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Painting services - protection for castings and a competitive edge.

Foundrymen discuss the decisions that went into offering to supply painted castings, including the advantages and challenges of providing this value-added service.

Editor's Note: In a time when OEMs are looking to consolidate supply chains and casting suppliers are looking for any competitive edge (or foothold) they can find, modern casting explores the opportunities and challenges in value-added services.

In addition to making your castings more attractive to the eye, painting and other value-added services can make your foundry look more attractive to customers. In addition to "one-stop shopping," foundries that offer services like painting provide end-users with a significant opportunity to reduce their own costs and save time. Primarily used as a protectant, paint, or "organic coatings," can prevent corrosion, "dress up' the look of rough castings with different colors or textures, aid an end-user in quickly identifying similar-looking parts and even provide conductivity for grounding electricity. The foundry that is willing to go above and beyond what is expected by adding value to its castings becomes "invaluable" to its customers.

But, while these services offer competitive advantages, they also require an investment in equipment and technical expertise. Most painting is accomplished through some form of dipping (immersion or electrocoating) or spraying (hot, airless or electrostatic), and developing a successful in-house operation means dealing with potential problems such as containing hydrocarbon emissions and training employees to be proficient at your own unique painting set-up.

Even if you decide not to coat castings as part of your own operation, you should cover your bases by examining your outsourcing options. Developing a long-term partnership in which you market outsourced services as part of your own capabilities could be just as advantageous, if not quite as profitable, as providing the services in-house.

This second article in modern casting's value-added series examines unique benefits and challenges of painting castings. By looking at foundry operations that either paint their own castings or outsource the service, you can begin to explore the possibility of offering painting as part of your own foundry's competitive advantage.


Harrison Steel Castings Co., Attica, Indiana, decided to offer painting in 1977 when a customer that didn't have a painting facility of its own asked the foundry to supply the value-added service. Harrison started out modestly, in a two-car garage, using paint per the customer's specification and equipment suggested by the paint supplier.

As the company became more familiar with the painting process and began promoting its painting capability, the operation outgrew the original facility and Harrison built a new one in 1978, which was sized based on future casting size and volume expectations. When it first began to provide painting, Harrison found that it had underestimated customers' demand for the service and the size of the castings it would be asked to paint. Currently, the firm is researching the possibility of expanding even further and adding a prewash operation.

Harrison had to purchase some specialized equipment in order to be able to offer painting services. This included a paint booth with a built-in filter rack and exhaust fan; a 3-ton powered monorail system with 10 work hooks, a large make-up air unit to match the booth's exhaust capacity; lighting to 200 ft candles; a 2500-sq-ft building addition that is heated, equipped with a sprinkler system and explosion-proof; an explosion-proof fork truck; and duplicate sets of high-pressure fan jet painting equipment and mixers. Building and equipment cost the firm $160,000 in 1978, and the $29,000 air make-up unit was added in 1997.

Go with the Flow

When it installed painting capabilities, the foundry had to rearrange its process flow, but only in a minor way. Castings had generally been finished and ready to ship as they approached the south end of the operation, where they were loaded and shuttled east to the facility's shipping dock. Now, the castings that require painting are shuttled first to the paint shed, then east to the dock. Although a second line originally was set up to ship directly from its southeast end, that line's product now jogs off to the paint shed on its way to the old shipping dock. In terms of material handling, painting has added a two-step trucking operation of no more than 200 ft for any line.

In addition to special equipment, the firm must also purchase the required consumables, which include the paint itself, paint thinners, filters and paint tips. Maintenance to the system costs $0.13/ton of product shipped.

Harrison decided to train its own workforce to run the painting operation instead of hiring painting personnel. Associated painting suppliers were required to train staff in the use of their equipment and products. In 1-2 weeks, workers had gained the skills necessary to take charge of the operation.

The Trade Off

The foundry has the capability to paint just about every product it casts in ductile iron or steel. Harrison, which produces castings from 5012,500 lb, paints 40% of its total tonnage and 52% of all casting pieces. Because the castings it produces are fairly simple in complexity, Harrison only has seen minor process problems, such as with coverage or over-spray, that can be fixed through operator training.

Harrison also has experienced a problem in the storage/staging of large quantities of paint and maintaining the required permits. The operation required Harrison to obtain an additional air discharge permit and a special waste permit for floor sweepings and booth filters.

An advantage to the value-added capabilities is that it frees up some casting storage space. Some of the painted products, which previously had to be kept indoors, can be stored outside while awaiting shipment, freeing up interior space. Painting also reduces the need for reblast before shipping.

Overall Impact

Offering painting has had a positive impact on the foundry's bottom line because it is now better able to satisfy customers' needs. Because customers no longer have to pay transportation costs to a painting supplier, Harrison is able to boast a real advantage. Painting capabilities are discussed in the company's brochures, and sales representatives promote the foundry's painting capabilities.

Originally, paint pricing was based on estimated costs and negotiation with the customer. Since then, Harrison has accumulated information on costs for the operation, and the foundry prices accordingly. The business charges for painting services by the pound and using historical costs based on variable and fixed operating costs and the number of castings painted. This service is quoted as a separate line item.

The firm continues to outsource some painting projects, depending on price and convenience. Size, weight, painting specs, quantities and environmental requirements all influence the cost-effectiveness of providing value-added services.


