Employees at Andersen’s Aurora, Ohio, glass-fiber extrusion facility scored a big win in 2018 with the creation of an innovative resin dispensing system that improved employee safety, reduced emissions and increased productivity. The new system drew the attention of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which in December announced that the Aurora plant had earned recognition in the EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence Program. “The Aurora facility has made remarkable progress over the past few years in reducing environmental impacts and advancing operational excellence,” said Eliza Clark, director of sustainability and community affairs. “The team’s collaborative and cross-functional approach to developing an inventive solution to this challenge is truly a model for the rest of our company and merits this impressive recognition.”
THE OLD PROCESS
The Aurora facility once used an “open bath” pultrusion system ― the industry standard when it comes to pultrusion. Employees pulled 55-gallon drums of resin weighing 350 pounds across the plant. The resin is a liquid polymer that is used to coat continuous strands of fiberglass to increase the product strength. The heat of the pultrusion die converts the liquid resin into a thermoset plastic. Operators were required to dispense the liquid resin into two-gallon pails and then pour the material into open tanks. The process was repeated four times each hour. The process was labor intensive, as employees annually spent an estimated 9,600 hours just refilling the tanks.
THE NEW PROCESS
The Aurora engineering team was tasked with developing and deploying a resin delivery process that would reduce emissions and improve safety. The team was more than up for the task, creating a system featuring these innovations:
• Enclosed tanks that replace the 55-gallon drums
• Dove-tailed with and expanded on an earlier improvement that created dies designed for injection
• Pumps that inject the resin from the enclosed tanks into the dies
The new system, which was created in part by input from Aurora’s entire 75-employee team, eliminates the industry-standard open bath system and reduces resin fumes. It also empowers employees to monitor the process to ensure higher quality.
“These new dispensing systems are not trivial; they consider delivery, metering, environmental control and even cleaning,” Said Scott Koenig, general manager of the Fibrex strategic operations group (FSOG). “The team developed multiple concepts and even prototyped some ideas with off-the-shelf container systems. This approach helped the idea develop and evolve while maintaining a cost-effective approach. I could not be prouder of their accomplishments, it truly is a different and better solution.”
Did You Know?
The Aurora facility produces pultruded parts for Andersen® Flexiframe® windows as well as our A-Series products.