Processes that avoid spray-up and the atomization of coatings and resins such as prepregs, infusion, compression molding, resin transfer molding and other closed molding techniques, not only minimize atmospheric pollution but also reduce waste as there is no overspray and very little waste trimming required.
Where spray-up is necessary, controlled spraying is the goal. Airless spray equipment or high-volume low pressure (HVLP) sprayers operate at about 10 psi to apply gel coat or to wet out dry fiberglass while conventional air spray equipment operates at 60 psi. The use of airless or HVLP sprayers reduces overspray, fogging and bounce-back, thereby reducing material waste and air pollutant exposure to workers. High material delivery rates and high-quality atomization are added benefits.
“Moving from our lamination building to the production floor, we looked at every manufacturing step,” says Campion’s Elliott. “We manufacture a fiberglass stringer system (the support members bonded into boat hulls) filled with a polyurethane marine flotation foam that is sprayed by one of our workers. He was required to wear a safety suit with a hose-fitted helmet. On the days he was applying the flotation foam to the hull of a boat, we had to shut down that plant area because the foam was so toxic.”
Campion approached its foam supplier with the goal of becoming more green and was introduced to Ecomate®, an environmentally-friendly polyurethane foam blowing agent. “It has no global warming potential, no ozone depletion potential and no volatile organic compounds,” says Elliott. The switch provided a green solution that netted bottom line benefits and increased productivity. The employee no longer requires a hazmat suit, and the facility doesn’t empty out on the days foam spraying is scheduled.
Green Building Operations
Since Kalwall is a supplier to the building and construction industry, it is conscious of the advantages of operating a green building. “Early in our process, we revamped our facility from T12 to the highest efficiency T5 technology fluorescent lighting – a smaller, electronic ballast that provided the same light using less energy,” indicates Schmidtchen. Campion and Kohler have done likewise, staging the implementation across their facilities.
Kalwall’s Schmidtchen notes drivers in the green building initiatives include the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 certification as well as systems such as the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which identifies environmental impacts buildings pose such as raw material acquisition; energy use and efficiency; emissions to air, soil and water; and waste generation.