Atlas Copco’s Comptec division could be the poster child for two-component paints.
The division makes large, complex industrial compression equipment that requires a durable finish that is corrosion-proof and chemically resistant. But these also are complicated machines with dozens, if not hundreds, of temperature-sensitive pieces and parts that make it hard to cure the finished equipment in a drying oven.
From its Voorheesville, N.Y., facility just outside Albany, Atlas Copco Comptec manufactures highly engineered, multistage gas compressors used in more than 150 countries worldwide to produce industrial gases that are required in many industrial markets.
While the paint on these large industrial machines may seem like a trivial issue, the compressors operate in demanding industrial conditions, so their primer and topcoat finish need to protect the mechanical and electronic components from corrosion and failure.
Three years ago, Atlas Copco Comptec engineers Eric Pilhofer and Bob Mann began to look at how to improve their paint finishing process. Their team began with a formal Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, motivated to revamp the process by their quality control system. Today their plant uses less paint and has lower VOC emissions, lower costs and improved performance.
TRANSFORM THE PAINT LINE
One of the first steps the team took was to enlist the help of a local paint and equipment distributor, Patriot Metal Finishing Systems of nearby Williamson, N.Y. Patriot’s president, Matt DeVries, and his team has worked closely with Atlas Copco Comptec for the past few years to develop and execute a systematic plan to transform the paint line.
The first step was to eliminate a solvent-laden pretreatment process by using more environmentally friendly chemicals dispensed by a new Electrosteam steam cleaning system.
“Comptec is an ISO-14001 company with a serious commitment to environmental issues,” Pilhofer says. “Switching to a new alkaline cleaner and a phosphate pretreatment has allowed us to eliminate VOCs.”
And since there is no waste stream, there is very little chemical usage and no longer any need for waste treatment. The steam cleaner also does a better job, since it is better suited to getting into the dozens of hard-to-reach nooks and crannies that make up each of the complex assemblies.
With a sound pretreatment solution behind them, the team turned its attention to the paint system.
Atlas Copco Comptec uses a two-step process, first applying a primer, then a colored topcoat. The standard Copco gray often is replaced by any of a number of other colors, including custom-matched paint when requested by customers.
Until the renovation, the plant was mixing the two-component paint by hand and spraying from pressure pots.
“We knew that ‘hot potting’ paint by hand was costing us money,” Pilhofer says. “And the waste was more than just the wasted paint”
Revamping the paint line involved both formulating a new paint and purchasing a more efficient plural- component delivery system.
DeVries worked with Continental Products, a Cleveland, Ohio-based paint manufacturer that specializes in custom formulations. Continental designed a new 2K paint that was easier for operators to apply, cost less and outperformed the other paints tested to meet the Atlas Copco Comptec paint specifications.
GETTING AN IDEA BALANCE
Since the Atlas Copco Comptec painters sometimes need to use a variety of spray, roll and brush methods to prepare the assemblies, the Continental formula helped them achieve the ideal balance of performance and ease-of-use.
With a better paint in hand, the next step was to replace the manual mixing process and clumsy pressure pot equipment with a new paint kitchen and electronic proportioning system. New mixers and state-of-the-art Wagner Zip-52 pumps were installed in a new paint kitchen that delivers the primer, topcoats and solvent to the spray booth.
“The new paint kitchen gave us a clean, organized setting that helped set a new standard for quality in the paint process,” says Gordy Lamb, paint line supervisor at Atlas Copco Comptec.
At the spray booth, two identical Wagner TwinControl turbines with EvoMotion low-pressure pumps enable the paint operators to select from a number of preset recipes, depending on conditions. The system electronically proportions the two components precisely and consistently as paint is needed, assuring that the paint is always applied with the same consistency and without waste.
An automatic gun flush procedure allows the system to adapt to color changes easily and without the old hassles and waste. Wagner designed the twin controls with safety in mind, enabling units to be powered up with an internal air turbine system and eliminating any electrical connections.
The TwinControl system also gives the Atlas Copco Comptec management team data it couldn’t easily track before. Since the TwinControl metering system reports the actual paint consumption, the company has an accurate new tool for assessing its progress.
The results are good, and the new system already is starting to pay for itself. Atlas Copco Comptec reports saving more than 400 gal of paint a year with the new system.
“The 400 gallons of paint savings alone is great,” Pilhofer says. “But that paint savings means other benefits. For instance, we are saving over 1,200 pounds of VOCs a year now. We have less setup time, cleanup is easier, and we have eliminated a lot of rework. The new coatings from Continental have also significantly reduced our price per gallon and our total film-build requirements.”
For information: Atlas Copco Comptec, atlascopco-gap.com; Patriot Metal Finishing Systems, patriotmfs.com; Continental Products,continentalprod.com; Wagner Industrial Systems, wagnersystemsinc.com.