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  • My Setup

    Alright folks, I've been designing and fabricating my anodizing line for over a year now. Much of the design was based on trial and error and much of it on the advice from respected people within the anodizing community.

    What should you expect to see here? Don't expect to see an industrial scale anodizing line nor your typical backyard setup either. I was aiming for something in between...Bare in mind, I'm a 31 year old man with a wife and mortgage and I personally funded this operation. LoL...That should be enough said right there!

    The objective of this post is provide ideas for those who are looking for ways (some typical and some not-so-typical) of building an anodizing line. Bare in mind that not everything that works under my conditions will neccassarily work under your conditions.

    Havnig said that...On to the gravy.

    First I want to discuss my tanks as they were my first obstical. I have always been a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Its not that I am cheap but I approach ever new challenge as a learning opportunity. Having said that, I opted to fabricate my own tanks. I had to first decide how large I wanted to make the tanks. Better is bigger - right? I suppose that holds true IF you can afford the chemical it will require to charge the tanks, not to mention the rest of the equipment must be of the same scale in order to produce a quality anodizing line. After weeks of research as to what material(s) would best work for me, I learned that polypropylene was the way to go. I purchased a plastic welder, some welding rod and obtained a few small scraps of 1/2" polypropylene to hone my skills on. It didn't tank long before I was producing strong welds. From there I ordered enough 1/2" polypropylene to weld up 12 35 gallon tanks.

    As I was aiming for efficiency, I chose to insulate the heated tanks in order to keep the heat in and increase heat up times while decreasing heat loss. For this I chose styrofoam insulation.

    I knew that my sealant tank was going to have to be made of something other than plastic. I knew the plastic would become unstable at the temperature that the sealant must be utilized at. More research showed me that 316 stainless steel was the material of choice. Being a journeyman Tool & Die Maker / Machinist I was no stranger to metal fabrication.

    When it came time to insulate this tank, I found that the styrofoam would break down with the extreme temperature. As I result, I found that fiberglass insulation worked well. I then cased the entire tank and insulation with a 1/4" plywood box just to keep it neat and clean.

    This is a 35 gallon, polypropylene tank which has been insulated.


    This is a 35 gallon stainless steel tank which has been insulated and cased.
    View My Anodizing Line

  • #2
    Re: My Setup

    Now that the tanks were made, I needed to decide how far I wanted to space them apart so that I could fabricate a bench to place them on. I initially wanted to set this line up in my garage so I opted to make 2 benches thinking that I would set the line up in an "L" shape in the corner of my garage...It never made it to the garage but rather straight into my brother's machine shop.

    An idea of my bench design. It's strong and rigid.


    After I had the new tanks sitting on the new bench and I wanted to get some heat in them. I knew I wasn't going to fabricate heaters so I order some up from the US. I purchased my heaters and thermostats from a company called Process Technologies. They work well as they were designed specifically for what I am using them for...

    I knew I needed a power supply so I located something that I thought would do the job. I bought an 18 volt 60 amp DC plating rectifier. I now wish that I had done more research before making this purchase but it was a $50.00 buy that I didn't think would make me or break me. The rectifier is a constant voltage power supply used for plating...We all know that constant current is what everyone wants for anodizing. I intend on swapping this unit out when an appropriate replacement becomes avaliable. In the meantime ir works wonderfully, it just needs more focus and attention than I care to give it.

    1960-1970's 18 volt - 60 amp rectifier.
    View My Anodizing Line

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    • #3
      Re: My Setup

      I've got heat and electricity...Now I need to cool that anodizing tank! I've constructed a cooling coil from 3/8" aluminum light-walled tubing which I purchased in 50' coils (don't recall from where off hand). The tubing is easy to bend when using a pipe bender equipped with the 3/8" dies. I carefully fabricated a coil that sits on the very bottom of my tank. It's a fairly tight coil with approx. 1/8"-1/2" spaces between each loop and I used plastic zip-ties to tie one lap of tubing to the one beside it in order to make the coil rigid. It somewhat resembles the element on a stove, however, it is rectangular in shape. At both the beginning and the end of the coil (inlet and outlet) I ran the aluminum tubing up the side of the tank and out all together and then bent a hook in the tubing so that the ends are over and below the edge of my tank. At the end of each vein I plumbed on a brass fitting - male garden hose fitting to be exact. As soldering brass to aluminum is near impossible, I used fittings that require a flare in order to seal. I use an FTS brand tabletop chiller with submersible cooling coil that cools water in a reservoir. Though my reservoir is rather small at this time (I simply haven’t swapped it out for the replacement), it functions for the time being. The water in the reservoir is cooled to approx. 45-50F. From there a pump circulates the water from the reservoir tank through copper pipes down the bench and into a 3' length of garden hose, from there it passes through the coil and back through another 3' length of garden hose and then back through some more copper piping and ultimately it returns it back into the reservoir tank. I have found this system to be very efficient, however, I have yet to retrofit the pump with a thermostatic control. As a result I monitor the digital temperature display on my tank rather closely. Once the tank touches 70F, I click on the pump for a moment until the anodizing tank once again reaches 68F.

      Its tucked pretty well under the work bench but here is the jyst of what my chiller is all about.


