New Finishing System Gives Southworth a Lift

Article From: Products Finishing, , from Products Finishing

Posted on: 11/1/1999

The company moved into a new facility and decided to install a new paint line as well...

How do you change the light bulb in the fixture 40 ft above the paint booth or plating tank in your shop? How are you going to hang that Christmas wreath from the front of your four-story building? One answer would be to purchase a hydraulic or electric scissors-lift table from Southworth Products Corporation, Falmouth, ME.

Using ergonomics, Southworth has been designing and supplying innovative products that improve worker productivity and safety for many years. This has helped its business grow to the point that it needed to open a satellite facility in Manila, AK. This facility was also highly productive, which helped Southworth recently move into a new state-of-the-art facility in Manila. The increased size and production capacity of the new facility allows Southworth to improve quality and greatly reduce delivery time.

"Since we were starting from scratch, we had the opportunity to build a facility that would handle our production needs well into the future," said Howard (Alex) Alexander, plant manager. "The new facility has plenty of room for expansion and houses the best production equipment for our applications."

The finishing department was upgraded and received special attention. "We spent a considerable amount of time designing the system we wanted," he said. "We wanted a state-of-the-art finishing system that would handle high-solids paint, multiple colors and provide a high quality, protective finish. And we also wanted to reduce the amount of material we used."

After studying all of its options, Southworth installed a paint system that uses Graco 33:1 heated Bulldog pumps to circulate paint through two spray booths on the production floor. The painters use Pro AA guns to apply the material. For touchup and special colors 307 Husky Delta air spray packages are used.

The system transfers up to five primary colors from the paint room to the booths. Southworth has the capability to add three more lines if it decides to increase the number of primary colors it offers. The paint used on the lifts is a VOC-compliant, high-solids, fast-drying enamel. It is 62% by weight and 52% by volume.

Southworth selected the pumps because they provide higher pump pressure and flow rates to handle high-solids paints over long distances. The wall-mounted pumps circulate the paint 450 ft through 5/8-inch stainless steel tubing. The paint is pumped from 55-gal drums. Heavy-duty back-geared agitators mounted on drum covers thoroughly mix the paint, preventing aeration and splashing. To maintain material viscosity throughout the year, stainless steel, solid-state heaters are mounted outside the spray booths to keep the paint at a constant temperature of 130-140F.

After the scissors lifts are steam cleaned, dried and taped, they are rolled into the spray booth and primed. Next they are masked, and the topcoat is applied. Up to three different topcoat colors are used for each product. The fast-drying paint allows the painter to remask the surface almost as soon as the color change is made. "Typically, I make 20 to 30 color changes a day," commented one painter.

The electrostatic spray guns are used to apply both the primer and topcoat. In the old plant, Southworth used conventional air-assisted airless spray guns, but chose the electrostatic guns because they help the paint "wrap" around the parts better.

"It is easier to get the paint into the crevices and corners with the electrostatic guns," said Mr. Alexander. "We are spraying a more uniform finish with these guns, and we know we are using less material because we only have to change our booth filters every five to six weeks now." Painters try to apply a 1.5-mil protective coating on the lifts.

Maintenance on the circulating system has met Southworth's approval. "We have not had a single maintenance problem," said Mr. Alexander. "Not even a tip replacement."

In addition to Southworth's five primary colors, some customers request custom color combinations. In these instances, the paint is usually in 1- or 5-gal kits. Different pump and spray systems are used for these systems. The 307 Delta air spray package is a portable unit that features a diaphragm pump mounted on a portable stand. The diaphragm pump transfers the paint from 1- or 5-gal kits to the air spray gun.

"It is an easy and inexpensive way to deal with the small runs we do. It also helps us stay in compliance with NESHAP regulations," said Mr. Alexander.

Both the circulating system and portable spraying package have made Southworth's finishing operation flexible and ready to handle just about any coating or finishing requirement that might arise. "It is a thousand percent better than what we were doing before we moved into the facility," stated Mr. Alexander.

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