More Than Just a Finisher

Innovation from finishing shops drives manufacturing technology

If you ask a typical owner of a finishing shop what they do for a living, the answer is almost routinely the same: “We finish things.”

It’s a matter of stating the obvious, for sure: those who run plating, anodizing, electrocoat, powder coating or paint shops often look at themselves as the last people who stand between a product being shipped out the door and sold to the public or used by other manufacturers.

But my impression of the role of finishing shops has changed dramatically over the years, from those who just “finish things” to those who innovate and add an incredible amount of value-added service to the products that roll in their shop’s back door as unfinished goods and leave as works of ingenuity and mechanical genuis.

And in doing so, those in the finishing world—be it shop owners, equipment makers or chemical suppliers—have made themselves so valuable in the supply chain that, without them, manufacturers would be in a world of hurt.

Case in point is our cover story this month on plating electronic components. Few try it because of the challenges it presents and the technical know-how that is demanded for finishing parts and circuit boards that will run super-computers and propel rocket ships to the moon.

But then again few do it better than the folks at Uyemura International, which specializes in chemicals and equipment for plating printed circuit boards and nanocoatings that are far removed from your run-of-the-mill plating job.

When we visited Bergquist Co. earlier this spring for our cover story on electronics, we were impressed not only by the amount of electronic plated circuit boards running through their Wisconsin shop, but also by the sophistication of their operation.

It was Uyemura that set up the plating line and used their keen knowledge of PCB finishes, ENIG, ENEPIG, ENAG and lots of other alphabet soup acronyms which have seemingly exploded in recent years as the demand for electronic plating has grown exponentially.

But if it wasn’t for brainiacs at Uyemura like Don Walsh, George Milad, Rich DePoto and a host of other white lab coat guys working in their California and Connecticut laboratories, where would the PCB industry be? Where would Oracle be? Where would Microsoft be?

You can’t run sophisticated systems on cardboard. The industry demands smaller parts running a million times more calculations, all at a seemingly no-fail rate. But in getting down to the nitty gritty, the backbone of these systems is hi-tech circuit boards, which must be manufactured and plated to exacting specifications that might make others shudder. Yes, it is that difficult, but technology provided by the plating industry has worked to solve many issues and make PCBs better and more efficient.

Which leads us to our other feature on the French company Jet Metal, which has spent a lot of time in the U.S. showcasing its paint metallization process. We caught up with their two principals, Samuel Stremsdoerfer and Sébastien Fourneron, when they were making the rounds at various companies showcasing their new system that coats bottles and other products by spraying them without using a plating or vacuum process.

Jet Metal is going after the spirits, fragrances and cosmetic-care industries and companies such as Coty, Hennessy, L’Oreal and Procter and Gamble.

Their process is innovative, strategic and opens up paint coatings to industries that had never really considered it to begin with. Samuel and Sébastien are swimming against the tide, but yet they are doing so with breakthrough technology that someday might be the standard.

We also have an excellent technical piece authored by anodizing gurus Jude Mary Runge of CompCote International and Larry Chesterfield from Anodizing Technologies (who is also our anodizing expert columnist).

Their paper, “The Science of Successfully Anodizing Die Cast Substrate,” is also an example of the finishing industry being an important cog in the manufacturing of machinery.

So the next time someone asks a finisher what they do, the answer should be fairly simple: You innovate, you improve and you finish. And all of it expedited, of course.