Volume 4 | Issue 6 | Year 2001

Once you get to know this company, you will never look at a window again without thinking of Allmetal, Inc. The Itasca, Ill.-based manufacturer is the innovator supreme of laser-welded air spacers and decorative products and components used primarily on insulated glass, windows and doors. Allmetal is the master of the small details — the ones that characterize a window designed and manufactured to deliver quality and high efficiencies.

“Not only are we the largest in the industry, but we are also very well known for our continuous innovations and for our wide range of product lines, many of which are custom-designed,” says Jeff Andresen, general manager. Allmetal manufactures connectors, corner keys, decorative intersects and keepers to hold all of these metal components together.

Founded in 1915, Allmetal has a rich history combining innovative thinking and the knack for finding the products consumers want and need. The company quickly found its niche once it evolved from its core product, weather stripping. Today, Allmetal is known worldwide for its customer-driven innovations in not only laser-welded air spacers, but also in stainless steel air spacers and decorative products.

All in House
Supporting its solutions-based philosophy is Allmetal’s complete ensemble of full-service manufacturing facilities, which offer customers vertically integrated design and manufacturing capabilities. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Itasca, the company operates an injection-molding division in Bensenville, Ill., a tooling and design division in Wood Dale, Ill., and roll-forming and distribution facilities in Somerset, N.J., Sparks, Nev., Savannah, Ga., Carrollton, Tex., and Germany.

“One of our advantages over our competition is that we have these strategically located full-service manufacturing plants throughout the country, so we can feed any region in the country and be specifically oriented to the products used most in those regions,” says Dick Schellhase, national sales manager. He adds that Allmetal is the largest roll-forming company for spacers and muntin bars in the country.

Most noticeable in Allmetal’s philosophy of manufacturing is the dexterity with which it mixes and matches its diverse equipment pool. “We have the capability to make tooling different from the norm, as we can take our current product lines and refine them,” says Michael Lagdan, plant manager for the tool and die division. The company works closely with window manufacturers to develop tooling for components to create new window designs. “Because we are an in-house facility, we have the ability to crank out tooling for each of our plants faster than if we were to send that work to an outside job shop,” Lagdan continues. “So it’s all about response time. We do only one thing here, and that is to make the tooling for air spacers and our decorative line for window applications.”

Not Just Another Pretty Window
One of the age-old complaints regarding decorative windows is whose turn it is to clean those multipaned beauties. One popular line of products — pleasing to everyone who knows intimately the bodily and psychological pains of window cleaning – are the Tutone muntin decorative bar grids, with one side stained the color of the interior trim and the other side stained the color of the exterior windows. Fret no more, for Allmetal engineers developed a solution well ahead of its competitors in its line of muntin bars for decorative grillwork. This line is designed to reside inside the double-paned insulated glass so all of the cleaning can be done with broad, no-fear strokes.

“People like the look of those separate pieces of glass, but they hate to clean them,” says Vincent Catalano, general manager of the injection-molding division. “And they are very difficult to manufacture because you have to cut individual panels and, for insulated glass, you have to cut twice as many pieces of glass.”

But there’s more to the story than just creating a beautiful window that’s easy to clean. “Whenever you put anything inside that glass, you have to make sure it doesn’t outgas, so we use a very specific material that never outgases,” Catalano says. “Outgasing” is the film you see on your car windshield, caused by embedded gas from the plastics and other materials used inside the car. When outgasing occurs inside an insulated double-paned glass, all the cleaning in the world will not remove the unsightly foggy film within the double panes.

This is where Allmetal’s technical services enter the story. “The window industry is very sensitive to contamination, and there can’t be even the slightest trace of oil left on the spacer,” explains Gary Matthews, product and process development coordinator. “Because of this, we run our roll formers dry. We are one of the few in the country who do so. Normally, these machines are completely flooded with oil in order to get speed and to cool and lubricate the dies.”

In addition running them dry, Allmetal’s innovative spirit has teamed up the roll-former equipment with a laser. “We were the first to do such an operation,” says Matthews. “All of these spacers are no larger than 1-inch square, so we are very good at manufacturing small, high-precision parts.” He adds that because the company does not know the environment in which its products will end up, Allmetal products must be designed and manufactured to near-aerospace-level specifications. “These products could be in a window in Arizona, for example, where it’s 115 degrees outside,” he continues. “Well, inside of the insulated glass the temperatures can reach 200 degrees, so even the slightest amount of oil vapor at that temperature will outgas.” So the company continually tests its coatings systems so they will be no-fail solutions in any environment.

First in Precision
Allmetal’s products have to meet the company’s stringent specifications in cleanliness of the components and in precision of the cuts. Matthews says, “We are probably the best in the country for this type of thing because the material has to be burr-free. So we’ve designed our own cutting equipment to do this while the material is running.”

Allmetal’s engineers design the specialized tooling necessary for this dry operation. “We’ve done a number of unique things in engineering the tools we use, in choosing the materials of the tools we use and in the way our machines are set up,” Matthews says. He adds that Allmetal equipment can deliver more precision than many competition’s roll formers.

Running 81 roll formers, 28 injection molders and 60 laser lines dedicated to laser-welded spacers, Allmetal stands ready to handle jobs of any size. It also runs a flat-bar decorative products line with an additional 20 lasers. The company has more than 600 tools in its manufacturing repertoire.

The Horizon in View
Any company can have the most state-of-the-art equipment, but without a dedicated work force, that company could be running on empty. Allmetal’s 325 employees are dedicated to the company and to the work they do. Many employees have been with the company for as long as 20 years. “It’s a family-run company with a good philosophy that’s helped us endure the various changes in the marketplace through innovation. So we’re good survivors,” says Schellhase.

Being an innovator imposes a certain amount of responsibility. “We never rest on our laurels, and we always have an eye over our shoulders for the competition trying to catch up with us,” Matthews says. “We are constantly researching new techniques, and we have solutions in our files just waiting for problems to show up. We will continue to be the innovators we’ve always been, and we will continue to develop new possibilities and applications. We will reconfigure our equipment in any way in order to handle special applications to suit the needs of our customers.”
“We are definitely a customer-driven company,” Andresen says, “and we try our very best to be everything to everybody so that our customers’ needs are met.”