Guardian Automotive Trim Inc. expanded painting operations at its Evansville, Ind., facility with the installation of a custom-designed, robotically operated paint line at a cost of about $6 million. The new line, designed jointly by a team consisting of representatives from Guardian and the system's manufacturer, George Koch Sons Inc., also of Evansville, gives Guardian the ability to produce automotive parts with a high-gloss paint finish.
Koch Sons designed the additional lines within the parameters of the 36,000-square-foot space that was available for the operation.
Robert Carpenter, Guardian Automotive's president, said the new system also expands the company's capacity in the low-gloss paint and chrome plating. Additionally, said Carpenter, the use of robotics in the high-gloss system increases part yield and improves the overall quality of the painted parts.
``These operations are very prone to generating problems,'' Carpenter said.
Issues such as repetitive motion syndrome in paint booth operators, and variations in the coatings that result from operators performing the task repeatedly over long periods of time, make painting one of the most difficult operations in a molding plant, he added.
``People that compete in this market, and especially in chrome plating and high-gloss painting, are unique in the industry,'' Carpenter said.
The painting equipment features a special, six-stage surface preparation system in which parts are pre-washed using mild acid cleaners to rid them of any surface contaminants. Parts are then dried in a Koch gas-fired, dry-off oven and tunnel cooled prior to being separated for either high-gloss or low-gloss paint.
The high-gloss paint area is contained in an environmentally controlled clean room. Multiple paint booths allow Guardian to perform multiple painting and top coating operations as the paint structure is built in layers to optimize the finish.
Carpenter said automotive companies want fully integrated suppliers that can provide finished parts in all three surface finishes.
Guardian Automotive operates 30 injection molding machines with clamping forces as great as 1,600 tons, and plans to add a 1,100-ton press sometime during the next quarter.