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electrocoating, ecoat, ecoating, electrocoating heavy castings, powdercoating, pretreatment, conversion coating

Winona Powder Coating completed the installation of an electrocoating line in July of 2020.
Photo Credit: Products Finishing

Nestled in the small town of Etna Green, Indiana, surrounded by farmland is the headquarters of Winona Powder Coating. With additional facilities in Elkhart, the company is a leading supplier of powder coating services to large industrial companies throughout the Midwest.

Founded in 1974, Winona started out as a small fabricator and added powder coating capabilities in 1979. Over time, the company zeroed in its focus on powder coating and was purchased by CEO Jamie Visker in 2002. With Visker at the helm, Winona Powder Coating expanded its 20,000 square foot location in Elkhart to a 50,000 square foot facility with two coating lines. A 25,000 square foot facility in Mentone, Indiana was moved to a 167,000 square foot facility in Etna Green. The company has been continually working to expand its operations ever since. In 2019, Winona Powder Coating installed a second heavy-duty powder coating line and then completed the installation of an electrocoating line in the third quarter of 2020. Each plant is ISO 9001 certified and undergoes recertification on a regular basis. Suffice to say, the company is focused on growing its business and, despite the uncertain times surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it continues to make strides.

powder coating, powder coating industry, finishing, powder coating farm equipment

Winona Powder Coating serves as a Tier 2 supplier to numerous industrial and agricultural markets. Photo Credit: Winona Powder Coating

Winona Powder Coating has carved out a good niche for itself as a Tier 2 supplier, serving the industrial, construction and agricultural markets. The company processes parts for such OEMs as Case New Holland and Parker Hannifin, and has numerous John Deere certifications, including the JDM F17 global paint spec approval. And while traditionally the company hasn’t done a ton of work in the automotive sector, that is starting to change. The company is a certified top coater for Volkswagen parts and is pursuing electrocoating certification for VW parts as well. It has increasing commercial truck business, as well as recreational vehicle work — an area that is seeing upwards of 170% increase in demand.

Powder coating capabilities

powder coating, powder coating industry, finishing, powder coating heavy castings

25-30% of the parts Winona Powder Coatings processes are heavy castings.Photo Credit: Winona Powder Coating

One thing that sets Winona Powder Coating apart is its ability to process larger parts such as heavy industrial castings. The company is capable of coating parts up to 32 feet in length at both of its locations. Its new heavy-duty line in the Etna Green facility utilizes an I-beam conveyor line that can carry up to 200 pounds on each of its pendants, which are spaced a foot apart. Visker explains that the line was installed out of necessity because Winona’s casting business has grown pretty dramatically in recent years. 

“When I bought the company in 2002, we were doing maybe 10% gray iron castings,” says Visker. “As our business has grown, castings are now around 25-30% of what we process, and that continues to grow.”

Overall, in terms of powder coating capabilities, Winona Powder Coating has four production lines — two at each plant. Three of those lines have automated booths with oscillating guns. The second line at the Elkhart location has a hybrid booth with fixed guns. The average part window between all four lines is around 34 inches by 72 inches and parts up to 32 feet long can be run on the lines. The company handles a variety of castings, from ductile and gray iron to aluminum castings, and its substrates include galvanized steel, cold and hot rolled steel and aluminum extrusions. Five-stage pretreatment is used at both facilities.  

Brian Bailey, president of Winona Powder Coating, stresses the importance of using the same pretreatment at both facilities. “It’s made moving products between our two plants seamless,” he says.

Winona is constantly looking at ways to expand and improve its processes. The company is currently working with Americo Chemical for pretreat and Akzo Nobel and Axalta Coating Systems to meet AAMA 2604 and 2605 standards for architectural work.  “Before too long, we expect to see quite a bit more aluminum extrusion business coming through here,” says Bailey.

New electrocoating capabilities

electrocoating, ecoat, ecoating, electrocoating heavy castings

Winona Powder Coating’s new electrocoating line features a 102" by 48" by 48" part window and can handle up to 2,200 pounds and 500 square feet of coverage per load.Photo Credit: Products Finishing

The focus on heavy industrial parts drove Winona Powder Coating to its most recent expansion. The company was outsourcing its electrocoating for its powder-coated parts. But it noticed there wasn’t a lot of capacity for electrocoating heavier parts, such as castings and large weldments, because of the curing requirements.

“A lot of the ecoating capacity that’s out there doesn’t have the oven time to cure heavy, dense parts,” says Visker. “That's finally what really pushed us into this line.”

Winona Powder Coating decided to invest in its own electrocoating line and selected Therma-Tron-X Inc. (Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.) for the installation. The line, which was completed in July of 2020, features a 102" by 48" by 48" part window and can handle up to 2,200 pounds and 500 square feet of coverage per load. Addressing the need for longer curing cycles, the oven affords 45 minutes of cure time and runs from 350°F-450°F. The line offers a 12-stage pretreatment with laser scale.

“Oxygen lasers used to cut the metal can leave a carbon buildup, so we offer laser scale removal,” explains Bailey. “The laser scale removal is completed in the first two stages of the line. If you don’t need laser scale removal, we just simply keep the rack from indexing down into those tanks.”

Other features of the line include Axalta EC 6100 Series Ecoat with zinc phosphate conversion coating and an RO (reverse osmosis) water system that is used for the majority of the line. The line allows for 15-degree indexing upon part entry into the tanks to minimize air pockets and ensure complete coverage.

Careful consideration went into the design of the electrocoating line. According to Visker, the team approached the expansion to build upon its strengths. “Our big advantage is that we can do heavier castings and we can do heavier weldments — items as large as engine mounts,” says Visker. The line was set up to meet John Deere F17 cleaning specifications and with the intention of striving toward the automotive OEM standards.

“We were a customer of ecoating for the longest time ourselves,” adds Bailey. “So we knew what the issues were.”

 

On the horizon

Winona Powder Coating’s recent expansions offer a peek at how the company seeks continuous improvement. For example, the company also uses sand-bed stripping for cleaning its racks. “We’ve been able to reduce our gas usage by two-thirds by moving to sand bed stripping versus burn off stripping,” says Bailey. The company also has an expanded sandblasting area (32 feet by 32 feet) and offers wheelabrating, masking and custom masking racks, and has small-batch capabilities where it can handle parts 32 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet.

As Winona Powder Coating forges ahead, it is taking its ability to process heavy parts to a new level. It’s expanding automotive and OEM certifications and continuing to evolve its work with agricultural and industrial markets.

“A lot of our Tier 1 customers are either in automotive or becoming automotive suppliers,” says vice president of Etna Green operations Larry Beals.  “So, a lot of our disciplines and quality systems are actually morphing into the automotive standard levels of excellence.”

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