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Think Zinc

A zinc layer on steel provides an efficient means of corrosion protection. Just how much protection does it offer, and how can galvanized-sheet forming operations be optimized?
by Louis A. Kren
Senior Editor

he most economical method of inhibiting corrosion on metal is galvanizingthe coating of sheetmetal strip with zinc prior to forming or the immersion of formed parts in a zinc bath. Gregory Galvanizing & Metal Processing, Inc., Canton, OH, has provided pre- and post-fab galvanizing for more than 100 years. Galvannealing is another Gregory service, where an additional furnace is placed in the galvanizing line. Galvannealing offers essentially the same corrosion protection as traditional galvanizing, but is often specified where improved part paintability and weldability is desired. Gregory also operates a number of rollforming lines to produce galvanized fencing, structural products and guardrail (see sidebar). With such experience, the firm is well-versed in the capabilities and limitations of galvanizing. Metalformers working with galvanized sheet should be aware of these capabilities and limitations as well. By knowing what to look for and how to approach forming with galvanized material, metalformers can productively create parts that meet customer specifications.

Thicker Not Always Better

Most stampers buying galvanized coil from Gregory specify according to automotive specs and really arent at all concerned with the galvanizing as long as it meets those auto specs,

Strip cools after exiting the zinc bath in a continous galvinizing line at Gregory Galvanizing & Metal Processing, Inc., Canton, OH. www.metalforming.com MetalForming/March 2001

Too Much Iron, Too Much Buildup

Peeling and flaking can be caused by the iron content of the zinc coating itself. If the iron content of the coating exceeds one percent, peeling may occur no matter what the coating thickness. Therefore, galvanizers should keep iron content in their zinc coating below one percent. Even without significant peeling and flaking of the galvanized surface off of steel sheet, over time, zinc can build up on equipment. We do get some zinc buildup on the rolls, says Shaffer, describing how the Gregory rollforming operations work with galvanized sheet. Here, we apply mainly heavy coatings, usually in the 4 oz./ft.2 range, whereas most rollformers work with thinner coatings. So we do get a tremendous amount of buildup from flaking. This is not detrimental to the product, but zinc does build up just below the rolls, so we have to clean out the equipment a bit more often than most rollformers do.

Galvanized strip enters an accumulator after exiting the zinc bath. An overhead crane can place a furnace above the bath, providing customers of Gregory Galvanizing with galvannealed product.

says Fred Zalenski, corporate vice president of sales and marketing for Gregory. Typically, coating problems in stamping galvanized sheet involve peeling or flaking of the zinc coating. If stampers or rollformers experience peeling or flaking, Zalenski recommends that they use the lightest coating allowed by the specification. Often someone will specify an A60 coating on the sheet we supply them, explains Zalenski. Thats a pretty thick coating, so we try to find out what the application is, and decide if the specification will allow an A40 coating. In that case, well recommend the lighter coating. Coating with A60 really doesnt bring significant additional noncorrosive properties as compared to A40, but the sheet will more likely peel with that A60 thickness. During stamping or rollforming, the more brittle A60 coating may flake as it runs through the dies. The use of thicker zinc coating also may lead to flaking or bending at areas of severe bends. In such cases, we try to direct metalformers toward a lighter coating, continues Zalenski, explaining the Gregory response to such a problem. Again, whatever you might gain in terms of greater nonMarch 2001/MetalForming

corrosive protection on an A60 coating can be negated by the increased likelihood of peeling and flaking. In automotive stamping, notes Curt Shaffer, Gregory plant manager, a minimum and maximum coating thickness is specified. Adhering to the minimum thickness spec can forestall problems resulting from material being too heavy or thick for the dies. Proper lubrication during forming and punching operations will reduce tool wear and heat, which can cause galling on galvanized sheet.

Longer Tool Life

Because Gregory rollforms heavygauge galvanized steel to produce guardrail and fence material, tool life is a real concern. One marked benefit to stamping or rollforming with galvanized sheet is that the relatively soft coating reduces tooling wear. Galvanized coating definitely helps extend tooling life, says Shaffer. When working with the black substrate, it acts as sandpaper to wear and dull tooling quickly.

Galvanized steel is an ideal material for the production of outdoor products. Gregory Galvanizing rollforms and punches guardrail in-house. www.metalforming.com 23

Think Zinc

Shaffer says inline punches last three to six months without sharpeninglonger than they would if used on nongalvanized sheet. The savings in tool life relating to using galvanized material more than makes up for the time required to remove excess zinc.

