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What kinds ofparts/products do you guys anodize?

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  • What kinds ofparts/products do you guys anodize?

    Hi guys,
    I'm on the verge of purchasing a LCD kit to start some hobby anodizing. I've been researching this for a couple of weeks and recently received a Caswell catalog from which I intend to order my kit. I initially became interested in anodizing through snowmobiling after seeing some nice jobs done on anodized parts for sleds.
    My question is what other types of stuff do some of you guys anodize? I know paintball guns are popular for this procedure as well as bike parts and some automotive. I'd like to make a few extra bucks once I get the process working properly and would like to know where some potential may or may not lie?
    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Welcome aboard.

    There are a number of anodizers on this board who started from scratch, just like you. Some of them are now doing it for business reasons (not as a hobby). They can give you real good first hand advice; they know what they're doing, and they learned it the hard way.

    One thing to be careful of; if you intend to anodize work much larger than 1 square foot or so in surface area equipment costs can go up dramatically, be prepared for this.


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply! What capabilities could I expect to have with Caswell's standard LCD kit? And when you mean equipment costs are you referring to power supplies alone or other intangibles?


      • #4
        What capabilities could I expect to have with Caswell's standard LCD kit?
        You have to realize you are looking at a hobby kit. You would be limited to what you can fit in the container sizes for one thing. Just because you can physically fit a part in a 5 gallon bucket for example, you won’t necessarily be able to anodize it in that size of container. That’s because you need room for the cathodes, and you need a minimum 2-3” clearance between the part(s) and the cathodes. Without some form of racking to secure them, it may be hard to do a bunch of small parts at once, even though there theoretically is plenty of room and capacity, and that may or may not be a problem. With some practice and experience it is possible to do as good if not better quality work with the Caswell kit than many commercial shops do, you just can’t crank out the volume and will be limited in the size of the parts that fit in the tanks.

        It’s hard to give a definite number because of variables in part size and commercial shop rates, but as a rough idea you could probably do between $3 and $10 worth of anodizing per batch in a 5 gallon setup, if compared to what a commercial shop would charge when doing average parts in larger quantities. Most anodizing shops have a minimum charge ($50-$150 for example) so if you have a few parts now and then that need to be anodized, but not enough pieces to justify the minimum charge, then being able to do it yourself can be attractive.

        To take it beyond a small hobby level, you would need a larger power supply and tanks, larger heaters, agitation systems, and plenty of clean water and chemicals. Also, you would probably need commercial style racks, and you also need to control the anodizing tank temperature (hobbyist get around this by doing small batches at low current densities and giving the tank time to cool off between batches.)

        Like Fibergeek said, it starts to get expensive as you go larger, and it would not be hard to spend $5,00-$20,000 on a small production line, depending on some options and how well you chose. You wouldn’t have to have a very large operation (in commercial terms) to require an industrial capacity power feed such as 3-phase 220-480V.

        I would look at the kit as a way to learn about anodizing, while being able to anodize small quantities of parts, and perhaps make a small amount of extra money on small odd jobs.


        • #5
          Thanks for the great advice. Am I better off buying some chemicals and supplies from Caswell (rather than the complete kit) and building myself a bit of a bigger operation to start, using custom tanks and bigger heaters? Would the 300W heaters be sufficient for my needs, even if I used more than one in bigger tanks?


          • #6
            That would be one option, but in the long run it could be just as well to get the kit and start getting some experience. Except for the buckets and the small air pump, there wouldn't be much else you would have in duplicate, but you would need more dye, cleaner, and etc.

            If you decide to get your own containers I have some tips. We usually heat the cleaner to 150-160º F, the dye to 140º or so, and the sealer to boiling. You tend to loose quite a bit of water to evaporation, and the temperature approaches boiling the rate gets really high. So, for those tanks it seems best to get ones with a tall aspect ratio. In other words, don't look for big flat tanks, even though they seem to be the right size in gallons, as the increased surface area makes the evaporation rate higher, and if you loose 6” in a 12” deep tank it is half gone. For the sealer tank, you want one that has several inches of reserve capacity above what it takes to cover the parts. Also, covers or lids for the tanks help to retain the heat and saves by reducing the amount of water lost to evaporation. On the dye, you want to keep the concentration consistent, so you wouldn't let it go up and down too far on the water level.

            You also need to keep in mind that it doesn't do much good to have a bunch of 50 gallon tanks where some are low, and others are tall. That's because you need to move the parts from tank to tank, and you can only do a load that will fit in the smallest, or shallowest one. Also, it is good to have the rinse tanks slight taller than the solutions, so you can be sure the rinse will reach up high enough on the racks.

            The one exception to the tank size rule, in my opinion, is that a larger anodizing tank is an advantage for several reasons. One is that you loose a lot of space to cathodes and the agitation system. You need to have a boundary zone of 2-3", and that takes up a lot of space in smaller tanks (even in 50-200 gallon tanks). The larger anodizing tanks also are more stabile in temperature, reducing the need for a chiller if you are doing enough parts where the temperature would otherwise raise too much in a smaller tank.

            I think that in most regards, if you can do the parts you need in the kit, that starting that way and getting some experience and practice would make it easier for you to design your own custom setup latter on, without making bad choices in the selection of tanks, etc.


            • #7
              The power supply can become a big buck item if you need one much over 300W. Generally, what size work are you interested in anodizing?


              • #8
                I'm getting some great advice here guys and I can't thank you enough. These forums are a great resource.
                Mostly what I'd be looking at anodizing would be parts for bikes/snowmobiles and maybe some paintguns. Nothing too large. I couldn't see myself doing anything too big, just basic bit parts and bolt-ons maybe. I was hoping I could do this with the LCD kit once some practice was undertaken.


                • #9
                  As long as the parts you want to do will fit in the supplied buckets you can do them with the kit as recieved, with the appropriate sized power source. If the bucket that would be used for the anodizing tank is too small then you can upgrade to a larger container just for that. Like I mentioned previously, the anodizing tank can't be stuffed, so something like a 10-15 gallon anodizing tank is really a pretty good match for 5-6 gallon containers for use in the other processes such as cleaning, dying, sealing and rinsing.


                  • #10
                    i think but i may be wrong caswell got an anodizing video out ... i am not sure if they do ... but if they do it will help you with most of you ? you have maybe this link will help you some


                    • #11
                      LCD is a good way to start, many here did it that way.

                      This will allow you to learn the general anodizing process, and make your mistakes (everyone does) at low cost. LCD is slow, but its safe and cheap. When you understand what is going on, you can modify and scale the process to suit your needs. Should you choose to keep anodizing as a casual hobby, LCD will serve you well as it is.