Archives for August 2013

MDF Powder Coating – Single Coat Technology Advances

The technology for MDF Powder Coating has been around for quite some time now. A number of companies around the world have been successful in creating MDF powder coating lines that can produce a quality finish and ensure repeat-ability. Heraeus Vulcan has been the leader in creating the oven curing technology in this field and has at least 6 large capacity oven systems installed worldwide. Such MDF powder coating systems require a primer and top coat. The aim of the primer being to seal the cut edges to create an edge that does not crack or split during the curing process. This problem has been exacerbated by variations in the quality of MDF used and its moisture content.  MDF Powder Coating Case Studies

MDF Powder Coating samples

MDF Powder Coating samples

What perhaps is little known is the nature of the finish that is being produced. Generally, the finish is textured to a lesser or greater degree.  This finish is generally very good, and can be used on a wide range of products, however,  when placed in a high humidity atmosphere, the problem of edge cracking becomes all too real.
Although MDF powder coating using textured finishes has its uses, it has not able to compete with a product that has been liquid coated. Such products have can have a uniform smooth finish, with varying levels of gloss. However, the disadvantages of liquid coating over powder relate to environmental, production cost and performance which can be summarized as follows:

  • A powder coated finish is significantly tougher than a liquid finish.
  • Over spray losses for liquid finishes can be as much as 75%.
  • Around 80% of liquid finishes used in the USA are solvent based and present environmental issues.
  • Even aqueous based finishes still contain some solvents contained within the resin structure
  • The storage and transportation of liquid finishes requires the use of IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers). These require special handling and storage techniques.
  • In order to create a smooth finish, cut edges require one or two primer coats, smooth surfaces require at least one primer coat, before the final top coat is applied.
  • The extra part handling operations that are involved during the finishing process simply add cost to the finished part.
  • Liquid finishes still suffer from the problem of edge cracking in a high humidity atmosphere which makes them unsuitable for bathroom furniture.

One Coat MDF Powder Coating  – Heraeus Vulcan Leads the Way

The ‘holy grail’ in MDF powder coating and finishing is for a single coat, low temperature cure, smooth powder finish system, which will pass the any high humidity industry standard test irrespective of the quality and moisture content of the MDF substrate. Heraeus Vulcan have been instrumental in developing such a production system and high humidity testing thus far has proven to be outstanding. The end result is a system which  will open new market possibilities and enables those involved in MDF Powder coating  to  significantly reduce  production costs:

  • Over spray losses significantly reduced and waste powder can be collected and recycled.
  • Powder can be easily and more cheaply transported and handled in boxes.
  • Storage conditions less critical.
  • Easier handling on shop floor.
  • One coat system means part handling and labor costs can be reduced by up to 75%.
High Capacity MDF Powder Coating Oven

High Capacity MDF Powder Coating Oven

Vulcan Catalytic Systems (now Heraeus Vulcan) has spent more than eight years working with industry leaders in this field to develop a one coat MDF powder coating system that  industry is demanding. This research and development carried out by Heraeus Vulcan, shows our commitment and worldwide leadership in developing oven curing systems  for this and many other applications. If you have a potential powder coating application and need advice, then please contact us.

Industrial Food Drying Ovens

Industrial Food Drying Ovens – Gas Catalytic Infrared v. Convection Technology

If a new or replacement industrial food drying ovens are being considered, then a close look at the available technologies is advised. The two most popular available are Gas Catalytic Infrared ovens and conventional convection ovens. There are significant differences that relate to speed, suitability and cost. One of the key advantages of Gas Catalytic Infrared energy is that when applied to organic substances such as water , it is readily absorbed. This means that it is the water that is heated up and thus evaporates very quickly. This is achieved with very low levels of air movement across the food being dried. The added advantage is that the greater the moisture content, the greater the proportion of infrared that is absorbed. This means that the whole drying process can much quicker.

industrial food drying ovens _1

Sweet Potato Chips Being Dried in a Heraeus Vulcan Gas Catalytic Infrared Oven

The best method of applying the infrared heat is to pass the food to be dried on a flat bed conveyor system with some form of tumbling or vibrating bed to rotate the food , with the gas catalytic infrared panels placed in a shallow inverted ‘V’, above the conveyor. The length of the oven is determined by the required conveyor line speed, which in turn is determined by the required production output.

