by Michael Bourassa
For many years, the architectural metal industry has observed growth in the specification and use of painted coatings. An unlimited spectrum of colors can be applied to a vast array of materials. Only those coatings at the top performance level are suitable for exterior finishes on aluminum panels and extrusions for commercial buildings. Additionally, the paint industry is developing new technological advances rapidly. Frequent introduction of new products and techniques has become routine. The quality and longevity of these painted finishes is dependent on the care and handling which the aluminum receives from the time it is extruded in mill form, until the time it is installed into the opening of a building.
Aluminum requires a certain degree of care, from mill form to its installation as a finished product. At each step, care must be exercised and certain precautions observed to insure the aluminum is prepared properly for delivery to the next step. Some procedures and precautions need to be exercised each time the aluminum is handled.
This article focuses on the "care and handling of painted coatings" on aluminum extruded architectural materials. Because most of us will deal primarily with the transportation of aluminum extrusion lengths and fabricated doors and frames, I will concentrate on the specific issues that require the greatest degree of consideration.
The following check list of procedures and precautions are recommended in the handling, storing and protection of aluminum prior to installation. It is important that communication between the buyer and the seller be established during the quoting stage and finalized once the purchase order is executed. The end use of the product, as well as the type of finish to be applied, should be understood. The material handling equipment that would be used for unloading, the distance the materials are transported and the best method of delivery to service the project requirements, should all be determined well in advance. This information will allow the proper selection of material packaging to ensure the finished product arrives undamaged at the buyers warehouse or job site location.
LTL (Less than truckload) shipping via "common carrier:" The freight line may transfer the product from depot to depot and regularly transfer the order from semi-trailer to trailer by means unforgiving to the finished aluminum products.
Dedicated Shipper: Certain freight carriers may have programs with expedited freight. This may be slightly more expensive, however, the freight will remain on the original trailer, thus bypassing the nightmare of improper terminal handling.
Contract Haulers: Contract haulers are independent carriers. Many specialize in the transportation of a specific type of product. This is important when transporting specialty fabricated products. Suppliers that include delivery as a portion of the quoted price will only rely on the security of this type of carrier to deduce the likelihood of damaged freight.
Company Truck: This service is not as readily available. Only a few companies offer such a service. When it is available, be prepared to pay directly or indirectly and be patient, some companies may only run routes in your area as business dictates.
Customer Pick-up: When all else fails, take matters into your own hands. It may be beneficial to the service of your customer to control the handling of the material yourself.
The ultimate goal is to have the quality material available to assure acceptance of your products and workmanship by the general contractor or owner. The success of the project depends upon the condition of the material when initially received from the supplier.
Packing methods are influenced by various shipping criteria including the mode of transportation, delivery distance, weight limitations, quantity, size regulations, project scheduling and equally as important, the preservation of the product quality.
Receiving conditions (whether the location has a loading dock, etc.) should be determined in advance so packing is compatible with the unloading equipment. Packages should not exceed a nominal weight which can be safely lifted and movedusually no more than 50-75 pounds per person. Some items may have bottom protection, skidpads or runners for pushing and sliding the package along the ground. Cardboard protection blocks are often fitted around the door corner to prevent the door from shifting and protects the corner from damage inside the shipping carton. If hoisting is available, attach sling straps in a position to distribute weight evenly to prevent distortion, slippage or permanent damage. Lifting locations should be clearly identified on the packaging.
Packing techniques are critical to the prevention of marring, scuffing and scratching the finish. Painted surfaces lack the abrasion resistance of an anodized surface. Kynars® are among the softest coatings and therefore the most susceptible to damage. Dewey Fryar, Linetecs shipping department manager in Wausau, WI explains, "The key elements to successful packaging include separation of the finished edges." When product configuration prohibits nesting of the shapes, interleaving materials with a high density polyethylene sheeting or polystyrene foam is necessary. Other suitable interleaf materials include disposable corrugated paper strips, cardboard or paper.
"Edge protection" is yet another critical area of concern. Corner board, commonly known as "V" board (a ridged cardboard product), combining spiral shrink wrapping in lieu of tape or banding provides additional protection. Dewey stressed that "firm, tightly-packed" bundles complete the primary ingredients of good packing techniques.
Always inspect cartons to ensure all materials are in good condition and that obvious shipping damage either exposed or concealed doesnt exist. Materials should also be protected from exposure to moisture. Aluminum can stain or discolor when water is trapped between the interleaving materials if airflow doesnt remove the moisture. Never leave materials wrapped for extended periods of time or stored in the sun. Store indoors when possible and keep dry.
Consult your current suppliers to insure every effort is being given to ship materials with the greatest degree of protection. The ultimate goal is to install quality products. Since quality depends on the condition of the product when initially received, the ultimate success depends upon the care and handling of the painted material. You may also want to consult the AAMA Aluminum Curtainwall Series on the Care and Maintenance of exterior wall finishes for additional information related to this subject.
Michael Bourassa is the regional sales manager for Pittco Architectural Metals Inc., based in Elk Grove Village, IL.
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