      This is picture of the chiller system as a whole. The Coleman cooler reservoir which is far too small (but functional for now), the pump in the background and the chiller off to the right.


      I wish I had a picture of the coil that is inside the anodizing tank but alas I don't. Since it is already in the tank, I'm not too eager to pull it out and photograph it...LoL.
      Last edited by RedRiver; 06-07-2006, 12:11 PM.
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      • #4
        Re: My Setup

        This is some creative plumbing that ties the coil in the anodizing tank to the plumbing on the circulation pump.


        This is the pump which circulates the cold water through the coil in the anodizing tank.
        View My Anodizing Line

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        • #5
          Re: My Setup

          For agitation I use an electric motor which sits in a custom fabricated mounting base over the side of and on the top of each tank. Each motor turns a custom designed & fabricated polypropylene propeller shaft and propeller. Via the use of different size pulleys one can speed up or slow down the agitation at will. In my case, I am using 3 speed motors that were removed from Electrolux mixmasters (though I only use the fasted speed at all times). They’re strong, quiet, thermally protected and with the proper squirrel cage cooling fans (from a vacuum cleaner repair shop), they run 24/7. With regards to the Coleman coolers, I simply use aquarium air pumps as a source of agitation and even heating. The motors are operated with a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Though this is not the only intended use for the PLC as I intend on controlling the heaters digitally and an overhead crane (not in place yet). For now, the PLC operates only the agitation motors (mostly because I’m lazy).

          The motor turning the propeller shaft with the squirrel cage cooling fan underneath.


          The mounting bracket I made to hold the motors.
          Last edited by RedRiver; 06-07-2006, 11:28 AM.
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          • #6
            Re: My Setup

            My thermometers vary greatly. Using a digital multi-meter and a temperature probe, I filled a test tube with DI water, put a rubber stopper with a 1/8” hole through the center of it on the top of the test tube and fed my temperature probe down into the DI water. I then sealed the hole in the rubber stopper and submerged the test tube ? into the electrolyte. This works like a charm! It is very consistent when cross checked with other thermometers. For the rest of my tanks, I use a variety of hand held digital cooking thermometers and IR units.

            Here is a glass encased, water filled temperature probe housing that I made for the temperature probe on my multi-meter.


            Here is the multi-meter temperature probe in action...Wonderfull!
            Last edited by RedRiver; 06-07-2006, 11:40 AM.
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            • #7
              Re: My Setup

              My anodizing tank has a bus bar that I designed on it to suit my needs. Notice the cathodes hang over the side of the tank and are bolted to a common aluminum bar. The two cathode bars are wired together under the lip of the tank. Look hard at the center of the back lip. You will see another aluminum pad. This pad is connected to the positive side of the power supply and is also the contact point for the rack.

              I also use a good size aluminum air pump to pump air into the system. The air is filtered before it enteres the pump. This greatly reduces dirt and debris from entering the solution.

              Anodizing tank. Mechanical agitation and airation included.



              I also have a PLC which runs only my agitation motors for the time being. I opted for a PLC so that I can later adapt it to run a mechanical overhead crane system, control and monitor the heaters/chiller. Its economical and very versatile!

              The PLC was installed to allow for automation later on down the road.
              View My Anodizing Line

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              • #8
                Re: My Setup

                This is just an overview of my line. It may not be the prettiest thing I've ever built but it is effective and was relatively economical. I won't get into costs, though it may be more than some of the typical backyarder's are willing to go into hock for - I don't blame you. Having said that, it wasn't 10's of 1000's of dollars either.




                Future upgrades are to include :
                - New constant current power supply (probably 150 amp neighbourhood)
                - Larger coolant reservoir
                - Overhead crane and trolly system (lifting racks is a pain!)
                - Automated temperature control on all tanks via PLC
                - Digital timers on each tank.


                Thanks for checking out my setup. If any of you have question, I'll be happy to address them. I apologize if some of the pictures are a little unclear - I'm not much of a photographer.

                - Dan

                P.S. I was sort of in a rush with people in and out of the building all day when I made this thread that I probably forgot to include a bunch of stuff...If later on down the road I realize I did just that, I'll update it.
                Last edited by mcaswell; 06-20-2006, 11:18 PM.
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                • #9
                  Re: My Setup

                  Id love to have a tank like that
                  www.125customs.com - Quality custom anodizing for simple and complicated jobs.

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                  • #10
                    Re: My Setup

                    All it takes is a dash of time, a splash of cash, two heaping helpings of imagination, some patience, a little know-how, a ton of advice and a place to put it all...

                    But thanks all the same!

                    - Dan
                    View My Anodizing Line

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                    • #11
                      Re: My Setup

                      Id need to room to put it first
                      www.125customs.com - Quality custom anodizing for simple and complicated jobs.

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                      • #12
                        Re: My Setup

                        wow... needless to say its better than my bucket.

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                        • #13
                          Re: My Setup

                          Nice job!!! looks awsome!! looks very professional and clean

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                          • #14
                            Re: My Setup

                            Wow, really nice setup!
                            I jealous!
                            I do things.

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                            • #15
                              Re: My Setup

                              Very nice, gave me some ideas
                              thanks for the pics, this, I'm sure will help the newest of the new!

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