Northern Indiana Anodize (NIA) is a new anodizing company located in Fort Wayne, IN. The company started up its first large anodizing line in June, where it will process aluminum profiles manufactured by local extruders. The company plans to serve the architectural, automotive, marine, solar energy, and industrial markets in the Mid-West region, where there is an increased demand for finished aluminum profiles.
“With the advancement in technology, a lot of industries are shifting towards aluminum products more than they had in the past,” explained Andrew Smith, ceo of NIA. “The automotive industry is a good example of this, with the amount of steel trending down and aluminum trending up. This creates an increased need for anodizing for these products to meet heat, corrosion, or weather resistance requirements. Since there are not many companies in the Mid-West who can cater to longer length anodizing, we are able to fill a void in the market.”
The company was founded by father and son duo, Jeff Smith and Andrew Smith, both of whom have extensive experience working in anodizing. “My dad, Jeff Smith, started an anodize company about 20 years ago called Smith Metal Finishing,” said Andrew. “After many years, he sold the business, and I ultimately ended up leaving as well. Soon after, a friend in the industry contacted me about starting an anodize company here in Fort Wayne, so I began Advanced Metal Finishing in 2016 with small 4 ft tanks.”
In 2017, Advanced Metal Finishing was receiving a number of requests from customers for increased capacity and long-length anodizing. One customer, Faztek, approached the company about investing in a new operation that would accommodate these needs. This enabled Andrew and Jeff to launch NIA, with Advanced Metal Finishing subsequently being shut down.
New Anodizing Facility
When NIA decided to develop their metal finishing capabilities, PriceWalgren was selected to partner with them on the engineering. The plan was for a new $6.9 million anodizing facility with the capability to process loads up to 1,000 sq ft for Type II and Type III anodize, with options for two-step electrocolor, black dye, and seals. The line was installed in a newly constructed 47,000 sq ft facility.
The overall project from design and fabrication to installation, final commissioning, and acceptance testing took approximately ten months to complete. “The biggest challenge we faced during construction was winter weather,” said Andrew. “It was –40°F the entire week that we were supposed to be pouring concrete, but we survived. We just ended up pushing our aggressive timeframe back about a week.”
The new large-tank anodizing line includes 23 process tanks in a straight line configuration (Figure 1), leaving space in the layout for the addition of two more anodize tanks as well as other potential process tanks in the future. The tanks are 30 ft long by 6 ft deep and are designed to accommodate profile load sizes 342 inches long by 54 inches deep by 30 inches wide. The rinse tanks include exit sprays to help ensure a thorough rinsing of parts prior to each subsequent process step. The line can anodize about 520,000 sq ft of profiles per shift week, but has the potential to more than triple that capacity if needed.
American Plating Power was selected to provide electrical rectifiers for the line, with ratings of 24 vdc/15,000 amp for the Type II process, 40 vdc/15,000 amp for the Type III process, and 25 vac-vdc/6,000 amp for the electrocolor process. American Plating Power worked with the local power utility to ensure that the equipment aligned with NIA’s expectations when installing the dedicated AC power. Local automation was added to each rectifier unit, providing a blend of control solutions that the production team can use to run profiles for the varying loads. The control system offers data storage, which allows operators to review the information for auditing. The electrolytic color control is a dynamically adjustable interface that monitors variables, such as temperature and time in order to aid in the efficiency of the operation.
All support equipment—such as boiler, chillers, ventilation, filtration, air agitation, and waste water treatment—was designed with operating efficiencies and process parameter controls in mind to help maintain a high level of quality. Faztek supplied safety guarding throughout the plant.
The facility also includes a small-tank line (Figure 2), which is comprised of 4 ft tanks brought over from the previous Advanced Metal Finishing company. Additional dye tanks are being added to the small line, as new order requirements come in.
With the launch of its first large anodizing line, NIA is positioning itself to serve the increasing demand of the local market, with room to grow as need arises. “Our goals over the next few years are to grow into a 24/7 operation, while providing a positive culture for our employees and our customers to succeed,” said Andrew. “This will involve doubling or tripling our capacity, hiring many new employees, and bringing in some new customers to be a part of our team.”