Benefits of Powder Coating for Metal Fabrication

benefits of powder coating for metal fabrication

Powder coating is a versatile, highly effective method for coating metal fabrication projects. For most finished products and components, powder coating is a more durable, more attractive coating than wet paint. It also has other advantages. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of powder coating for metal fabrication projects.

Benefits of Powder Coating for Metal Fabrication

Full Coverage

Powder coating is applied through a different process than wet paint. As the name suggests, powder coating is first applied to the product or component as a dry powder. This powder is electrostatically charged, so it sticks to all exposed surfaces, including even the hardest to reach places. Then, the powder is heated in an oven, where it melts and sticks to the surface. This process allows powder coating to cover the product completely and smoothly. There’s no need for additional coats and there’s no risk of unsightly drips or runs.

More Efficient

Powder coating is also a more efficient process than other types of painting or coating. Since the powder sticks to the surface electrostatically, there’s no excess paint lost during the process. There’s no dripping and also no drying time needed. While wet paint may require several hours to fully dry, powder coated parts can be fully cured and cooled in as little as ten minutes.

Any Color or Texture

Powder coating gives you unlimited options for the final appearance of your product or component. In addition to a wide range of colors and shades, there are also many different finishes available, including flat, satin, glossy, metallic, clear, iridescent, and even glitter. This can help you achieve the final result that you’re looking for, without extra expense. A shiny metallic finish can help the part or component keep its high-quality appearance while still protecting it from damage, or a matte yellow finish can help meet safety requirements. There are many, many different options available.

Protection from Corrosion

Corrosion affects all metals. Corrosion can occur simply through contact with oxygen in the air, resulting in oxidation. However, covering the surface of metals can help to protect from oxidation and corrosion. Powder coating completely covers the metal surface, preventing the air from contacting the metal and thereby preventing oxidation from occurring. Powder coatings can also help to prevent other types of corrosion, such as corrosion from acids or bases that come into contact with the product. The powder coating layer forms a protective covering that can help to extend the life of the product.

Improved Durability

Corrosion isn’t the only damaging force that can affect metal fabricated parts and components. Scratches, abrasion and regular wear and tear can also damage metal fabricated parts over time. This is another benefit of powder coating for metal fabricated parts and products. The powder coating forms a protective layer over the component that helps to resist scratches and friction. This keeps the product looking like-new, longer.

Attractive Appearance

Besides added durability and corrosion resistance, powder coating is an easy way to give your part a finished, attractive appearance. Powder coating doesn’t require multiple coats like wet paint does. It goes on once and produces a smooth, uniform, clean appearance across the part or component. The curing process works quickly, so your part or component is ready for shipping or assembly fast.

There are many benefits to powder coating for metal fabrication projects. Powder coating is highly versatile, with many options for colors, finishes and textures. This process also works on all types of items, from large finished products to small components and everything in between. If you have questions about powder coating for your metal fabrication process, contact us. We’re happy to give you any information you need, and help you find the ideal powder coating for your project.

 

Choosing the Right Alloy for Your Custom Fabrication Design

recall risks in pet food

Choosing the right alloy for your custom fabrication is the first and, often, the most important step in creating a high-quality product or component. There are many factors to consider when choosing a metal alloy for your fabrication, and there are many different alloys available. In this blog post, we’ve included a few of the most widely-used alloys, though there are hundreds of others.

Choosing the Right Alloy for Your Custom Fabrication Design

To choose the right alloy for your custom fabrication design, it’s important to know the task the component or product will be fulfilling, the environment it will be working in, and stresses it must withstand. Here are a few of the factors you should be aware of, though this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Temperature: Many metals will warp or freeze up at high or low temperatures. Temperature considerations are especially important if your product or component will be working outdoors, or if friction or coolant will cause temperature swings.
  • Corrosion resistance: All metals corrode to some extent, though some alloys are much more resistant to corrosion than others. If your product or component will be in contact with moisture, salts, acids or alkalis it’s important to consider an alloy that will resist corrosion.
  • Durability: There are many different types of durability. For example, some alloys are highly resistant to bending or warping, but will snap past a certain threshold, while others are made to bend under pressure. Consider the amount of force or weight that the alloy must withstand, as well as the type of force it will face.
  • Weight: If a component in a machine is too heavy, it will require the rest of the machine components to work harder. It’s important to know just how heavy the component or product can be before it becomes impractical.
  • Fabrication process: Some alloys are more difficult to weld, machine or form, which will complicate the fabrication process. Knowing how the product will be fabricated can help to choose the right alloy.
  • Cost: Materials cost is always a factor. If finding the right alloy means overextending your budget, you’ll need to reassess. Keep in mind that cost isn’t limited to the initial cost of the materials themselves, though. Cost may also include a component’s upkeep or cost of replacement if it’s corroded or damaged.

