Waltco Truck Equipment has invested $3.2 million in an automated product finishing system installed in the company's liftgate manufacturing facility in Tallmadge, Ohio.
“The trucking industry, not unlike many other industries, has suffered during the past 12 months as the overall economy continues to limp along,” said Waltco President Rod Robinson. “Nevertheless, Waltco has pushed forward with this project. We believe the economy will turn around next year. And when it does, Waltco will be ready to supply the liftgate market with the highest quality products today's technology can produce.”
The computer-controlled paint system took several years to research and design.
Logic Systems Corporation of Jackson, Tennessee, was the general contractor for the system.
The first stage of the computer-controlled system includes several load stations. Here, parts are loaded onto the conveyor, then routed by computer to either an Autowheel shot blast machine or a manual blast machine for cleaning. This process removes all surface contaminants from the weldments, taking the metal back to a near-white condition.
After the parts are cleaned, they pass through a vacuum clean-off area where the blast residue is removed. The parts are inspected and then either returned to the blasting station for touch-up or sent on to one of two paint stations.
Liftgate platform parts move on to the powder paint line, located in a clean room, where they pass through a powder booth. The powder coat is applied to a thickness spec of 3 mils, which can successfully pass a salt spray test of 250 hours. The coating forms a polyester film over the liftgate platform. The film is far less porous than conventional liquid paint, resulting in a tougher, more abrasion-resistant finish. After the powder coat has been applied, the parts move on to a 65-ft- long gas convection oven where they are baked at 400° F for one hour.
Those parts that do not form the liftgate platform move through two opposing liquid paint booths. One booth sprays one side using a High-Volume Low-Pressure (HVLP) system, while the second booth sprays the other side. This eliminates the need to rotate the parts.
The painted parts are then lined up along the conveyor for a further drying and cooling down period before being unloaded and taken to the assembly process.