High Marks for Markers

Removable paint markers smooth Railcraft’s production process


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Sometimes there’s a technology solution to even the most mundane of manufacturing problems.

Case in point: Markal Pro-Wash removable paint markers from LA-CO Industries, Inc., Markal Industrial Marking Products (Elk Grove Village, Ill.). The markers use real paint to make temporary marks on various types of non-porous surfaces such as metal, plastic, glass and ceramics. Paint is encased in an industrial strength plastic barrel with a valve-actuated tip that releases it on demand. The markers work over a temperature range of 0–150°F, and marks dry in 30–60 sec.

The Markal markers are available in two styles: Pro-Wash W washes off in plain water and Pro-Wash D can be removed using a mild detergent with pH >10, formulated for removal in typical pre-finish cleaning processes. Both formulas are available in six colors—red, black, white, yellow, blue and green—and are said to be fast-drying and easy to remove. According to LA-CO, marks made using the devices will not ghost or bleed through when painted over.

One user verifying that claim is Railcraft International Inc., a manufacturer of custom aluminum exterior railing systems for commercial and residential customers. The company finishes all its products using TGIC-free powder in multiple standard, custom and metallic colors, and also does custom color matching.

According to Doug Trenholm, general manager of Railcraft’s Surrey, BC, plant, workers in the company’s fabrication shop were using black felt markers to mark pieces for cutting. “They shouldn’t have been using them, but they were,” he recalls. “The problem is, the black marker would bleed through our painted finish, especially on white and light colors. Even worse, over time the finish would deteriorate at those sites and cause failures.

“That’s a serious problem for us, because we do architectural work,” Trenholm says. “Many of our products have extended warranties. About 85% of our stuff is architectural—some huge buildings. So it’s very important to engineers and architects that it last. They demand quality, and if we had a failure on a large project it would hurt us very quickly.”

The demanding nature of many of Railcraft’s customers means the company does some extensive testing of its products. “We run three shifts, seven days a week here, and we take samples off the powder line every two hours,” Trenholm explains. “We do complete testing—cross hatch, boil testing, impact testing and more.”

Trenholm heard about the markers and decided to try both types. “We ran some samples through our system. Both types of markers washed off, so they seemed OK. But when we did our testing, the samples marked with the D markers were failing. There was no problem with the ProWash W markers.”

Railcraft worked closely with LA-CO to perform some experiments aimed at finding out what the problem was and if it could be resolved. “We did a lot of experimenting,” Trenholm says. “We found that a quick wipe with a rag and some window cleaner before sending it through our powder process was all it took to address the problem.”

Although Trenholm can’t quantify the productivity and quality improvements Railcraft has experienced from use of the markers, he’s convinced of their benefits. “Using the markers has made our entire process much smoother, from the fabrication shop on,” he concludes.