The Right Coating Opens Global Doors

Indiana manufacturer helps fight biodiesel’s effect on paint.


Biodiesel is known as an attractive alternative to traditional petroleum diesel fuel. It’s clean burning, renewable and gentler on our fragile planet. But when it comes to biodiesel’s effect on paint, it’s anything but nice.

This was the challenge Total Control Systems faced when the Fort Wayne, Indiana, company wanted to expand its production to include products made to handle the ever-increasing demand for biodiesel-compatible meters.

TCS is a leading ISO-9001 certified manufacturer of piston and rotary positive displacement flow meters that are designed to provide superior performance in custody-transfer measurement of refined fuels, LPG, fertilizers, chemicals, alcohols and solvents.

TCS manufactures flow meters mainly for the petroleum industry. Transport trucks, aircraft refuelers, home heating oil equipment and boats often include TCS meters.

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TCS manufactures flow meters primarily for the petroleum industry.

 

The agriculture industry kept the company’s focus until about 2000, when leaders there decided to branch out into the meter business and serve a wider range of industries. Around 2005, the company started making products available to more customers and industries.

“At that time, painting became a big issue for us,” says David Musselman, the company’s CFO and COO. “We were branching out with customers who used biodiesel, which tends to remove paint.”

Musselman and his team began to experiment with many promising industrial coatings—including automotive paint—with the No. 1 criterion being its ability to stand up to biodiesel, and the second concern being the coating’s ability to stand up to ethanol.

Another major concern from an operations standpoint was VOCs. For environmental and employee safety reasons, Musselman wanted a paint with a low VOC rating.

 

Hunting Down a Coating

The environments in which TCS’s customers use meters are harsh, to say the least. First, the meters have to withstand the wear and tear of delivery, often in open-air trucks, across the United States and beyond. TCS has customers in Australia, Singapore and the Middle East, with more than half of their business going across the water.

For overseas customers in the Middle East, heat and sand thrash everything exposed to the elements. TCS Production Supervisor Steven Plummer equates it to a sandblasting effect.

“When we’re dealing with customers on American shores like refueling stations in Alaska or on naval piers, the meters are out in the saltwater splash,” Plummer says. “These are concerns that will take the paint right off.”

 

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TCS expanded its production to include products made to handle the demand for biodiesel-compatible meters.

 

After talking to other manufacturers and distributors, and having no luck, Musselman met with the Accessa Coatings Solutions team from Indianapolis. To find the right product for these tough jobs, Accessa Coatings Solutions and TCS carried out a salt spray test, scratch test and many soak tests in which painted products were immersed in biodiesel and ethanol. Musselman says they just sat back and waited for the paint to peel off. In the case of the Accessa Coatings Solutions product, that didn’t happen. They knew they had a winner.

“We tested a lot of products with a lot of labels that you know, but when we found the right product, it was the one that could take care of our customers,” Musselman says.

“It could handle the biodiesel, the salt environments, the ethanol, and it could stand up to being on a truck in an outdoor environment. Once we found that product, we locked in on it and have been using it ever since.”

Low VOC

The Accessa product also fit the bill for having low VOCs, so it was safe for employees to use, but just because the employees had the coating didn’t mean the job was finished.

Bill Adams is the Accessa Coatings Solutions consultant on the TCS account. “One of the unique challenges with TCS was the application process, and we worked very closely with equipment representatives and TCS to be sure we were supplying not only the material, but also the correct way to apply that material,” Adams says.

Ted Mowery is one of the men applying the signature blue shade Adams helped TCS find. He knows the day-to-day problems that come with painting industrial parts. With each custom part and paint application change, there are challenges.

 

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TCS’ flow meters are designed to provide superior performance in custody-transfer measurement of refined fuels, LPG, fertilizers, chemicals, alcohols and solvents.

 

He can use the same paint and primer, but they will perform differently in different conditions, so Mowery has to be able to tweak the application process to get the finish he’s looking for.

“Ambient temperature and humidity are really big problems, even in a climate-controlled setting, and this paint tends to be pretty consistent and reliable,” he says.

The application process Accessa Coatings Solutions helped develop includes two products. First, a fast-drying acid wash primer is sprayed by HVLP. TCS sprayers then use the Accessa Coatings Solutions INVIRAthane—low VOC polyurethane paint—sprayed either electrostatically or by HVLP at about 3 to 4 wet mils.

Mowery values versatility, reliability, ease of use by the operator and a quick dry time.

“When the customer takes the part out of the box, we want him to know he bought a quality part,” Mowery says.

He relies on Adams to respond quickly to any issues and find answers so TCS customers get what they need. Adams is often on the floor at TCS helping Mowery, Plummer and their team improve. In the rare instance of adhesion issues or application problems, he is there, with an equipment representative if necessary, to help solve the problem so the application process is successfully moving forward.

 

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The meters have to withstand the wear and tear of delivery, often in open-air trucks.

 

Having the Right Partner

Without having a partner in place to research, test and deliver a complete coatings solutions package that worked, Musselman says TCS would not have been able to successfully expand its production into the petroleum industry. With a partner like Accessa Coatings Solutions at the ready to troubleshoot any problems, issues or concerns, Musselman says TCS can confidently keep growing its business.

“The main thing we want in a relationship with any partner is an open communication line and clear expectations,” he says. “Product availability and consistency are critical to keeping production moving and customers happy. We want an all-hands-on-deck response because our customers expect that and we have to expect it, too.” 

For more information: Accessa Coatings Solutions, accessa.com; Total Control Systems, tcsmeters.com.

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