Many of these factors involve a balancing act. For example, metals with high durability tend to be heavier and more expensive. Metals with high temperature thresholds or corrosion resistance can be more difficult to work with, and more expensive and time-consuming to fabricate. This is why it’s helpful to be specific about how you need the alloy to perform, so you can balance all of these elements together.

Types of Alloys in Metal Fabrication

There are hundreds of different types of metal alloys. Combining different metals in different amounts will yield different results, and new alloys are being developed all the time to take on complex challenges. The most commonly used alloys in metal fabrication generally contain steel (which is itself an alloy of mainly iron and carbon), aluminum, and nickel.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an additional extension of the steel alloy, and it is one of the most popular metal fabrication materials. There are many different types of stainless steel. Stainless steel may contain additional chromium, nickel, tungsten, titanium, molybdenum and many other metals. Some very specific types of stainless steel used in military applications even contain depleted uranium. These additional metals help to determine the unique properties of each stainless steel type.

304 Stainless Steel

SAE 304 stainless steel, also known as A2 stainless steel or 18/8 stainless steel, is the most common type of stainless steel. It’s made from chromium, nickel and steel, and has a number of versatile characteristics that make it suitable for many different applications.

304 stainless steel has a clean, shiny appearance, high corrosion resistance, decent durability and it’s easily formed and welded. This makes it a go-to alloy for custom fabrication, appliances, food processing equipment, consumer goods, pipes, fasteners and many more. There are a number of sub-types of 304 stainless steel using varying amounts of carbon, which can change its temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, and tensile strength to meet the needs of specific applications.

316 Stainless Steel

SAE 316L stainless steel, also known as A4 stainless steel or marine grade stainless steel, is similar to 304 stainless steel, but with some differences in composition and function. This steel alloy contains molybdenum in addition to chromium, nickel, and steel, as well as small quantities of silicon, phosphorus and sulfur. These additions make it more resistant to corrosion.

Just like 304 stainless steel, there are different sub-types of 316 stainless steel which contain varying levels of molybdenum, carbon and nitrogen. These differences change the strength and corrosion resistance of each alloy. This type of steel is ideal for environments with high corrosion, such as chemical refining, textile bleaching and coloring, surgical implants and applications near or in seawater.

Aluminum Alloys

Aluminum alloys are another popular choice for many metal fabrication products and components. Like steel, aluminum alloys can be mixed with many other metals, including nickel, magnesium, titanium, cobalt, lithium, and many more. Each unique alloy presents different advantages and disadvantages.

The main advantage of aluminum alloys is their lightweight composition. This makes aluminum alloys a preferred choice for many automotive and aerospace applications. Aluminum is also relatively inexpensive and it can be used in extrusions, adding flexibility in the manufacturing process. However, there are some drawbacks; aluminum alloys are generally not as durable as stainless steel, and they’re more sensitive to stress and heat.

Nickel Alloys

Nickel alloys also present unique benefits for some custom fabrication work. These alloys most commonly contain metals similar to aluminum alloys and stainless steel alloys, like chromium, molybdenum, iron, copper and titanium, among others.

Nickel alloys are used in some of the most demanding applications. They are very resistant to thermal expansion and electromagnetic interference, which makes them ideal for sensitive measurement instruments and electromagnetic shielding. Many nickel alloys are also highly corrosion-resistant against common corrosive substances like seawater and even uncommon, highly corrosive substances like hydrochloric or sulphuric acids. This high resistance to temperature extremes, extremely corrosive substances, and mechanical force puts many nickel alloys in the category of superalloys.

