He says he knew how important it was that manufacturers produce a quality finished part for a lower bottom-line cost. Langlois' background in physical vapor deposition gave him a feel for trends in coatings. Bringing together varying technologies, Langlois developed a pretreatment process to make plastic more conductive as it is cleaned for powder coating. "We patented our proprietary ‘magic solution,'" says Langlois.
Pretreatment in hand, Langlois worked with Nordson (headquartered in Westlake, Ohio) and PPG (headquartered in Pittsburgh) to develop the rest of the solution in the Canadian laboratories of Nordson Corp., Markham, Ont.
Paul Kroes, Nordson's Canadian sales manager, says that there was a huge learning curve to overcome because spraying powder on plastics was new turf. "ASF documented every step of the process, and built a tremendous database of knowledge to succeed," he says.
The powder coatings for the Alliance Surface Finishing project were exclusively developed and supplied by PPG Industries in its Strongsville, Ohio, facility. "Our chemists in Allison Park (Pennsylvania) had been developing much of this technology for some time," says Paul Mills, PPG's marketing manager for heat-sensitive substrate powder coatings. He says PPG was able to transfer this technology to the Alliance project to give Robert and the Nordson team materials formulated for the plastics they were using.
For Alliance, these plastics include a range of materials from PBT and nylons to blends of these materials along with higher temperature versions of Lexana and polycarbonate. "We believed that manufacturers would switch to higher temperature plastics to get a better product at a better price," says Langlois. "The overall results can demonstrate it is worth a conversion."
Alliance has had a full plate of coating opportunities since installing its pilot line in Vaughan, Ont. The trial work and commercial production achieved at Vaughan has been so successful that Langlois has opened a second facility, an 80,000 ft2 production site in nearby Mississauga. Shannon Matwey, director of business development, says there is enough demand in the United States to warrant the possibility of opening two coating facilities stateside.
"The days of the all-black office chair are numbered," says Kevin Mehring, director of sales and marketing at Alliance. "We've introduced a new way of thinking about color and texture to an industry that had been forced to think in terms of limited choices of molded-in color technology." Mehring, who worked for PPG on the project, is excited about the opportunities at ASF. "[We] are paving new ground, and the market is responding enthusiastically."
"We've worked hard to develop a set of tools that help us coat a wide range of materials and shapes," says Alliance's vice president of operations, Alan Stokes. "As a custom coater, we need a process that's both flexible and robust, that gives us capability to paint every part a customer sends to us, regardless of size or configuration."
For powder coating flexibility, Stokes has worked closely with Nordson to implement a powder system with significant features that make it ideal for custom coating. "The iControl System is the ‘brain' of our powder coating line, allowing recall of stored recipes of gun settings and booth parameters that get us 90 percent of the way there within a few minutes," says Stokes. "Then we can fine tune the recipe for the variations of a new job."
The Alliance pilot system, which consists of two Nordson chain-on-edge spray booths, allows technicians to coat parts both automatically and manually using oscillating guns mounted on variable-position bases. Alliance's new production facility also combines automatic and manual capabilities, along with the advanced iControl system package.
"From the outset, we believed a pilot facility needed to be just that," says Langlois. "We didn't skimp with something that could be just scaled up a bit for production; using other technology and taking short cuts. For us it was clear that the work we did in developing this technology would need to be scaled up quickly when customers saw how well it works.
Langlois says that the pilot line in Vaughan paved the way for ASF to begin operation in Mississauga "without missing a beat."
For information about Alliance Surface Finishing, call 866-749-4273 or visit www.asf-powder. com. For information on Nordson, call 440-892-1580 or visit www.nordson.com. For more on PPG, call 412-434-3131 or visit www.ppg.com.