The optimal cure time at Gatormade Trailers was not being achieved by the current curing method. This was most evident on their largest parts as denoted within the oven temperature profile. Air Power in conjunction with Heraeus discussed the opportunity and determined that a pre-heat booster oven solution could potential eliminate the challenges observed onsite. Heraeus conducted trials in which proved successful and installation of the provided system was streamlined; minimizing production downtime. This solution is modular, allowing for future expansion, should GatorMade Trailers process and production rates deem necessary. Check out the complete Case Study to learn more about pre-heat and booster oven solutions that Air Power has to offer.
Gatormade Trailers is a company that prides itself on ‘Big Quality, Big Service & Big Value’. Based in Somerset, Kentucky, the company operates from a 300,000 sq ft factory and manufactures a wide range of trailers from small utility up to their 53 ft long Gooseneck trailer. The company has a policy of constant progress and improvement in all aspects of their business to ensure their products always exceed customer expectations.
In 2011, Gatormade Trailers stepped up the heat and invested in a custom built, in-house powder coating facility. Consisting of a 70 ft convection oven, running at 600oF (316oC), it helped the company transform the manufacturing side of the business. They now had full measure over their powder coating and curing processes. This provided a perfect waypoint to drive further quality improvements on an already great product. The heaviest part that they put through the oven weighed in at 9000 lbs and measured 53 ft long. To achieve the required quality of finish, they found that the line speed required slowing from 3 fpm to almost a standstill. This was the only way to ensure that the powder flowed correctly and gave a consistent gloss. But, this ‘Big’ slow down in production was not acceptable to a company with ‘Big’ values and a growing order book. They needed to find a way to get their line speed back up to 3 fpm and still maintain a high quality finish.
Gatormade Trailers got in touch with finishing systems integrator, Air Power Manufacturing Solutions (based in High Point NC), who suggested a Pre Gel Gas Catalytic IR oven from Heraeus-Vulcan Catalytic. Heraeus’ engineers came up with a ‘Big’ solution, a giant, 3-section, 36 heater solution! The heating profile of each section is controlled by a PLC control system which enables different profiles to be created and stored for different product sizes. Each program can be called up as required. During production breaks the complete oven can be switched to a ‘low fire’ condition, which reduces the power output to a minimum, but still maintains the ability to ramped up to the desired output within 60 seconds. This is one of the key features of Heraeus’ ovens and helps to reduce the overall energy consumption.
This Gas Catalytic IR pre-gel oven was placed directly in front of the convection oven, together with a 8′ (2.5m) vestibule. The aim of this configuration is to use the natural characteristics of Infrared to raise the temperature of the powder extremely quickly to the point where it starts to gel. Remember, IR is absorbed very quickly by the powder, and does not require the complete part to heated up to the gelling temperature. By the time the part is leaving the pre-gel oven the powder is at the gel stage. The part then enters the convection oven for the final cure. This process now takes considerably less time and uses less energy.
The addition of a Gas Catalytic IR pre-gel oven to the existing convection oven has transformed the finishing line. They have solved the problem of curing powder on the largest parts. The system also works on every part that goes through, which adds further savings. The production increase of 16%, and reduction in energy costs will ensure a very short ‘payback’ period on the investment. This is expected to be around 18 months.