There are many more unique alloys used in all types of different applications. Stainless steel alloys are often the right alloy for custom fabrication work, though not always. If you are working with a challenging application with high temperatures, corrosive materials, weight constraints, or other obstacles, there are other metal alloys that can meet your needs.

How to Find the Best Contract Manufacturing Partner

Welding

Outsourcing some aspects of your manufacturing can help you meet demand, speed up your process, simplify designs and much more. There are a number of benefits of subcontracting manufacturing, but realizing these benefits means finding the best contract manufacturing partner available. This contractor must be able to work with your team and produce high-quality work that meets your specifications. Here’s what to look for and what you’ll need to find the best contract manufacturing partner.

How to Find the Best Contract Manufacturing Partner

To find the best contract manufacturing partner, it’s important to know about the manufacturer’s capabilities and facilities, their process, and it’s also helpful to have as much information as possible on the project that you want completed. When you know what you’ll need to complete your process, you’ll be in a better position to assess whether or not a contract manufacturer will work well with you.

The Manufacturer’s Facility

One of the most important aspects of finding the best contract manufacturing partner is assessing the manufacturer’s facility and equipment. A manufacturer with a wide range of welding, cutting, forming, machining and other fabrication equipment will give you the most flexibility.

When your manufacturing subcontractor can perform many different tasks, you can rely on one business instead of looking for different subcontractors every time your needs or projects change. Also, a manufacturer with an array of technology may be able to help you lower production costs or utilize a more effective process. For example, laser cutting may be faster, but it adds heat to the process, which can be a concern for some materials. A water jet is slower, it may be a better option in some situations.

Drawings and Design

The drawings and designs behind your project are the foundation for all future work. It’s helpful for these drawings and designs to be as detailed as possible. This will help to reduce errors as your subcontractor turns your design into a repeatable manufacturing process, and finally into a finished product.

Ask about the subcontractor’s CAD files and their engineers’ experience with different types of files. Will the engineers be able to confidently work with your drawings? If your engineers’ file types, programs, or experience are different than your subcontractors’, it can create problems. Understanding the design and engineer process, or taking a look at example CAD files from a project similar to yours can help you find the best contract manufacturing partner at the start of the project.

Skills and Knowledge

Working with an experienced contract manufacturing partner increases the chances of receiving high-quality products in a timely manner. This includes the company’s engineer staff and salespeople, as well as welders, machinists and fabricators. Ask about the subcontractors’ experience, and that of their staff.

In addition, it’s helpful to know the variety of skills that the subcontractor can offer you. Do they specialize in mechanical fabrication only, or can they also offer electrical engineering? Can your products also be painted and finished at the location? In addition to a variety of skills, it’s also important for your subcontractor to be aware of applicable codes and regulations, especially for electrical engineering.

Ability to Make Changes

Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) allows manufacturers to create highly repeatable parts at a high volume. Combining CAD files with CAM can make the manufacturing process easier, more consistent and more efficient. When using CAM, in many cases, the parts are tied directly to the drawing files. This means that the parts are generally more consistent, but it also means that it’s easier to make changes down the road. Asking about the manufacturing process as well as the design process, and how they are connected, can help to improve consistency and prevent costly changes later on.

Clear Directions

As previously mentioned, clear directions and detailed drawings are some of your best tools in finding the best manufacturing partner. When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to easily see which subcontractor is right for the job.

Here are a few of the things that you should know before you speak with a subcontractor. If your project is relatively simple in scope and design, you may not need all of this information. However, if your project is complex, it’s best not to leave important elements to chance.

  • Up-to-date and detailed drawings
  • Accurate bill of materials
  • Weld specifications
  • Manufacturing practices

If you don’t have this information, your subcontractor may be able to help fill in the gaps. Ask about the fabrication process beforehand, so there aren’t any surprises when you receive your products.

Choosing the best contract manufacturing partner can help to ensure that your project goes smoothly. Consider these aspects, as well as your own design and documents, and you’ll be in the best position to find a reliable manufacturing partner.

