We use and enjoy products influenced by this company every day. From the dashboards and trunk liners of our cars taking us to work every morning to the lawn chairs we relax in every evening, this is a company whose large footprints continue to blaze trails through the spectrum of infrared applications for commercial and industrial users. It is an acknowledged industry leader and its reputation is renowned and respected worldwide for its pioneering developments in infrared processing technology. The company is Fostoria Industries of Fostoria, Ohio.
Infrared technology is only a part of Fostoria’s expertise. The company is a recognized leader in the design and manufacture of products in four major product sectors, including process heat industrial ovens (accounting for 40 percent of the company’s business), electric and gas comfort heaters (30 percent), industrial task lighting equipment (20 percent), and specialized sheet metal fabrication services (10 percent).
Turning up the Heat
The company’s industrial process oven heating equipment is used to bake, cure, bond, burn-off, pre-heat, thermo-form, cook, fuse, shrink, laminate and dry a variety of materials. “One way manufacturers use our ovens is for thermal-forming plastics and other materials,” says Steve Fruth, vice president of sales. “For example, they will take a plastic sheet and heat it up to 400 degrees very quickly and then drop it onto a mold where it forms a trunk liner or a headliner for a car.”
In a completely unrelated application, Fostoria recently supplied two process heat ovens to a major automotive manufacturer. “Every 4.6 liter engine block they produce goes into a Fostoria oven where it is heated up to 335 degrees F, allowing the cylinder’s cavities to expand so robots can drop a stainless steel liner inside,” notes Fruth.
Infrared is the most efficient of all forms of radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum involving the transfer of heat. Its physical properties allow it to travel in straight lines from its source, thereby making it an excellent source of heat that can be directed into specific patterns through the use of optically designed reflectors.
“Fostoria is a pioneer in electric infrared technology and we continue to find a better, faster, and more efficient way to heat products, whether in thermal-forming or baking paint on a painted part,” says Fruth, noting the company’s pioneering engineering expertise in process heat applications goes back to the ‘40s. Much of the process-heat oven equipment is marketed directly to Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive industry – or directly to automotive manufacturers who use Fostoria ovens on their paint lines or in process manufacturing areas.
Infrared technology in paint and powder coating applications has many benefits over convection technology. Because the coatings industry moved from solvent-based coatings to more advanced, durable, and environmentally sensitive powder coatings or water-borne paints, convection-only cure systems are not as efficient as infrared ovens on these newer coatings. Disadvantages in using convection systems include using more energy for heat-up, curing, and cool-down; requiring longer cure times and slower line speeds; the inability to adjust heat zones for reduced energy consumption and processing different parts and creating contaminates on coated parts through convection air movement.
In powder coating, using an electric infrared booster oven before the final curing allows the surface to be flashed-off quickly, initiating the gel of the powder and thereby reducing contamination and inconsistencies in color. In Fostoria’s lab, the company subjects its products to strict and rigorous applications testing and customers can visit the lab to see first-hand just what a positive impact infrared can have on that ever-important bottom line.
A Clean, Warm, Well-Lit Space<./b>
Good managers know just how important creature comfort is in producing happy and productive employees. If your employees are struggling to keep warm, that is all they will think about. But if you provide the warmth, they will provide the productivity. “Our electric and gas comfort heaters apply energy-saving, efficient infrared heat technology to keep people warm and comfortable in hard-to-heat areas like large warehouses where you don’t need to heat the whole warehouse – only the area where your employees are working,” says Fruth.
The company expects its infrared comfort heater products group – and particularly its gas infrared comfort heaters – to provide significant growth potential. “We just introduced these gas heaters into the market this year,” says Fruth. “It’s a new market for us and it’s a very large market with lots of competitors. But we think we can establish ourselves within the top five providers based on our experience in manufacturing and selling electric infrared heating equipment for decades.” Gas and electric comfort heaters are marketed through electrical and industrial wholesalers, or through HVAC dealers, to be used in commercial and industrial applications.
Good managers also know that you don’t leave your good workers in the dark. Fostoria’s industrial and contractor grade task lighting equipment keeps those work areas in industrial settings or construction sites well lit. These fixtures use primarily energy-efficient and effective quartz halogen lighting. Fostoria also is the world’s leading supplier of dock lighting equipment.
Fostoria is also renowned for its specialized sheet metal fabrication services for companies wanting to outsource to a top-quality fabrication company for stamping and fabricating metal for specialized parts. “Companies might need us to make a thousand widgets out of metal – or a bracket or small metal box or a metal frame,” says Fruth. “They can come to us for these projects because we have the heavy presses and turret lathes which we use for our own products and we want to fully utilize our equipment.” Fostoria fabricates
parts for companies in electronics, automotive, and medical industries, and it fabricates about eight different parts for a company making
medical carts that carry medications in hospitals.
The company has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1917, when Russell Carter founded Fostoria Pressed Steel Corporation which supplied replacement parts such as running boards, fenders, and hoods to the automotive industry. Today, the company is a wholly owned subsidiary of TPI Inc. of Johnson City, Tenn. Fostoria employs a dedicated workforce of 150 UAW-skilled people in its 160,000-square-foot ISO-9000-certified manufacturing facility.Innovation continues to drive the company to find ever-advanced applications for its infrared technology. “We have a project in the works now that should be completed within months,” says Fruth. It is a more efficient method of gelling and curing powder coatings on a variety of applications to automobiles and lawn equipment and will involve a patented process.
“We play a major role in the industry today and we will continue to be a viable provider and a strong competitor,” says Fruth. “We will do this through our dedicated and continued emphasis on R&D, by continuing to look for better ways to manufacture our products while reducing cost and making more energy-efficient products that will allow our customers to achieve greater throughputs.” Visit the company at www. FostoriaIndustries.com.