Furniture Technik Pty Ltd was established in 1987 as a training facility to increase competitiveness and improve business practices in the furniture industry. From its factory in the Adelaide suburb of Mile End, the company has now moved into manufacturing, where it sizes, assembles and polishes furniture made from solid timber, timber veneer and particle board.
The South Australian furniture industry uses approximately 1.2 million litres of paint and solvent per annum.
A substantial amount of paint, solvent and thinner is wasted under traditional polishing processes, due to errors such as 'runs' and patches missed. Furthermore, final products vary in appearance because of staining variations between different polishers.
With traditional methods, a team assembles a furniture item and prepares it for polishing. The item is then sprayed manually up to five times with a lacquer, solvent and thinner combination. Solvent and thinner fumes are dissipated directly into the air through an exhaust system. The average ratio of lacquer to solvent and thinner is approximately 28:72.
Exposure of operators to these chemicals can be a major problem.
The production speed of a spraying machine is limited by factors such as finishing features, required quality, shape of the item, gun movement and number of guns used for spraying. The process is highly labour intensive and is constrained in South Australia by a lack of qualified polishers.
Cleaner Production Initiative
To overcome these problems, Furniture Technik installed solvent-less timber polishing equipment and introduced new polishing techniques.
Steps involved in both the new process and the traditional approach are set out in the process flow diagram below. In contrast to the traditional method, lacquer is applied to the various furniture parts before assembly, items passing through either an ultra-violet (UV) roller coater or a curtain coater depending on the finish required.
The UV roller coater eliminates the use of solvents and thinners by rolling the lacquer (UV material) directly on to the piece of timber. UV light applied to the timber cures the lacquer within 5-10 seconds, allowing immediate assembly of the furniture item. The roller coater process is used especially for drying less visible areas of furniture and commercial items.
The airless high output pressure spraying equipment is particularly suited to base coat lacquers, allowing more lacquer to be applied in any given time.