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3/1/1997 | 5 MINUTE READ

Manufacturing Assistance In Your Back Lot

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Centers to help manufacturing have been around for a while, however many now focus on finishing technologies...


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Technology centers are not a new idea. However, it seems that more and more are concentrating on subjects related to finishing. Some help finishers with environmental issues, others tackle energy consumption or coating application issues. The centers are quite often affiliated with a college or university. Problems or situations presented to the center are often used as teaching tools.

During the past several months, Products Finishing has received literature packets and visited some of these centers. Many technology centers can be located through your local colleges, Small Business Assistance Programs or your state or regional EPA. This article describes some of the centers' capabilities and accomplishments.

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission's Small Business Assistance Program provides free, confidential assistance to independently owned businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The Texas Association of Metal Finishers has worked with the Association, and they are involved in various activities together.

The program helps finishers determine which wastes are hazardous; how to properly dispose of waste; how to store waste in drums and label them correctly; how to prevent spills; how to determine how much hazardous waste you generate each month; and how to file the necessary reports.

For information on this program call the Small Business Assistance Program in Texas at 800-447-2827.

In 1987, Edison Industrial Systems Center in Toledo, Ohio, opened its doors, bringing together industry, innovation and invention.

One division of the Edison Center is the Applied Coatings Technology Program. This program addresses environmental concerns by offering a coating application program that improves product quality, process control and productivity, while decreasing energy consumption and complying with environmental regulations.

The facility is available for manufacturers to explore the powder coating process. Seminars and workshops serve as problem-solving resources for liquid and powder coating operations. Trial and pilot runs help companies determine if a technology is compatible with their products before making a large capital investment. The center can be reached at 419-531-8610.

The Edison Center helped Motor Wheel, Akron, Ohio, an automotive parts supplier, solve a problem on its paint line. The company manufactures wheels in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each wheel must be identified before it reaches the paint segment of the line. This allows the proper painting sequence to be programmed. Style similarities and rapid conveyor speed made reliable identification difficult. Because of this, Motor Wheel had an unacceptable reject rate and turned to the Edison Center for help.

The Center developed an in-line classification-machine vision-system using a personal computer, video cameras, frame-grabber, light source and custom software to successfully recognize styling differentiation.

The system helped Motor Wheel reduce labor costs, saving approximately $80,000 a year. It also reduced scrap costs and increased productivity by $350,000.The Electrotechnology Applications Center is a partnership of Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Power and Light Co. The Center assists companies in evaluating and implementing off-the-shelf technologies to achieve environmental compliance while improving energy efficiency and increasing productivity.

Featuring an electric infrared oven and 3D ultraviolet curing chamber the laboratory represents a full range of current technologies used in many manufacturing facilities. The center provides demonstrations, product testing, material analysis, manufacturing process evaluation and technical assistance.

The Center's forte is curing processes: infrared, ultraviolet and radio frequency. It has ovens dedicated to each technology as well as spray booths for both powder and liquid paint application. The Center is presently studying UV curing of high gloss varnishes and finishes on various shapes of wood, although other coatings and substrates are also reviewed.

Radio frequency drying uses electromagnetic waves in the radio frequency spectrum to dry non-metallic materials. The rapidly alternating electric field causes molecules in the material to vibrate millions of times a second. This quickly produces heat that vaporizes the water molecules. It can be used to preheat plastics prior to curing and drying plastic resins before injection molding.

One company that worked with the Center was Castek, Inc., a Berwick, Pennsylvania company that fabricates polymer concrete composite barriers and curbing for use on streets to help drivers during inclement weather or at night. The company was awarded a contract to supply precast barrier panels for the third harbor tunnel in Boston. The company's production rate of 16 barriers a day was inadequate to meet the project schedule.

The Center's chemists and technicians worked with Castek to design a cost-effective way to speed production to 24 units per day. They decided to reduce the gel-coat and overall cure time using infrared and adjust the materials' formulation. Target coating curing time was less than 10 min, and target in-mold time was less than 30 min. The project was successful and the com-pany increased throughput to 32 units per day. To contact the center, call 610-861-5081.

The Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences (IAMs)in Cincinnati, Ohio, focuses on solvingmanufacturing problems, enhancing company competitiveness and increasing the transfer rate of new technology into the workplace.

Scientists and engineers offer manufacturing companies direct on-site engineering services, applied research, training programs and process demonstrations. The Institute also provides training and seminars as well as software and books.

One plating company that benefited from IAMS' capabilities was Leonhardt Plating in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working with the Institute's Center for Applied Environmental Technologies, Leonhardt determined that it was generating approximately 2.8 million gallons of wastewater annually, at a cost of $12,000. Other waste or raw material costs included cleaners ($4,000); ion exchange resins ($11,000); sludge disposal ($1,000); and solid waste disposal ($1,000).

Based on recommendations from the Center, the company installed a simple spray rinse dragout recovery tank on its decorative chromium plating line. Periodically 10 to 15 gal of deionized water are added to an empty tank immediately following the chromic acid bath. The operator uses a stream of rinse water generated by a recirculating pump to remove most of the chromic acid dragout.

Other waste minimization techniques included timed flow controls, countercurrent rinses, flow restric-tors and ion exchange. Since these changes were implemented, process water consumption has dropped from 500,000 to around 160,000 gal/month, saving Leonhardt more than $5,000 annually. To contact the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, call 513-948-2000 or check it out on the Internet at

Many technology centers are designed to bring or sustain economic development in an area. They do this by building a resource of excellence for advanced manufacturing technology for the industrial community, as evidenced by the examples cited in this article.