Inside Gregory

Mind Your Tooling

Some other problems in forming galvanized sheet may have to do with the tooling itself. Sometimes, problems result not from the lack of adherence of the zinc to the steel, but with improper installation of the tooling sets used in rollforming and stamping, says Zalenski. For example, a customer came to us with a problem with flaking. It turns out the tooling was set up improperly and improperly tightened down. This basically caused galling on the sheet and flaked off the zinc. Slight errors in tooling setup may have no effect when working with uncoated sheet, but can mechanically remove zinc when running galvanized sheet.

Galvanized sheet causes zinc buildup in rollforming equipment, especially at Gregory Galvanizing, which specializes in forming sheet with thick zinc coating. 24

regory Galvanizing and Metal Processing, Inc., Canton, OH, provides sheet galvanizing and galvannealing services to metalformers and also operates five rollforming lines. The company is split according to capabilities. The Coil Group manufactures slit, galvanized coil sold to automotive stampers, sold for use in tubing or stud applications or used in the companys rollforming operations. The Manufactured Products Group produces structural products, fencing and highway products such as guardrail. Gregory operates two plants in Canton, OH, its headquarters and main manufacturing facility, which houses the galvanizing/galvannealing line, slitters, a cut-to-length line and rollforming lines, and another facility that provides post-fabrication galvanizing. Prior to galvanizing, master coils may undergo slitting in either a 36-in or a 72-in. slitter. Gregorys cut-to-length line yields sheet in lengths from 2 to 16 ft. A zinc coating is applied to steel coil via a continuous hot-dip galvanizing line with in-line pickling, an atypical feature, according to Gregory officials. If galvannealing is warranted, a furnace can be placed inlinejust past the zinc bathby an overhead crane. Upon exiting the in-line zinc bath, computer-controlled air knives assure the specified coating thickness. The company occupies a niche in the marketplace, offering heavier coatings than many other galvanizers. Capabilities range from the application of very thin coatings such as 0.2 oz./ft.2 all the way to 4 oz./ft.2 Rollforming capability includes in-house product design, steel coating, rolling and punching. Gregory can rollform sheet in gauges from 0.05 to 0.187 in., widths from 3 to 30 in. and lengths to 60 ft. Subcontracted pre- and post-punching, assembly, secondary stamping and secondary welding support the main rollforming operation. Other inhouse equipment includes several punch presses. The breadth of capabilities leads Curt Shaffer, plant manager, to say, We can bring in a master coil, slit it, coat it, reslit it and rollform it into a product within 48 hours.


MetalForming/March 2001

Metalformers should pay careful attention to tooling setup when working with galvanized sheet and closely monitor wear on tooling and equipment, adds Shaffer. That can have a greater effect when forming galvanized sheet than when forming uncoated steel.

Watch for Zinc Buildup

Buildup of zinc on sheet edges is another concern for formers. As an example, explains Zalenski, if you have a 5.5-in.-wide strip for a rollforming application, we would galvanize that as a 16- or 17in. strip (the galvanizing line at Gregory handles a maximum strip width of 19 in.), then reslit it into three 5.5in. strips. We could, on the primary slit, cut it down to a 5.5-in. width and run it through the line, but that would cause edge buildup on each strip. So we prefer to galvanize a wider strip and then slit it down. Because edge buildup results in flaking

and peeling during rollforming, we try to minimize those buildups. One thing formers should not be overly concerned with, according to Shaffer, is an edge condition where previously galvanized sheet is slit into smaller widths, thus leaving bare edges. That edge condition will not escalate beyond rust formation on the edgerust and corrosion will not spread, he says. Some of our customers try to protect that edge with an edge sealer, but thats not necessary. Edge condition is an aesthetic issue, not a functional issue, according to Zalenski. He explained that beyond appearance, the condition will not affect material integrity, nor its ability to be formed to specifications.

More Advice for Metalformers

Those conducting continuousforming operations should be aware of the dangers of zinc poisoning, caused by exposure to zinc dust, cre-

ated when welding galvanized coils together. Proper personal-protection equipment and a safety plan should be in place to deal with the situation. Parts cleaning is a must for postforming galvanizing, another service performed by Gregory. Mill varnishes and oils can hinder adherence of zinc. To head off that problem, incoming parts at Gregory are cleaned and pickled prior to galvanizing. Though galvanizing greatly inhibits rust formation, it is not a cureall, cautions Zalenski. Some people perceive that galvanizing will retard white rust to the extent that they can move such material in the rain or store it in wet conditions. This is not the case, he offers. Exposing galvanized material to the weather, even if it is being offloaded from a truck in wet weather, causes white rust to form. If storing outside, properly stack galvanized product, with sufficient air circulation, to keep white rust from forming. MF

March 2001