Finishing first

From the December 2018 issue.

German trailer manufacturer, System Trailers, recently launched a new facility, Giga Coating, to provide thorough protection for trailer chassis, and it is so efficient that it has boosted the OEM’s productivity by a staggering 75 per cent.

To protect a trailer chassis optimally during its lifetime, several methods can be considered. Over the last few years, an increasing number of trailer manufacturers favour a combination of KTL treatment (Kathodische Tauch Lackierung AKA cathodic dip coating) supplemented by a powder coating treatment. Manufacturers are looking to speed up this process, in order to be able to shorten delivery timeframes. Ingo Wildermann, Managing Director at Giga Coating, says he can speed up productivity at System Trailers’ trailer manufacturing site by a 75 per cent.

When constructing the new premises, Giga Coating specified the dimensions of the largest pieces it could handle. They can be 15.8 metres long at a maximum, 1.5 metres wide and 2.7 metres high.

Planning
The new facility has been constructed on System Trailers’ site, but it is also close to the main road in order to speed up the intake of new chassis, as well as the delivery of finished chassis to third parties. System Trailers’ core business is to manufacture all kinds of trailers for third parties.

“We had customers tell us that they were under the impression that Giga Coating worked 80 per cent for System Trailers and 20 per cent for third parties. It will be the other way round,” Wildermann says with a smile.
At the new facility, trailer chassis undergo three treatments. First, they get blasted. This takes care of any rust, but at Giga Coating, there is more to it. The new company has found a way to also degrease the chassis, which is necessary before the KTL-treatment can be performed.

Treatment
The treatment of electrophoretic cathode metal coating entails a single, solid, long lasting thin layer being created on a metal surface. The goal is to create a layer that is very resistant to corrosion. The coating takes place in a prepared bath where paints using electric current are precipitated onto the cathode. Excess paint is washed off, after which the painted chassis is dried at a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius.

Manufacturers now have a perfectly protected chassis ready for powder coatings. All chassis are treated in eleven basins in total, before they continue their journey to the powder coating cabin.

Temperature
As the chassis are being dried, they are heated. The drying procedure is very precise, to ensure that the required quality standards are met. Wildermann explains that Giga Coating has completed 200 trials with different chassis, of varying weight and thickness. “Obviously, when there are differences in thickness, there are differences in drying times,” he says. “We have worked out a scheme for this and we really can program the right drying time for each and every chassis, in a great variety. That makes Giga Coating quite unique.”

The heat used for drying is also needed to powder coat the chassis in the requested colour. The KTL layer now acts as a primer. The ovens at Giga Coating are positioned relatively high in the building, and the chassis enter the oven from below. “This saves a lot of energy,” Wildermann says. “If you have the entrance on the side of the oven, think of your kitchen at home, you would lose a lot of heat. We have managed to avoid this. Warm air wants to go up, and that’s where our oven remains closed.”

The chassis is dried after the KTL-treatment and the heat is needed to guarantee a successful powder treatment process following the drying process. Giga Coating saves a lot of energy by avoiding having to heat the chassis multiple times in order to get it perfectly treated. The powder coating treatment takes place in an automated cabin which features 22 spraying guns, assuring a perfect layer and colour. Giga Coating says it has eight suppliers for the powder coatings, in order to be able to give the customer anything they order.

Water and air
During the entire procedure, Giga Coating takes care of all the water and air being used. “We see to it that no polluted water or air leaves this building,” Wildermann says. “We use the most modern technologies to make sure that all the spilled water is clean and we refresh and filter all the air constantly. A significant part of our investment went on water cleaning equipment, which takes up a lot of space, by the way. But we wouldn’t want to do it differently.”

Speed
Ultimately, the main goal is to enhance quality standards and to find an acceptable production speed. Here, Giga Coating has looked at all phases, starting with registering and confirming orders from customers at the front desk.

“We are happy to have experienced one customer calling about picking up his chassis.” Wildermann says. “He assumed it would be two or three days, but after delivering the chassis and calling us, he learned he had to come back quickly to pick up his chassis the next day.”

For now, Giga Coating can treat 48 chassis a day, and within two years from now, this number will have doubled. Giga Coating prefers its customers to pick up their treated chassis quickly. Wildermann explains that a higher speed of treating chassis is possible, but the great variety in both chassis and customers coming to Giga Coating means that there are also varying production times.

Fast Fact
German OEM, System Trailers, manufactures all kinds of trailers for road transport. It has no brand of its own, but it manufactures for other trailer brands all over Europe. It says that 99 per cent of end products leave the premises with the name of the customer stamped on it. System Trailers uses only first class components for its products, which are manufactured with the aid of robots. Since System Trailers started using welding robots, production times improved by 30 per cent. Still, with the current high business cycle, even System Trailers has to work harder to avoid lengthy delivery times.

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