Electric Steel Castings Co., an Indianapolis-based producer of carbon and low-alloy steel castings, started outsourcing painting services in 1989. The company did not begin outsourcing until a major customer "insisted" that the foundry provide a finished, painted part. The customer provided Electric Steel with 5 gal of the required paint, the name and address of the paint vendor, and an order for painted castings.

Previous Experience

Electric Steel didn't have much experience at painting castings, other than an instance in which the foundry had painted a few castings for another customer, who similarly had insisted that its 40-lb castings be painted before delivery. At that time, because the order represented only a small quantity of castings, the foundry decided to try its hand at doing the painting in-house. Every time it ran the job, Electric Steel would dip the castings in buckets of paint, which were kept in a storage shed, and set the parts on a pallet outside to dry before shipping. 'That experience proved to be very messy and a real nuisance," said Electric Steel Plant Manager Bill Baker. "That, coupled with safety and environmental concerns, greatly influenced our decision to outsource."

To provide a full, efficient painting operation, Electric Steel would have to find room or build out space for equipment and invest in a new exhaust collection system. In addition to particulate emissions, painting operations generate some hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). An expensive wet collection system would be required to control the HAPs, and the discharge water would have to be controlled through pretreatment.

At the time, the Clean Air Act Amendments had not yet become law, and stricter rules on HAPs were expected. In addition, there was much concern over volitile organic compounds (VOCs), which react with oxygen in the presence of sunlight to form ozone (smog). The foundry did not want to add VOCs from painting solvents to an already significant amount of alcohol and toluene emissions from its mold washes. In light of environmental requirements, outsourcing was the most attractive option.

Since the firm began to outsource painting, several other customers have requested it, and some of them have even closed their own paint operations due to similar concerns about Title V air permitting requirements.

Outsourcing in Action

By having an outside firm handle all paint requirements, Electric Steel has avoided any disruption to the metalcasting process or added capital and labor costs associated with equipment and manpower. The castings undergo normal processing to shipping, then the paint shop picks up the castings, paints them and delivers them back to the foundry. Only one additional day is needed for painting, which includes the time required to paint, dry and transport the castings. Castings from a few ounces up to 1000 lb can be painted to a variety of specifications with one-day service. Generally, castings in the 150-1000 lb range are the best candidates for painting, based on painting cost as a percentage of the total casting cost, Baker said.

The paint shop then bills the foundry, based on a previously quoted per-piece price, and the final cost of the castings includes the cost of handling, transportation, sorting and paperwork. The cost of the painting service itself varies depending on the surface area of casting to be painted, the number of castings in an order and the required paint. A number of different paints are available to meet different specifications, including red oxide, black oxide, zinc chromate and machine gray, but the required paint usually is spelled out by the customer.


Citation Foam Casting Co. (CFCC), Columbiana, Alabama, has been primer-painting gray and ductile iron castings for the past 10 years. The foundry started painting castings as it began to branch out into different markets. It had targeted the electric motor industry as an application of the lost foam process and an area for growth, but the gray iron stator housings for this market require a primer coating to prevent rust during transportation and processing of the casting within the customer's plant. The transportation and handling costs associated with getting these large castings (75-750 lb) to and, from an outside painting source was cost prohibitive and also interfered with CFCC's efforts to minimize lead times, so the decision was made to explore in-house painting services.

Process Flow

Today, castings can be dip-painted and palletized for shipment within several hours after grinding and finishing, as opposed to several days if the painting was outsourced, according to Citation Foam Marketing Manager Jeff Vogel.

Initially an old mold conveyor line was used as a drying rack after the castings were picked up with an overhead hoist and dipped into a tank of paint. "The operation was crude but proved very effective and was inexpensive to operate with very little capital requirements," Vogel said. As CFCC grew, additional molding capacity was needed and the floor space used by the old mold conveyor line was targeted for the new lost foam mold line. In addition, several new parts produced in the foundry required painting, so it was decided to install a state-of-the-art automated paint line for primer-painting larger castings.

The castings are loaded by overhead hoist onto a "tree," which typically holds 1-12 castings. Each tree is suspended by chain from an electric tractor, which moves the tree through a gas-fired oven to preheat the casting. The tractor then moves the tree to one of two dip tanks (red or black primer paint), dips the tree holding the castings into the tank, raises the tree out of the tank, pauses while still over the tank for draining excess paint, then moves the tree through a gas-fired curing oven before returning to the load and unload station.

The whole process requires only one person to operate and takes about 40 rain for each tractor to make a complete cycle. There are 12 tractors on the line so a tractor arrives at the unload station about every 3.5 min. The paint line cost $600,000 installed, excluding buildings and utilities.

Outsourcing Services

Citation Foam also outsources painting for other customers. This decision is based on both economics and paint requirements. The in-house paint line is only capable of dip-painting castings with a primer paint. Many customers specify electrocoat or powder coat processes in order to meet more stringent rust, salt spray or corrosion requirements.

If only primer paint is required, the decision on whether or not to outsource is one of economics. CFCC uses an activity-based cost system and applies costs for the painting department on a part-by-part basis. Typically, the in-house paint line proves to be most competitive when castings are 50 lb or larger. Typical prices range from $.01/lb for castings up to 750 lb to $.03/lb for smaller castings in the 50-lb range. "When a customer requires primer paint, having the capability in-house reduces our casting cost, which makes us more competitive," Vogel said.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Value-Added Services Part
Comment:Painting services - protection for castings and a competitive edge.(Value-Added Services Part 2)
Author:Foti, Ross
Publication:Modern Casting
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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Next Article:Robert Warrick: dedicated to advancing iron casting research.

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