Bob Sullivan, president of Sullivan's Shutter Factory, installed a UV-cured finishing system to reduce VOC emissions to meet California's tough emission standards. The installation achieved that goal, and much more. The purchase of the Makor system resulted in zero VOC emissions, a savings in paint costs of at least $10,000 per month and a reduction of five employees.

Sullivan's Shutters manufactures wood shutters in all shapes and sizes. The Indio, Calif., company uses up-to-date technology to create the shutters that Sullivan describes as "a piece of furniture for your window."

Changing paint

In the past, lacquer has been the finish of choice for the industry because it leaves such a beautiful finish, says Sullivan. But lacquer has to be mixed with lacquer thinner. The lacquer thinner doesn't stay in the product. Instead it goes on with the paint and comes out as emissions - the VOCs that Sullivan wanted to get rid of.

Sullivan says that water-based finishes eliminate the VOC emissions, but you don't get a comparable finish with lacquer.

The third option is a UV-cured finish. While UV-cured paint in its liquid state is relatively toxic and has to be handled very carefully, the second it is cured with ultraviolet light, it loses its toxicity. It dries instantly, with no emissions.

Sullivan's Shutters now uses a Sherwin-Williams UV-cured paint, which is applied at 130 fpm. Sullivan says that at first glance UV-cured paint appears more expensive than water-based, with UV costing $60 per gallon and water-based finishes at $13 to $14 per gallon. But the UV-cured finish has a higher solid content, so one gallon will cover 800 square feet while one gallon of the water-based covers only 35 square feet.

Sullivan says when the company was using water-based paint the monthly bill ran in the neighborhood of $22,000 to $23,000 while the current monthly finishing cost is about $11,000. In addition to the substantial savings in finishing material, the new finishing system required much less labor. Once the company adjusted and fine-tuned the machine to work for its product, it was able to eliminate five employees.

How it works

Parts come off one of the two Weinig moulders and go directly to one of the Makor sanders. After the primer coat is applied parts go through the second Makor sander, where they are again sanded. Finally parts are given a topcoat in the Makor UV system and sanded one last time.

Paint is applied through a vacuum system that has a vacuum on top and a pump on the bottom of the enclosed application area. The pump below pumps the paint up to cover the part and the vacuum pulls the paint out in such a way that the paint is constantly moving. There had been problems with the vacuum and pump clogging and if the pump stops Sullivan says, "You're out of business." The company had to be very careful to make sure parts were cleaned of all chips and dust to keep the pump from stopping.

The company has since modified the pumps and filter system, by moving them out from behind the machine to a position a few feet away that was more accessible. Then additional pumps and filters were attached to the system, so that there are now three pump and filter sets. The sets were set up to allow one set to be used while maintenance was performed on the other and to always have a backup ready.

Sullivan says that the learning curve for the finishing system was considerable. He says that every machine has a learning curve. "I don't care what machine it is. You have to learn what works with it." Despite the initial problems, Sullivan says that Makor was very good in dealing with everything. "It's a great machine," he adds.

Turning trash into product

Sullivan's success with the finishing system encouraged him to push toward zero waste in other areas. He says that he always hated throwing away the larger wood scraps, but there was no real way to recycle them, until he found the Obles fingerjointing machine.

The jointer can also be used to salvage a piece of wood that is too bowed to be useable. By cutting a bowed piece of wood into smaller pieces and regluing those pieces, the wood becomes a straight piece that is better than the original.

When Sullivan decided to buy the machine, he began saving the wood pieces he had normally thrown out. Since May 2001 when the machine was purchased, he has been saving all the wood scraps.

"The stacks outside by the Obles represent about $80,000 worth of wood," says Sullivan. By being able to recycle that wood every year the machine will save about $50,000 to $80,000 per year. "That's a lot of money. And what that's going to do is give us the ability to buy a lot more machinery," he adds.

Because Sullivan's Shutters needs the machine to run only louver parts through it, the company had the machine built specifically for its product. The fingerjointer is designed to join together 5/8 inch pieces and only requires one operator.

An important lesson the company learned shortly after the machine arrived was that the pieces put into the machine for jointing have to be the same size. The saved wood pieces require a great deal of sorting to be done. Working with size constraints in the future won't be a problem because the company will be sorting scrap wood as it is generated and will sort according to sizes.

The machine puts perfect 90-degree angles on both ends cutting from both the bottom and the top leaving no blowout. The shaper in the machine shapes the ends with female profile on one end and male profile on the other. After glue is applied the female end of one piece is joined with the male end of the other and the machine applies four tons of pressure.

These smaller pieces are formed into 70-, 88-, 98- and 120-inch lengths, sizes that are frequently used to cut the parts for louvers. Other sizes can be made if needed.

Making dust pay

Zero waste carries all the way through to the dust and non-recyclable wood pieces. The sawdust that's collected throughout the plant from the Donaldson Day 40,000 cfm dust collection system is sold and burned for fuel. All the wood that can't be used for louvers is taken to a Weima 40-hp wood grinder where it is ground up, added to the saw dust and sold to be used as energy.

Sullivan says that selling the dust and wood chips is not going to make him rich. But instead of paying to haul the material away and filling up landfills, he gets paid and the material is further recycled for energy. "Even if I make $10 a day, it'd still be better. We have zero waste, absolute zero," he says.

Like everything else in the plant, "you've got to have all the toys to make it happen," Sullivan says. Despite the fact that the plant uses a lot of the most current technology, he says that the company needs to continue to mechanize to survive in the future.

There are a lot of components that go into the shutters and Sullivan's has relied on technology to produce high quality products consistently and precisely. "We need to be on the front line technologically," he says.  

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