From October 21-30, 2005, I had the privilege of traveling in Europe with the DuPont Star Coaters Study tour. We began in Paris, where we covered more than 1,600 miles by train and bus to Rennes, Le Mans, Fougeres, Evron and Montbrison in France, Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, and Milan, Verona and Venice in Italy. We visited five unique and interesting powder coating installations, toured the DuPont powder manufacturing facility in Brichon and saw many interesting sites along the way. And of course we flew approximately 4,000 miles to get there and another 4,000 miles+ to get home. It was an intense schedule that took a lot of energy but it was one of the most interesting and informative experiences one can imagine.

My traveling companions included 20 individuals from DuPont Powder Coatings, Freedom Finishing in Mich., Burkhard Industries in Mich., Panhandle Powder Coating in Fla., Acme Finishing in Ill., Products Finishing in Ohio, Source One in Lincoln Neb., Pro-Kote in Jackson, Tenn., and Microfinish Co. in Mo. What a great group of people.

In France, we visited SFPI and EPI, two job shop coaters that were also part of our trip in 2003. SFPI has three powder coating lines and three liquid coating lines in their Frougeres facility and two other coating sites. They coat architectural aluminum, automotive parts, plastic parts and many other products. The centerpiece of the Frougeres facility is a powder coating line that coats architectural aluminum extrusions up to 7 meters high in the vertical position. EPI does batch powder coating and in-line coating, adhesives and employees 95 people in three facilities. Among several unique processes and business practices they powder coat plastic materials.

In Belgium, we visited another architectural aluminum powder coater called Colors. The company has three powder coating lines for fast customer response times and flexible production. They powder coat over 800 colors based on the architect's particular needs. Workers do not know what parts to schedule for coating until the order arrives at the plant and then they turn it around in one week or less. Colors' vertical powder line runs extrusions up to 8.2 meters in length with two booths that provide fast color change by switching from one to the other.

In Italy, we visited the Metra Group and Iver. Both companies supply powder coated aluminum extrusion and each has its own unique processes. Metra is a very large company that does has its own extrusion operation in addition to anodizing and powder coating. They also do sublimation, the application of a pattern over a powder coating part that provides a specialty look such as wood grain. Iver has a very large anodizing operation and a powder coating operation that coats extrusion in the horizontal position.

Touring these facilities and seeing several of the most beautiful cities in Europe was an exiting experience. And the professional, high quality arrangements by our host, DuPont Powder Coatings, were first class. But one of the highlights of the trip was the outstanding relationship built with the group. After sharing boats, buses, trains, hotels and meals with this group for over a week, I was hooked. Thank you to those who participated and made it such a great and memoable experience.