ACTIVE DUTY: CARC lines are growing
Oshkosh Corporation in Wisconsin was approved by the U.S. Army earlier this year to build about 23,000 military trucks and trailers under the five-year contract starting in 2011.
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“War is hell,” General Williams Tecumseh Sherman said way back during the Civil War.
But a new $3 billion military contract to produce medium tactical vehicles just may be heaven sent for those finishers who have invested (or who soon might) in a chemical agent resistant coatings (CARC) line in order to pick up some much-needed business.
Oshkosh Corporation in Wisconsin was approved by the U.S. Army earlier this year to build about 23,000 military trucks and trailers under the five-year contract starting in 2011. The ‘Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles’ is a series of 17 models and 23 variants ranging from 2.5-ton to 10-ton payloads.
That flow of cash from Washington DC has spurred an increased interest among coaters in adding CARC lines to existing operations.
“We’re gearing up for the future,” says Bob Wiedenhaft, vice president of Phoenix Coaters in Berlin, WI, which just opened a new 300,000ft2 facility for CARC and liquid coatings in addition to a 70,000ft2 and 167,000ft2 facility they also have running in the area.
“We’ll be getting our money back out of what we’re putting in,” Wiedenhaft says. “We’ve amortized this over seven years, but it puts us in a very competitive market now with military, but we also plan to diversify as much as we can, too.”
Michael Gallagher, a sales manager with industrial finishing systems builder Therma-Tron-X, Inc. said installation and upgrades of CARC lines are the majority of the business his company is seeing these days.
“At the moment, it seems CARC is the only system that customers are buying,” says Gallagher, whose company is based in Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, not far from Oshkosh’s headquarters.
“If that’s where the business is now, then that is where the finishers are going to go,” he says. “It’s only a five-year deal for Oshkosh and who knows after that, but we’re seeing the finishers going after that business now.”
This new Phoenix Coaters system, being built by Therma-Tron-X has unique features such as a part-size window of 6 ft wide x 14.5 ft. long, by 8 ft. vertical and 3,500 lb. weight capacity per trolley. The14-stage pretreatment system -- which is capable of coating 32 tons of product per hour -- has an alodine aluminum conversion coating which will eliminate the need to wash primer or manually conversion coat parts prior to hanging on the production lines.
The paint system is a combination cathodic SST electrocoat and topcoat system (liquid and powder) for coating steel and aluminum parts. Fifteen pre-treatment stages can be run on the SST electrocoat system in random sequence without any impact on the throughput of the system. At three shifts per day, five days per week Phoenix Coaters will employ 135 people to operate the system.
All the FMTV’s will require a CARC finish, a two-component polyurethane paint used as a basic camouflage topcoat on military combat vehicles and equipment. The CARC topcoat is required because it can easily be decontaminated after exposure to liquid chemical agents, in addition to being resistant to water, weather, hydrocarbons and acids.
The CARC system involves three types of coatings: an epoxy polyamide primer, an aliphatic polyurethane paint, and epoxy polyamide enamel. All of the coatings are supplied as a two-component system, and when they are combined a terminal reaction begins which makes an impermeable coating.
Instead of penetrating the coating, chemical agents bead up on the exterior of the surface and are washed off easily. Because of that, the vehicles can be used over again without the concern of future contaminants along with the security of resisting further chemical attack.
Oshkosh broke ground on a new 150,000-square-foot, electrocoat facility to support the FMTV program. Facility start-up should begin this summer, and the company also says that it is expanding its office in Warren, Mich., -- and hire up to 190 new employees there -- to support the FMTV System Technical Support work.
Despite its $55 million new facility to handle coating of the large vehicles, Oshkosh will sub out much of the CARC work in order to get the vehicles built on time and on budget. Lining up to get work from Oshkosh are those finishing plants which have CARC lines, or are in the process of adding them.
The contract almost didn’t happen for Oshkosh. A leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of specialty access equipment such as fire and emergency vehicles, Oshkosh won the Army contract last fall, underbidding incumbent BAE Systems and truck builder Navistar Inc.
But BAE Systems and Navistar protested the contract award, and then raised doubts whether Oshkosh could even build the vehicles for the cost. Their claim gained ground last December when the Government Accountability Office said parts of their protest was valid, and the GAO recommended that the Army re-evaluate its contract award to Oshkosh. But in May, the Army said that Oshkosh represented the best overall value for the government and the contract was finalized.
“Oshkosh Corporation’s world-class production capabilities, coupled with our independent investments in this program, will ensure vehicles are delivered without any disruption to the original timeline,” says Robert Bohn, Oshkosh Corporation chairman and chief executive officer. “We are closely engaged with the Army and moving forward on all necessary processes to maintain this schedule and deliver high-quality trucks and trailers to meet the Warfighters’ needs.”
That contract means more work in the Midwest for metal working and finishing companies, which have been struggling with the economic bust of the past three years.
Burkard Industries, a 75-year-old family-owned business in Detroit, saw a CARC line as the chance to diversify and invest in new technologies as its key to growth. Vice President Dona Burkard spent nearly a year getting acquainted with the military’s procurement practices as her husband and company president, Jay, ramped up its CARC line.
“Transitioning ourselves to qualify for contracts with the U.S. military was a logical next step for us to take,” she says (see sidebar on PTAC to learn how to get military work).
Changes are nothing new to Burkard. In 1988 they installed their first powder coating line, and a second line followed in 1995, doubling in size from 20,000 ft2. to 40,000 ft2. A year later, a third powder coating system designed for prototype and custom work was introduced. In 2002, Jay Burkard – the company founder’s great-grandson -- made the decision to expand the business to 78,000 ft2 and purchased an electrocoat system, which was capable of applying a Class A automotive finish.
“Burkard grew into the company that it did because it paid attention to changes in the industry and proactively positioned itself to run the tightest, most efficient line” says Dona.
Still, adding a CARC line is not an easy thing to do for most finishers.
“It takes a real skill to run a CARC system, because it’s very hard to do right,” Gallagher says.
CARC coatings are also very expensive, so it’s important for shops to control film thickness and minimize overspray and other paint losses. In addition, drying the materials can be a time-consuming process.
According to the Army Research Laboratory -- the lead research facility responsible for the development of the coatings -- the water-dispersible CARC standard, MIL-DTL-64159 Type II, uses a two-component aliphatic polyurethane and is formulated with a water-dispersible resin system, polymeric bead flattening agents and non-HAP-containing solvents. In addition, it can be reduced with water and has fewer VOCs, from the current standard of 3.5 pounds per gallon maximum to a 1.8–1.5 pounds per gallon maximum as packaged.
These formulation parameters allow the CARC technology to provide superior weathering durability and corrosion resistance, a non-marring surface, and reduced overall environmental effects while continuing to ensure signature reduction (camouflage) in combat zones.
The camouflage needed to reduce enemy detection is just as important as CARC chemical resistance. The CARC vehicles have signature-reduction properties in their coatings to help reduce enemy detection and electronic targeting systems, such as infrared homing weapons.
For example, the green color in the camouflage pattern (383), has an infrared signature that is extremely close – and often the exact same – as that of chlorophyll, which is often naturally found in a wooded environment. That means is that enemy weapons systems with infrared homing capabilities would not be able to effectively detect a military vehicle using its electronics.
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