6 Questions to ask a Manufacturing Subcontractor

Welding

Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can help you meet demand during production spikes, shorten production lead times, and even expand into new industries. Finding the right manufacturing subcontractor means finding a business partner that you can rely on, while the wrong subcontractor can cost you. When looking for a manufacturing subcontractor, consider the following.

6 Questions to Ask a Manufacturing Subcontractor

1. Who Are Your Previous Clients?

This is one of the most important questions to ask a manufacturing subcontractor. Ask for a client list and contact their previous clients. Ask the previous client about their experience working with the subcontractor; were the products delivered on time? Was the quality up-to-par? Did they have any concerns about the subcontractor undermining their contract? Answers to all of these questions can help you steer clear of subcontractors that can’t deliver—or, worse, take your contracts for themselves.

2. What Industries Do You Work In?

If you are fulfilling a contract for a food manufacturer, working with a subcontractor who manufactures equipment for chemical processors might not be a good fit. Look for a manufacturing subcontractor that works in industries similar to yours. This way, they will be aware of good manufacturing practices (GMP), safety procedures, regulations or common pitfalls that can affect finished products in the industry. For example, a manufacturer working primarily with chemical processors probably won’t have a high level of experience with GMP in food processing, which could result in faulty components.

3. What Machines Do You Have?

The right machine can save hours of time and thousands of dollars, while producing a better result. Ask a manufacturing subcontractor what equipment they have, and how this might impact your project. The latest equipment does not always mean the highest level of quality, but this is a good place to start when looking for a manufacturing subcontractor who can handle detail, complexity, large production runs or large-scale products.

Depending on the scope or complexity of your project, it may also be important to know how broad the manufacturing subcontractor’s experience is. Are they familiar with electrical and mechanical systems? Do they know the codes and regulations associated with each? Can they demonstrate their performance with each?

4. How Many Similar Projects Have You Delivered?

While every manufacturer has to start somewhere, you probably don’t want your project to be a subcontractor’s first. Ask a subcontractor about similar jobs that they’ve delivered. This will not only give you an indication of their overall experience, but also the experience of their staff. If you are working with complex welding or machining, this may be especially important.

A manufacturing subcontractor experienced with your products or industry may also be able to help you cut costs and avoid problems. For example, laser cutting may be faster, but adds heat to the process, while water jet is slower, it may be a better option if heating the metal is a concern.

5. What Is Your Expected Turnaround Time?

A subcontractor can help you reduce production time, but only if they can deliver their work on time. Ask about their turnaround times, and any complications or delays they predict could change it. Make sure you have enough time to complete your project, even if your subcontractor overestimates their speed.

6. What Does Your Process Look Like?

Ask about a subcontractors production process in detail. Consider preliminary processes like design, set-up and product testing. Ask about the manufacturer’s engineering staff and compatibility with CAD files. If your engineers can work with your subcontractor’s engineers, your design process will run much smoother.

Testing and quality control are also important considerations. If you are able to test or inspect your product or component before a full run, you’re likely to save time and money. If you are not happy with the deliverables, or if there are a number of mistakes, ask about how the subcontractor would remedy this. Or, if you need to make changes to your original design, how quickly can these be implemented? Manufacturing subcontractors integrating their CAD design with computer aided manufacturing will be able to make changes more easily.

Knowing the right questions to ask a manufacturing subcontractor can help you find a reliable, ethical business partner. With the right subcontractor, you’ll have the flexibility to take on more projects, while still focusing on what you’re best at.

Scaling Your Manufacturing Operation: Purchasing and Hiring vs. Outsourcing

Welding

If you find yourself taking on more jobs than usual, expanding into new industries, or facing long lead times due to an increase in demand, you may wonder if it’s time to scale your manufacturing operation, and how to go about it. Should you expand your facility, workforce and equipment, or focus on outsourcing or licensing? Any of these can be viable options, with the right considerations.