Added Control with a Gas Catalytic Infrared Oven

Because catalytic heaters can be arranged into zones, that allow precision control using a PLC system, one can have infinite control over the heat output of each zone, from 20% to full output. Heat profile recipes can be created and stored within the PLC control memory. In practice, this means that different recipes can be called up, to suit either different food substances to be dried, or, similar foods that have different moisture content from batch to batch.

What About Operating Costs?

industrial food drying ovens 2

A Flat Bed Industrial Food Drying Oven

In general Gas Catalytic Infrared, because it is much more efficient at converting the available energy in the gas to usable heat energy, is much less expensive to operate. Achieving the desired moisture content can take up to 80% less time than in a convection oven. Given that infrared ovens are inherently more efficient, then considerable savings can be expected. If the oven is a replacement for an electric oven then given the fact that Electrical Energy is around  four times as expensive as gas, then the savings become even more impressive.

Types of Food That Can Be Dried With a Gas Catalytic Industrial Food Drying Oven

Heraeus Vulcan’s gas catalytic infrared technology can safely be used on a wide range of foods and ingredients including grains, pulses and vegetables. Due to the nature of gas catalytic  reaction, there are no noxious gases produced to taint the food as only water and carbon dioxide is produced. Operators also report that yields and the quality of the dried foods are improved due to the highly consistent application of heat and the level of control available.

Finally, What about Bugs?

As insects, larvae and eggs have a high water content, they are heated up and killed off very quickly once they reach 60°C. This happens very quickly in the drying process, and means that pesticide use can be reduced or eliminated.

Energy Efficient Powder Coating System – Case Study

Working with our distributor in the Czech Republic, Surfin s.r.o, Heraeus Vulcan designed a new energy efficient powder coating system for Dikrt spol. s r.o. . The system is designed to cure powder on large agricultural parts, and the performance of the oven has exceeded expectation. Mr Weikert, the company’s owner stated:

“It used to take 70 minutes to cure our parts with the old convection oven. With the new Vulcan oven, it now takes only 12 minutes! We are very satisfied with its performance!”

energy efficient powder coating system

Large Parts Curing in Record Time in Energy Efficient Powder Coating System

Energy Efficient Powder Coating System

View of Energy Efficient Powder Coating System

How Did We Do It?

Working with our distributor in the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Blazek of Surfin s.r.o., the customer was able to see an existing Heraeus Vulcan system at another location and carry out part testing. Heraeus Vulcan then designed the powder coating oven to meet the customer’s requirements using SolidWorks. Heraeus Vulcan then provided Surfin s.r.o with a package that included the sheet metal design, the Heraeus Vulcan infrared heaters and the controls. To see a video on how Heraeus Vulcan designs and builds ovens, please follow the link.
The system was then easily constructed at the Surfin factory, with the sheet metal parts being produced locally from the SolidWorks files. The new energy efficient powder coating system was then installed and commissioned at the customer’s site within a few days.

Advantages of a Energy Efficient Powder Coating System from Heraeus Vulcan

All Heraeus Vulcan energy efficient powder coating systems operate using the principles of gas catalytic infrared heating. This type of system has an energy to effective heat conversion ratio of 85%, compared to traditional convection oven which is only 5% – 7% efficient. In practical operation this results in curing  taking a third less time in a gas catalytic infrared oven than a gas fired convection oven. This translates into significantly reduced energy bills.
The flameless nature of our systems means that there is no noxious emissions such as Nitric Oxide or Nitrogen Dioxide, so Heraeus Vulcan ovens are environmentally friendly.

