Build the refrigerator from pre-coated steel or supply the finished appliance with color and a coating afterward? Manufacturers can choose. With its products, voestalpine makes the decision easier for them with colofer® brand pre-coated steel strip – an environmentally friendly and versatile solution.
The manufacturers of refrigerators and washing machines currently take various paths:
- procure the “plain” sheet from steel producers, then process and subsequently coat it;
- or use pre-coated sheet steel to construct their appliances.
The arguments for the first production strategy are that the forming steps can cause damage to the surface and also that coated product is more expensive to purchase. On the other hand, steel strip is easier to coat than a finished appliance (such as in critical areas like folds and edges). Manufacturers receive a pre-inspected surface that is free of defects in the coating. They also save the cost of having their own coating line.
More than just versatile
voestalpine offers appliance manufacturers products with properties that are not easily achieved with their own coating lines. These include colofer® brand strip material that is pre-coated with a structure that can be felt. Engraved metal rollers apply effects to the steel strip with special printing inks; using this method, even the appearance of stainless steel and carbon can be offered. The wide-ranging basic color palette has been expanded in recent years with silver tones and bright colors.
Whether they feature bright or metallic colors or are structured – the pre-coated material meets the high manufacturer standards with respect to formability. This is demonstrated, for example, with the porthole of washing machines: This round opening in the front wall is deep drawn during production – stress that the color and coating layers easily withstand.
“One of the customer requirements was that we also had to successfully meet the strictest color tolerances,” recalls Franz M. Androsch. The head of voestalpine Group Research was responsible for research and development in the starting phase of production for pre-coated materials. “For example, we had to compare our measurement instruments with those of the appliance manufacturers. Later, the fact that chrome-free materials were used gave us the advantage. With that, we were better positioned when the legislators then required this.”
What is better?
It is ultimately the skill of the sales staff that convinces manufacturers of the technical advantages of the developments of voestalpine. This is an approach that, with plenty of perseverance and knowledge, leads to success. With their capabilities, they support the manufacturers in deciding whether to buy a coated material or whether to handle this production step themselves. “Producers of white goods have always coated (powder coated) themselves and they view themselves as specialists in this field,” says Sales Manager Gerhard Maurer. “For this reason, enormous persuasion is required to convince internal critics before a change in technology. In the approval phase, for instance, we had an adversary with a major household appliance producer who always wanted to prove to us that our products had a higher reject rate than his powder coating line did. Until one day, when it emerged that 100 percent of our materials were inspected, while his were only sampled. With that, the spell was broken and our comprehensive entry was secured.”
Today, voestalpine is among the top three suppliers for manufacturers of refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and the like with its wide range of colofer® brand pre-coated steel strip.