Stainless steel has gotten a new look.
Kloeckner Metals, Roswell, Ga., has just wrapped up the installation of four PVD lines at its Cincinnati location. The process applies a variety of coatings onto traditional stainless products through Physical Vapor Deposition.
The company launched its first line last year, brought another online in June, and its final line in early July. For now, the Cincinnati operation will serve Kloeckner’s nationwide group of distributors.
“The response in the market has reinforced our idea to proceed with the project,” says John Dobek, vice president of business development for Kloeckner Metals.
In the PVD process, which stands for Physical Vapor Deposition, a metallic vapor is produced through heating and sputtering. The vapor is then transported through a vacuum chamber to the substrate, where it condenses. It is not a painted process.
PVD allows Kloeckner to apply a variety of finishes to the material, on a variety of surfaces. “It can be applied to mirror to shot blast and things in between, as well as mesh products and textured material. It retains the integrity of the finish, the look of stainless, while also picking up the brilliant color.”
The PVD product retains all of the properties that make stainless appealing, including its corrosion-resistance capabilities. Additionally, the process can be skewed with a bias to hardness or heat-resistance or wear, depending on the needs of the end user. “There’s no adverse impact to the functionality of the parent metal,” Dobek says. “You can still bend it, form it, weld it.”
Kloeckner originally purchased PVD product from a Chinese supplier, then sold it here through its distribution operations. The company was approached by its licensing partner, Double Stone, about installing its own lines here.
“We started to peel back the layers to see what the overall marketplace had to offer. As we found out more about the material and its functionality, we found there were applications we could make a business case for.”
The initial market for PVD product is in architecture applications. “We’re looking at a mix of cool projects, resorts and casinos and beautiful building projects. Some of those are about to pop soon, and some are developmental where we’re in on the ground floor. So there’s a mix of immediate and long term," Dobek says.
The next market up is on the industrial side, particularly on the appliance and food service businesses. The ability to apply an anti-fingerprint process in the PVD is particularly appealing to those end markets.
But, he says, they’re just scratching the surface on these peerless surfaces. Any market where aesthetics matter or anti-fingerprint matters or color matters, we feel we have another solution.
And the company isn’t done experimenting. Kloeckner is testing out the possibilities of applying it to aluminum products. It’s also determining if additional lines may be located in facilities outside Cincinnati. The four lines there have been accompanied by a comprehensive lab, where Kloeckner can continue to learn.
“We wanted to have one site that could support other launches in other plants,” he says.