Scaling Your Manufacturing Operations: Purchasing and Hiring vs. Outsourcing

Equipment Costs

As you consider how to scale your manufacturing operation, you may repeatedly run into an equipment bottleneck. Perhaps you don’t have the machinery necessary for a particular job, or you’ve had to make due with equipment that takes much longer to complete the job. You can add the new machine to your operation, or you can outsource to a manufacturing partner. The following considerations can help:

  • Your Facility: Do you have the space and electrical output to safely run the machine? If not, outsourcing is a better option until you’re ready to scale your operations to a bigger facility.
  • Talent: If you add the machine, will someone be able to use it effectively, or will you have to add new staff? If you don’t currently have an operator, your machine will be unused until you find one, or it may be misused by an inexperienced operator.
  • Safety Requirements: Do you have the right safety equipment and protocols in place to run this machine? Consider personal protective equipment as well as equipment like dust management systems or fire suppression equipment.
  • Use: If you add this machine, how often will it be used? If contracts requiring these machines are infrequent, you’ll save money and reduce risk by outsourcing. However, if you’re frequently slowing down operations or losing business because of lacking equipment, this may be a good time to scale your own operation.
  • ROI: How long will it take for a machine to pay for itself? Does this make sense with the level of demand you have? Be careful to forecast accurately using the sales data that you have.

Training and Expertise

Many manufacturers are experiencing a skills shortage. Deloitte estimates there will be over 2 million manufacturing jobs unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Before scaling your operations, assess whether or not you will be able to find the workers that you need. As you consider how to grow your staff, or whether this will present a significant obstacle, consider the following options:

  • Employment programs: Are employment programs, such as job skills training or retraining programs, available to you? Could you form a partnership with these organizations and attract new talent?
  • Apprenticeships: Do you have talented staff that could effectively train others? In this case, an apprenticeship program may be highly effective in obtaining new workers.
  • Temp workers: Could you grow your workforce slowly using temp workers in the interim?
  • Competitive payment: Do you offer competitive wages, a positive work environment, and are you located in a desirable location? Consider all of these aspects, especially if you are recruiting workers from distant locations or looking for experienced workers, when advertising your job openings.

If these strategies aren’t viable for you and you’ve previously struggled to grow your workforce, outsourcing your manufacturing can help you scale your operations in the meantime. Ask your manufacturing partners about their staff, and the skills and experience that they bring to the table.

Safety Procedures

Though workplace injuries and deaths in manufacturing have declined in recent years, manufacturing is still an industry with high occupational injury and death rates. When considering scaling your manufacturing operation, it’s important to consider if you can do so safely. If not, outsourcing with another manufacturer is undeniably the better choice. OSHA fines are costly enough, but losing a worker to preventable hazards is far more costly.

When considering whether or not you can safely expand your operations, consider the following:

  • Slips and Falls: slip and fall accidents are among the top causes of workplace injuries and deaths. This encompasses everything from catwalks without handrails to faulty ladders, slippery surfaces to stray electrical cords, or a lack of fall protection equipment when working from heights. If expanding your operation means introducing slip, trip, or fall hazards, it’s important to take great care in preventing these.
  • Electrocution: When working with high-powered equipment, electrocution is a possibility. Ensure that a new machine is installed by a professional and regularly inspect electrical cords and outlets for damage. Be sure that your facility is securely grounded, especially in areas with sandy soils.
  • Dust Fires and Explosion: Some dust and dirt is inevitable, and usually not a problem. However, if you are working with processes that frequently produce lots of dust, a dust containment unit is essential, not only for workers’ respiratory health, but also to prevent deadly fires and explosions. If dust is a problem at your operation currently, do not scale up operations until this problem is addressed.

Flexibility

Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can give you flexibility; you can expand operations when demand is high, and scale back during low periods. Permanently scaling your own operation generally means committing to a set production amount. If this production level isn’t met, it can mean losing money and overextending your resources.

If you are frequently getting more contracts than you can handle, it may be time to expand your operations. However, if any of the following are true, you may benefit more from outsourcing your manufacturing instead.

  • Demand swings: Seasonal demand or sudden demand spikes can make it seem like business is booming. However, scaling up operations to meet infrequent demand can leave machines and staff idle and losing money. Increasing production with a manufacturing partner as needed will give you more flexibility.
  • Unique jobs: If you sometimes need a machine that you don’t have or you’re facing a complex project, you’ll benefit more from outsourcing rather than buying expensive new equipment and training new workers. Until or unless this becomes a regular requirement for your operation, you’ll avoid risk by outsourcing.
  • Unique markets: Working in new industries with new clients often means leveraging relationships with materials or components suppliers. Work with an experienced manufacturer as you enter these markets, though make sure you have clear partnership agreements that protect your new business.

