Ameristar Fence Products (Tulsa, OK) is the world's largest manufacturer of ornamental fence products. It is also America's only architectural metal fence manufacturer that controls all of its manufacturing processes.
Ameristar was the first manufacturer to electrostatically coat fence products with a polyester powder coating. The company has tested and applied numerous other powders since it first began manufacturing in 1982. Today, Ameristar operates what many experts regard as the most advanced epoxy and polyester (double-coat/TGIC) coating line in the industry.
Realizing that the product finish is only as good as its cure, Ameristar uses three powder coat oven systems manufactured by Catalytic Industrial Systems. The cure has to be perfect: Ameristar warrants its residential fence for 20 years.
Ameristar averages 200,000 pieces per day, coating and curing pickets, posts and hardware. When the coating line starts, it runs until shut-down, without breaks. Parts are powder coated and cured in an unusually dense racking configuration engineered by Coating Line Process Control Supervisor, Ron Chandler.
"When we run pickets," he says, "we run 64 four-foot pickets in a line space 4 ft. long and 6' high. When we coat hardware, there are 135 pieces in a 4' area.
"This is all about volume, and density," suggests Chandler, who manages two coating lines that each run 80 hours per week.
Parts, which are galvanized, begin the finishing process in a 5-stage washer and pretreatment system. Powder application (the company applies Rohm and Haas TGIC polyester) is followed by an infrared pre-cure and 15-20 minutes of primary oven dwell time.
The 75' powder coat oven systems each have 136 infrared heaters.
They run at 13 ft. per minute line speed, "which means," says Chandler, "that when pickets are run, for example, they come off the line at 200 to 250 pieces per minute.
"We have experimented over time with various powder chemistries," he adds, "and found that the one constant – the one thing that always worked, was the cure we got from the Catalytic Industrial ovens. They were readily adaptable to any powder chemistry we were using."
"But when – once – we used another infrared supplier, the result was burners that worked barely half as well and slowed my line speed." It was a costly experiment: "One third of the other vendor's work did not even function properly. They could not provide a sensible reason, and then said the burners were not repairable. We asked Catalytic Industrial Systems back in, and have not had any cure problems since then."
Ameristar recently introduced a new product –
a high security fence that withstands 2 tons of truck impact at 50 mph. "It stops at 3 feet," says Chandler, "and demolishes the truck." Made of steel and cable, it has 3-inch wide "uprights," roll-formed in a proprietary shape for maximum strength, with a sharp curved point.
"No one is getting through this product," says Chandler, "and no one with anything but an excellent system is getting near my powder coating lines."