Founded in 1968, IGP Pulvertechnik AG, develops and manufactures powder coatings for architectural and industrial uses. It is Switzerland’s largest powder-coating producer and a participant in global markets.
The company has partners and agencies in 40 countries, seven subsidiaries in Europe, more than 380 employees and an output of more than 12,000 metric tons of powder coating each year.
Leo D’Anna has been part of the IGP team for 18 years and, besides being a member of the company board, is responsible for operations, including production planning, maintenance and process engineering. More than 150 others are employed in these areas as well, across three production shifts per day.
“Our core task is to produce and develop powder coatings for a wide range of applications. These can be for use by makers of anything from office furniture to drinking bottles to switch cabinets,” D’Anna says. “We deliver product all over Europe. Especially in the field of architecture we have a strong presence, because covering metal facades with our powder coatings makes them robust and weather resistant.”
Powder coatings offer significant advantages, D’Anna adds. “Our business is important in both its economic and ecological aspects. Powder coating is not only solvent-free but also leads to customer productivity gain.”
Safety in making
Productivity during powder-coating manufacture is important as well, but safety is paramount, D’Anna says. As is well known, in many industrial environments, if a mixture of air, combustible gases, vapor, mist or dust comes in contact with an ignition source, an explosion can occur.
“During the processing of powdery materials, dust explosions can occur. We give high priority to constructive explosion prevention and protection measures,” says D’Anna.
All 20 IGP process plants are equipped with a Ventex explosion-protection valve by RICO Sicherheitstechnik AG, located in the nearby Herisau, Switzerland. “Sicherheitstechnik,” as is somewhat obvious, roughly translates into English as “security technology.”
“Our milling process starts with a chip-shaped primary product,” D’Anna explains. Material is first crushed and then placed in a cyclone, where the fine dust is extracted. After that, the final product falls directly into the packaging. Throughout, process air serves as a transport medium, so that powder is continuously carried through the mill’s pipes.
Given special circumstances, a dust explosion can occur.
Such an explosion would pose risk and hazard to the entire plant and its employees. However, an explosion originating from the powder-production area would be isolated by a Ventex ESI Typ 6 explosion-protection valve installed in the pipeline following the milling process.
Isolating the wave
The point is that explosion protection valves are a viable option for explosion “decoupling.” They offer, with low actuating pressure, says RICO, uncomplicated and reliable functionality.
In normal production, the valve-closing device is in the open position and material flows around it. In the event of an explosion, the pressure wave pushes the closing device against the closing device seal. In this closed state, the spread of flames or of any pressure wave into the plant interior is effectively prevented. Simultaneously, venting to atmosphere takes place.
“We have used these explosion production devices for more than 20 years now,” D’Anna says, including for additional production capacity the company is bringing online today.
Experts support RICO’s approach to explosion protection, D’Anna says. What’s more, he adds, the valves’ price/performance ratio, based on high quality, durability and consequent low maintenance are attractive. In fact, he concludes, the company insists on retrofitting these valves into mills it acquires, even when alternative solutions are in place or planned.