Ask these questions as you consider scaling up your operations. Remember that it’s possible to slowly scale up as you expand your workforce or facility, and work with an outsourced manufacturer in the meantime.

How Outsourced Manufacturing Can Shorten Your Production Times

Welding

If you’re looking at a tight turnaround time and a big project, you may be wondering how to shorten production times. An outsourced manufacturing partner may be able to help. Outsourced manufacturing can help you tackle large, complex projects faster, or work through unique obstacles as you enter new industries, and ultimately shorten production times.

How Outsourced Manufacturing Can Shorten Your Production Times

Producing More Units

In some cases, the sheer number of units may be more than you can produce alone. Some products or projects experience a high level of demand volatility or seasonal demand spikes, which can be difficult to forecast. If you find yourself in the middle of a project requiring more units in a faster time frame than you can deliver, outsourced manufacturing can help you make up the difference.

There are a number of ways to go about this. You might outsource one part of the project, such as a particular process that presents a time-consuming bottleneck at your shop. This allows you to continue producing more units faster at your own facility, assuming your outsourced manufacturing partner can also keep up. Or, you might outsource a number of starting or finishing processes. Contrastingly, you might subcontract complete production for a specific number of units that exceed your production capacity. This strategy can be risky, however, as it may introduce competitors to your clients.

Reducing Complexity

A job that is particularly complex can create long production times. This might come down to a single process that requires particular experience, attention, and care, or even requires a specific machine. In this case, instead of trying to add a specialized machine on short notice, or make due with those that you have, it’s better to outsource this work.

Machines that are made for the job can complete the process in a fraction of the time, and often do a better job. This allows you to focus on your strengths and avoid over-extending your resources or staff. You can also significantly increase production times by outsourcing a particularly complex part of the fabrication process. If you know that a new contract will require particularly complex, elaborate, or detailed work with a machine that you don’t have on hand, such as laser cutting, waterjet cutting, CNC machining, large-scale powder coating or other custom fabrication processes, outsource these manufacturing tasks to complete the contract faster.

Expanding Expertise

A new, inexperienced welder or machinist can get a difficult job done, but it will probably take them longer than an experienced one. Working with a manufacturing subcontractor can give you access to individuals with more skills and experience. This gives you time to grow your workforce accordingly, or fill in skills gaps as needed.

With some estimates showing a jobs skills deficit of 2 million workers in manufacturing by 2028, this is becoming a more and more common reason to outsource manufacturing. While outsourced manufacturing can help to fill skills gaps presented by uniquely complex contracts, this may not be a long-term solution. If you foresee needs for experienced welders, machinists and other fabricators occurring often in your future contracts, a manufacturing partner can help you fill in the gaps and shorten production times while you work on training or attracting new talent. Consider working with nearby colleges or job skills training programs to bring in new talent, or presenting more competitive job offers for experienced workers.

Accessing Materials

Different manufacturers bring different types of knowledge, expertise and business relationships to the table. If you’ve recently obtained a contract in an industry that you don’t have much experience in, it may take time to grow the supplier relationships you need to obtain the right raw materials or components. An outsourced manufacturer with prior experience in the industry may already have these contacts, and can help you jump into the industry faster.

For example, if you are newly working with a chemical company, you may need access to materials or components that are resistant to corrosion, fire, or explosion. For food contracts, you’ll need to work with food-safe metals or coatings that resist adhesion. Your contract may require that components be resistant to cracking or warping under stress, or produce low electromagnetic interference for sensitive instruments. Working with an outsourced manufacturer can help you shorten production times by satisfying these specific requirements using existing relationships.

If you are considering outsourcing manufacturing to shorten production times, choosing your manufacturing partner carefully. Ask about their experience, staff, machines, and their own production or lead times. With the right manufacturing contractor, you can expand your operations and shorten production times without overextending your resources or taking on more risk