If you would like more information on our energy efficient powder coating systems, then please contact John Martin ( for USA enquiries or Ian Bartley ( for UK and Europe.

LPG Cylinder Painting With Gas Catalytic Infrared

More companies involved in LPG cylinder painting and gas tank refurbishment are beginning to realize significant savings in time, energy and costs when moving to gas catalytic infrared systems. Heraeus Vulcan have recently completed a system for Flogas Britain Ltd., drawing on our experience with:

LPG Cylinder Painting System – Flogas Britain Ltd.

LPG Cylinder Painting

The New Gas Catalytic Infrared Line at Flogas Britain Ltd. in Operation

Flogas Britain Ltd. approached Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd. to advise on how they could improve their current set up, which was old and effectively at the end of its useful life. The key improvements that the client was looking for included:

  • Moving from liquid to powder
  • More effective use of available space
  • Reduced operating costs
  • Improved quality
  • Added capacity

What We Did

Working with systems integrator Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd., we designed a gas catalytic infrared oven, similar to designs we have used in the past for LPG gas cylinder painting. This was integrated into a system consisting of a Zinc de-gassing oven and  Gema automated spraybooth. The infrared oven was designed by our engineers in the USA, and we provided Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd., with a complete package consisting of DXF files for the sheet metal structure of the oven, infrared heater panels and all the gas controls for each of the 6 zones within the oven.

The Flogas UK LPG Cylinder Painting Line Leaving Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd

The Flogas UK LPG Cylinder Painting Line Leaving Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd

Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd., built the oven in their facility. Within a matter of weeks, the oven was then ready to be shipped to site for installation. Once running, the PLC control system of the  infrared oven was setup with a number of heat profiles or recipes, to suit the different sizes of cylinder being processed, and stored in the memory for instant recall when needed.

The Results

Simon Eldridge, Cylinder Supply Chain Manager at Flogas Britain stated:

“We now have a state of the art system which has delivered  all the  required improvements. Initial indications are that the system will pay for itself  well within the required payback period.

 I have been very impressed with Heraeus Vulcan, Junair (Spraybooths) Ltd.and Gema’s powder coating plant.”


Wheel Refurbishment Case Study

wheel refurbishing

Read the full article here

New Wheel Refurbishment Powder Coating Plant Delivers!

Snider Fleet Solutions in Greensboro, N.C. supplies tires, retreads and vehicle services to the transportation industry. The company operates a growing auto and truck wheel refurbishment service in Bluffton, Ind.

Until 3 years ago the company utilized a single convection oven that limited production to 3,000 wheels per month. They were also experiencing very high utility bills. Dave Double, Plant Manager at Snider Fleet Solutions needed a more flexible and cost effective solution. Dave carried out his research and concluded that Vulcan Catalytic Systems (now Heraeus Vulcan) was the best choice for revamping their systems.

So, the company installed a Vulcan (now Heraeus Vulcan) Gas Catalytic Infrared Powder Coating Oven to keep up with the growing demand for wheel refurbishment. They also adopted a new overhead track from Nikotrack, which incorporated staging areas to provide flexibility in the routeing of parts through the system. This layout adopts a Lean Manufacturing approach, which ensures flexibility in batch sizes, to ensure that product is completed according the “pull” of the customer.

Wheel Refurbishment

Wheel Refurbishment Powder Coating Oven

Overall, the new system has helped production to triple with the line currently running around the clock, powder coating 9,500 wheels per month, with the capacity to exceed 10,000 wheels per month.
The full Wheel Refurbishment Case Study , published in Powder Coating Magazine, can be read here.

If your company is involved in any form of powder coating, and needs to reduce its energy bills and increase production capacity and flexibility, then please contact Heraeus Vulcan to discuss your requirements.

