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half in most powder shops. These filters can’t effectively be vacuumed without damaging them. It is possible to gently tap a clogged filter’s frame while holding the filter with the intake side pointed down at the floor and dislodge a small amount of powder. This can be repeated a few times to extend the filter’s life slightly.

IMPORTANT: Never spray the HEPA filters with compressed air in an attempt to dislodge powder trapped in them—you’ll ruin them instantly!

In our standard booths that use cartridge filtration there are two filters to check:

A) The cartridge filters are typically cylindrical filters that have a pleated fibrous exterior. They are the first filtration step before venting the booth’s exhaust back into the shop environment, and they do the bulk of the work. All of Reliant’s cartridge systems use pulsed air cleaning to periodically discharge built up powder from the outside of the filters. If it has been set up and maintained properly, the cartridge filters should last 1,000 to 2,000 hours – which works out to anywhere from 6 months to three years in most powder shops. These filters can’t effectively be vacuumed without the risk of damaging them. Also, it is possible to accidentally damage cartridge filters by using compressed air that is dirty, oily or wet to supply the pulse cleaning nozzles.

IMPORTANT: Never remove and spray the cartridge filters with compressed air in an attempt to dislodge powder trapped in them—you’ll probably damage them and you risk ruining the other filters in the system if you try to reuse them!

B) The panel filters capture any dust that gets past the cartridge filters. They help assure that air being returned to the shop environment is clean and powder-free. Depending on how often you use the booth, you’ll typically need to change the panel filters once every 2-4 months. These filters are relatively inexpensive, and, as a general rule, trying to vacuum and reuse them is unwise.

IMPORTANT: Never spray the panel filters with compressed air in an attempt to dislodge powder trapped in them—you’ll ruin them instantly!

For more information on a Reliant powder spray booth, click here, or give us a call today.

Innovative Powder Coating Oven Airflow Leads To Improved Performance

Powder Coating ovens from Reliant Finishing SystemsAt Reliant Finishing Systems, we pride ourselves on providing some of the most energy efficient powder coating ovens in the world. Our ovens reach curing temperatures much faster than many of our competitors’ ovens and at a fraction of the operating cost. If you need a powder coating oven that can provide professional quality results on a daily basis, a U.S.-built oven from Reliant Finishing Systems will get the job done, and it all starts with the powder coating oven airflow.

It Starts With The Airflow

Reliant’s innovative design uses one or more powerful direct-fired burners to heat the oven through an overhead plenum. Hot air is injected from the plenum directly through the oven’s ceiling. Each heat unit continually pulls the coldest air from the bottom of the oven back through the burner to be reheated. At the same time, the exhaust is constantly pulling cold air from the floor and enabling hotter air to move into every corner of the oven’s interior. This combination of vertically positioned heat units and floor-mounted exhausts is unique—and just plain better.

Reliant Powder Coating Oven Airflow

Typical airflow of a Reliant powder coating oven with a side-mount exhauster and rear-mounted burner and heating unit.

By comparison, many other ovens on the market use both roof-mounted heaters and roof-mounted exhaust units. We don’t use this design because it makes routine maintenance tasks and inspection much more difficult – the operator has to climb on top of the unit every time anything needs to be checked. Also, top-mounted heat units and exhaust units remove the hottest air from the oven instead of the coldest. Why would our competitors build ovens this way? The answer is that this design is much cheaper to build.

With a Reliant powder coating oven, since we’re taking the coldest air from the bottom of the oven in a constant cycle, the oven air is much more evenly heated throughout the cabin. This has two major benefits. First, the oven quickly reaches a very stable temperature. Second, that constant temperature means you won’t have to deal with hot and cold spots in your oven. By eliminating temperature inconsistencies, the powder can cure evenly and uniformly without the potential for flaking, undercuring, or overbaking. That means a better and longer-lasting finish.

But what does that mean for you? Because our ovens get to temperature quickly and sustain that temperature evenly, they require far less fuel to operate. Typically, our customers using standard models can get their ovens to 400 degrees or more within 10-15 minutes, and maintain that temperature for an entire production day with minimal energy costs. For one of our most popular models, an 8’ x 8’ x 20’ walk-in oven, heating costs are often as low as $3 per hour on average.

Get The Most Efficient Powder Coating Oven From Reliant

Reliant’s superior airflow design is just one of the reasons why we’re so proud of our powder coating ovens. A Reliant powder coating oven is built to give you reliability, fuel economy and top-notch performance at an unbeatable price. Don’t just take our word for it, ask for references so you can talk with our customers about the incredible results they are getting every day with Reliant equipment. Click here for more information on our powder coating ovens and related powder coating equipment, or give us a call today.

Planning Success For Your Automatic Powder Coating Line

Best Powder Coating GunsWhether you are replacing your overworked batch system or bringing your power coating in-house, you’ve decided that a new automatic powder coating line is the way to go. You’ve done the homework and determined a new line will increase your productivity and save you thousands of dollars this fiscal year alone. You’ve placed your order and now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the new equipment to be installed, right? Wrong.

Now is the time to prepare for success with careful planning before the equipment arrives. When putting in a new automated line, there are three key things you can do to make sure you get the best outcome:  Pay attention to details, make good use of outside support and understand the challenges a major facility change may have.

Pay Attention To The Fine Details

Assess all of the factors that could impede the delivery, installation and start-up of your new automated line. Make sure you have the following items or answers before finalizing your plans:

Get detailed drawings of the proposed equipment and determine where everything will be placed.

