One man's successful venture into powder coating....
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One cannot get any simpler than Custom Metal Coatings. Jay Furlong is the one-man powder coating shop that has operated in Sunbury, PA, for about a year. "I had a business plan, and I did research before I made any investments in a powder coating shop," Mr. Furlong noted.
Although a salesman for many years, automotive racing fueled Mr. Furlong's life. Central Pennsylvania is notorious for all types of racing, from go-carts to NASCAR. Small towns dotting the map have one or two tracks between them, and usually there is a drag strip just down the road. This interest in racing actually sparked his interest in powder coating.
Many parts on race cars are powder coated. Mr. Furlong's main racing interest was sprint cars and modifieds (a type of sprint car). Sprint car builders combine steel, aluminum and its alloys to build a tough, lightweight vehicle that races around the track at speeds greater than 90 mph. Even though most of these vehicles end up dirty, oily and/or damaged, the owners and drivers want them looking good…the very next week.
"A driver would flip his car at the track and damage the wing (top portion of the car), and the owner would have a new wing made and want me to powder coat it and have it ready by the next weekend," stated Mr. Furlong. "This is in addition to other work I am running that isn't related to racing."
Mr. Furlong realized early that he could not rely on racing to support his powder coating business. He realized this long before he even opened Custom Metal Coating. "My research kind of began at home," he admitted. "I knew there was business in powder coating race cars. Then I realized that the appliances in my house are powder coated, the washer, the dryer, the outdoor furniture. There are many markets for powder coating."
"Outside of the big cities in the state, York and Lancaster are the hot spots for powder coating," explained Mr. Furlong. "I started asking different industries in this area, some of which I never even knew were here, if it would be helpful to them to have a powder coating company in the area. Would it make a difference if the finisher was local as opposed to an hour or more away? Most of them answered 'yes.'"
Mr. Furlong found the right building in Sunbury. It was large enough and tall enough to accommodate the conveyor, powder-coating booth, extended oven and cleaning system. It also provided enough warehouse space for part storage.
Parts run through the system on a push conveyor. Each dog on the conveyor has a 500-lb capacity. The conveyor winds through the powder-coating booth, oven and cool down areas. The cleaning area is not included in the conveyor system.
A 10 × 12-ft JBI spray booth features a triple filtration system. This lowers costs because the foremost filters, which are less expensive, are cleaned and changed out more often than the more expensive filters in the back of the booth. "Unfortunately, I have to spray to waste," commented Mr. Furlong. "I would like to recover the powder coating, but I change colors five or six times a day and that just doesn't make it practical."
Mr. Furlong has two Nordson manual spray guns, although only one is needed at this time. For a small shop, the oven is large. "It had to be big enough to hold a car body," he commented. "Still, a full-size car body needs to be on an angle to fit into the oven, but it can be done." A local distributor supplied all this equipment.
The Pressure Island cleaning system came from California. "I saw the ad and looked at the website," said Mr. Furlong. "I liked what I saw and e-mailed for more information." The package of information further convinced Mr. Furlong that this high-pressure cleaning system would fit his needs. He telephoned the company and learned that the company president would be on the East Coast in a couple days for a new installation, and he was invited to join him. Mr. Furlong headed out and, after seeing the system in action, was convinced that this was the cleaning system for his shop.
This hand-operated, aqueous-based parts cleaner uses 160F water at pressures to 2,500 psi to remove dirt, oil, grease and other contaminants from parts. Mr. Furlong also uses the system to phosphate parts prior to powder coating. Small parts are placed in a basket for cleaning. "I've never lost any parts," said Mr. Furlong. "It is hard to lose parts with this grating system, plus there are filters and the system is closed loop."
The system requires minimal operator attention because the controls are preprogrammed. These combine with "quick-thinking" sensors to control all system functions, including preheating the water and automatically shutting the system off at a predetermined time. A sensor automatically shuts off the system if the water in the reservoir goes below operating level.
All pumps and other equipment are located inside the motor enclosure. To access the pumps and motors Mr. Furlong simply walks behind the unit and opens a housing lid in the rear to easily access all the electrical equipment.
When Mr. Furlong turns on the cleaning system, the filter pump continuously recirculates water from the reservoir through the filter and heating systems and back to the reservoir. The standard filtration system filters process water down to 5 microns. When Mr. Furlong is ready to clean the parts, he activates the pressure pump to produce a high-pressure flow of hot recycled water to the spray nozzle. The sprayed water is contained and returned to the reservoir and the filtration process starts again.
"The Pressure Island system has been a great benefit to my operation," stated Mr. Furlong. "It has provided a cost effective and environmentally safe way to clean and pretreat parts. The quality has resulted in a high standard of paint adhesion."
The cleaning is simple, as is the powder coating, curing and the shop itself, Custom Metal Coating. Although it is an uncomplicated powder coating facility, Jay Furlong researched more than a year before investing in the technology. As much as he would like to keep it simple, he watches his son step through the door and envisions business growing steadily each year.