Need a custom color?
Posted March 07, 2016
Our in-house powder
coating shop can help.
A finish on any component is what
elevates it beyond a work in progress.
And that finish presents to the world the engineering and quality underpinning the completed product. Expensive lessons learned in Lightheaded Lighting’s early years, taught us to take this crucial step in-hand, and in-house.
Vertical integration ensures that Lightheaded Lighting maintains flexibility and consistency in all our products. In addition to tight control over quality, the Lightheaded Lighting Powder Shop lets specifiers choose custom colors for runs large and small – at reasonable cost and with reasonable lead times. Access to multiple powder suppliers covering all RAL colors means Lightheaded Lighting can provide a nimble turnaround on any finish. Intensive color-matching services suit the needs of very-high-end designers.
Powder coating our housing pans makes Lightheaded Lighting products that much safer to handle and install, and presents a clean, refined look for a precision-engineered, specification-grade product.
Powder Coat Schooling
In our early days of manufacturing we outsourced to local powder coaters. This worked well for the first few years for basic black and white trims. The challenges in those days were vendor schedules and varying levels of quality. As Lightheaded Lighting grew and volume increased, we started to see shortcuts that our vendors were taking. More and more, we saw uneven paint thickness – or “orange peel” – and varying shades of the same color.
These inconsistencies were just unacceptable. So in 2006 we started looking into setting up our own powder coat “shop.” We learned a lot over a year of careful planning and budgeting, and then through ordering and set up. For instance, we decided to raise the pre-treatment process from the standard fives stages to eight. To ensure the proper chemical concentrations in all of the wash tanks, we perform a titration test on each tank every morning. Only if metal parts are completely clean will you get proper powder coat adhesion and, thus, durability of the finish.
Safe & Green
Company imperatives for safety and environmental sensitivity are particularly important in the Lightheaded Lighting Powder Shop. When performing the bath “dump” every few months – according to testing – the tanks are drained off together with a fresh water tank, thus diluting the solutions even further. Waste water pumps through a sediment tank to catch the larger particles, and the remaining solution flushes through the city’s sewer system and treatment plant. Following all those procedures, plus a quarterly audit by our chemical supplier, ensures that Lightheaded Lighting’s processes are safe and up to current environmental regulations.
The 8 by 8 by 24 ft powder coat booth needs to breathe, safely. Self-cleaning air filters control air flow into and out of the booth, and purge any powder buildup every 30 seconds. This measured and consistent flow of air passes over the electrostatically charged parts being coated to ensure that the exact thickness of powder adheres uniformly: no orange peel effect.
Other lighting companies supply housings with bare metal parts. We choose to elevate our products by coating our downlight housing pans with our own internally recycled powder; thus achieving zero waste of powder.
The quality of the finished product is very much dependent on the diligence and skill of the people who prep and coat the products. Jai Mattam, Lightheaded Lighting’s Operations Manager, has more than 18 years of experience as the factory coordinator for one of the industry’s largest powder suppliers, TIGER Drylac. Taking charge of production planning and quality control were only two of the tasks he performed during his tenure there. Combined, the powder coaters on the shop floor have more than 25 years of experience coating all types of products to exacting standards.
Baked In Quality
Yearly calibration tests are performed on the oven to ensure that the oven temperature remains uniform, front to back and top to bottom. This is a crucial step to ensuring consistency of the finish. We learned (the hard way) when working with outside powder coat vendors that subtle discolorations can occur with inconsistent oven temperatures.
The rather large, 8' x 9' x 25' b curing oven produces a staggering 1 million BTUs of heat. The coated parts roll into the oven where the 400°F heat melts the polymers in the powder, bonding them to the metal surface and together. This creates the hard finish that is scratch- and impact-resistant.
Once cooled, parts are quality inspected under a diffuse 1000 lux light source that approximates daylight. Here they are scrutinized for any imperfections, then carefully wrapped and sent off to their respective assembly stations.
Though it may seem to be only “skin-deep,” quality finishing is representative of Lightheaded Lighting’s commitment to making light right. Over the past decade, the Lightheaded Lighting Powder Shop has become a key asset in meeting customer expectations in this ever-evolving lighting industry – and in meeting the long-term expectations of the owner.