Lean Powder Coating – Focus on Curing Technology

Lean powder coatingLean manufacturing is here to stay. It has been around for over 50 years and many companies have really started to implement Lean in a big way. Very often the results are  immediate and when implemented correctly, gains continue to be made. Long term commitment and  implementation delivers  far reaching changes that ensure future competitiveness in an ever changing, more competitive business landscape. This article focuses on how Lean Manufacturing philosophy applies when considering  powder curing technology. In particular gas catalytic infrared versus convection curing. It will be of interest to any company with powder coating ovens and is intending to or is already following the Lean path.  Other aspects such as powder application, quick color changes and powder reclamation are extremely important but  are already being addressed by the major providers in this field (Gema, Nordson, Wagner etc.).

Identifying the Lean Wastes – Continuous Flow and Batch Production

There are two main production systems for powder coating; continuous flow and batch production. The Lean wastes are generally common to both, except that there are other significant differences which require careful investigation and will be covered in a later article. This article focuses on the major differences between the leading technologies in curing, from a Lean Manufacturing perspective.

First let us consider what we are trying to achieve by reviewing the seven (eight including Energy) wastes identified by Lean.

The main aim is to reduce the following Lean Wastes within any manufacturing plant.

  • Transport (moving products unnecessarily)
  • Inventory (Work In Progress over and above what is actually needed to complete orders in hand)
  • Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required)
  • Waiting (People or energy consuming processes waiting for parts or parts waiting for people or energy consuming processes)
  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Over Processing (doing more to the product than is required)
  • Defects (the effort involved in inspecting and fixing defects or scrapping parts)
  • Energy (Unnecessary use of energy in the production process)

 Implications for Lean Powder Coating

When the 8 wastes identified above are applied to conventional gas fired convection curing ovens, the following issues become obvious:

Issue Lean Waste
  • Initial oven start up can take up to an hour
  • Waiting, Energy
  • Conventional ovens are not responsive to breaks in production and run at full load without any parts curing
  • Waiting, Energy
  • In order to reduce oven operating times, there is a tendency to produce ahead of demand
  • Over Production, Inventory
  • Conventional ovens have high airflow causing powder blow off and cross contamination
  • Defects
  • Convection ovens are inherently inefficient (5% – 7% of heat produced is used to cure powder)
  • Energy

So, it is clear that there are significant drawbacks to using conventional gas fired convection oven in a Lean Manufacturing environment. They are inefficient, unresponsive to changes in production load or requirements and tend to be either on and consuming energy or off with no intermediate control available.

The Lean Powder Coating Curing Oven Solution

Lean Powder Coating Oven

Lean Powder Coating Oven

If convection oven curing is not the correct technology for companies serious about Lean, then what is the correct technology? Infrared technology has been available for over 20 years and is available in two forms.

Electric Infrared

Electric Infrared ticks all the Lean boxes in terms of controlability, but has two major drawbacks. Firstly cost; electricity is around four times as expensive as gas and can generally be ruled out on this fact alone. Secondly, the infrared that is emitted is short wavelength, which is not as easily absorbed by organic materials such as powder.

Gas Catalytic Infrared

Gas catalytic infrared is truly the lean powder coating solution:

  • Catalytic infrared hits the “sweet spot” when it comes to absorption by organic materials
  • Catalytic infrared is controllable.
    • During production breaks the oven can be put into “Lo Fire” mode (20% of maximum output)
    • The oven can be split into individually controlled zones to suit parts
    • Each zone is infinitely variable between 20% – 100% output
  • Size. A gas catalytic infrared oven has a footprint around 50% that of a convection oven.
  • Efficiency. Gas Catalytic Infrared is around 85% efficient at converting energy into usable heat.
  • Cure time is generally one third that of a convection oven.
  • Less air movement within the oven means less powder blow off and improved finish quality

So in conclusion it is clear to see that gas catalytic infrared technology addresses all the Lean Waste issues that are raised by the use of a conventional convection oven, and why those companies involved in powder coating and wish to go Lean, should give serious consideration to a Gas Catalytic Infrared solution.

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