In the preliminary stages of a project, a rough drawing is used to sketch out a plan for the automatic powder coating line. Now is the time to tighten up the drawings and look for potential obstacles that could impact the location or performance of the equipment. We recommend identifying anything in the factory that might impinge on the equipment – electrical service, air lines, HVAC equipment, sprinklers, ventilation ducts, drains, low ceilings or support beams. You also need to scout for potential facility-specific problems like having sanding or welding stations too close to the coating operation. These areas, which can generate substantial dust and debris, can contaminate your coating area and keep your new line from being successful.

When planning for powder coating, make sure you understand spray & cure times for parts. You’ll need to know how long the cool-down times will be and where the parts will be stored while cooling. You’ll also need to know where the coated parts will be packaged and the untreated parts will be stored. Plan the traffic flow in the facility so you can move your parts safely throughout the pretreatment, coating, curing and packing processes.

Set the date with a project timeline.

Like detailed drawings, a detailed time line is essential for successful line implementation. Allow for flexibility, but set specific target dates when a certain task or component needs to be completed. Make sure that all contractors have access to the initial timeline and have signed off on your targets. If the timeline has to be revised, make absolutely certain that all contractors are aware and have signed off on new deadlines. Remember that if you set unrealistic goals for the performance of your contractors, you’re setting everyone up for failure.

Set a change order budget on the front-side and stick to it.

Complications arise during large finishing line installations. They can lead to unavoidable changes to the scale or placement of the equipment. Often these changes must be performed on the fly. Changes can also lead to staggering expense increases if not carefully managed. Set a realistic change order budget that cannot be exceeded. Make certain a change is really necessary before instructing the contractor to implement a change order, but don’t let good advice go unheeded just because it may increase the installation cost. A wise but costly decision made during equipment installation is almost always better than being stuck with a system that doesn’t work as well as it could.

Plan for BIG success.

Before issuing the first PO, address your potential production needs for 5+ years down the road. Make sure the line is expandable or that you have a plan in place should you experience explosive growth.

Utilize Your Assets: Outside Contractors, Consultants & Inspectors

Due to the size and scope of adding an automated line, you will have to employ or interact with a number of outside contractors to get your equipment up and running quickly.  These are the most important people you will be working with: 

Project Manager

Since this is a complex construction project, there needs to be a project manager who is in charge of all the details.  A project manager can help set realistic time lines for when components of the line should be delivered and installed. While the project manager can be someone in-house (the finishing line manager is the most common candidate), it is more likely that someone from the equipment supplier should be managing the integration of the equipment into the facility. The project manager should be scheduling meetings with all the contractors and suppliers to ensure timely installation and then providing regular reports on the installation progress.

Consultants & Industry Experts

Getting the advice of a true expert can be invaluable when making a major investment. All established providers of automated coating equipment will have experienced technical specialists on staff, but you may want to get a second opinion from a third-party expert before finalizing the layout, purchase and installation of your new coating line. Finishing consultants are not hard to find, and may be a good investment if you are unsure how to proceed.

Powder & Pretreatment Suppliers

Keep your pretreatment and powder suppliers in the loop during the construction and installation process. Consult with them on any line changes or change-orders, especially if the changes would reduce process times, since cure times and cleaning/pretreatment dwell times are extremely important for a consistent finish. If the line changes too much in scale or there are unplanned changes to the line speed, it can negatively affect the quality of the finished product.

Code Inspectors

If you want your installation to go smoothly–no matter where you’re located–you’ll need the cooperation of the local code authorities. Make the building inspector and fire marshal your friends before construction. Reach out to city water officials and state environmental inspectors; informing them of your project beforehand allows you the opportunity to educate them on any unusual processes that they may not be familiar with before permitting deadlines are reached. Your chemical and powder suppliers can help, as can code compliance consultants. Interacting with local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) during the planning stage can pay huge dividends down the road.

Be Prepared For Facility Changes & Possible Challenges

As the construction of your new equipment draws to a close, your facility will be going through a learning period as your staff integrates new processes into their workflow. Here are some common issues to be aware of:

Production Learning Curve

Plan for less efficiency at the launch of your new coating operation due to material adjustments, reworks, and employee learning curve. While powder coating is much easier than applying wet paint, there needs to be grace periods as your coaters learn how to consistently prepare the parts, apply powder to the correct thickness, and get it cured properly without damaging the finish. You’re going to encounter mistakes as your personnel learn to operate and service the equipment, so keep this in mind as production begins.

Schedule Your Preventative Maintenance From The Very Beginning

Make sure you have an employee responsible for a preventative maintenance plan and make your employees stick to it. Your maintenance schedule should include routine cleanings and filter inspections, chemistry checks and gun testing, as well as more involved tasks like burner inspections and bearing lubrication. Review your maintenance routine every Friday or Monday (or both) until it becomes a habit. Adjust service intervals as necessary, but always err on the side of caution. It’s better to change filters a little too soon or spend a little more time cleaning your guns than to rework an afternoon’s worth of bad parts.

Quality Assurance Program

You will need a QA inspector that has the authority to reject defective finishes. Review your QA standards often to make sure they are not too strict or too lenient. Ensure employees are properly trained on testing the finish and that they understand the standards they are expected to meet. When changing to new powders or chemicals, hold a mandatory orientation session where workers can ask questions and experiment with new materials and processes.

Realistic Expectations

No matter what you do, there will be complications. Unexpected construction delays, paperwork hassles, defects from the wrong settings or under-trained employees, costly chemical adjustments, and unanticipated issues of all types can impact your new line every step of the way. The good news is that most of these issues can be quickly solved – if not prevented outright – by careful planning, good advice and attention to detail. Once your new line is installed and debugged, you’ll be glad you made the decision to upgrade your capabilities.