UV Technology for Composite Finishing at RSW Distribution

By Brittany Willes, contributing writer, UV+EB Technology

At a time when issues of climate change, global warming and sustainability dominate headlines, many companies are striving to be more environmentally conscious. One such company is RSW Distribution, headquartered in Chino, California. Since its inception in 2009, RSW has become the biggest supplier in North America of finished Resysta products, which include outdoor decking, facades and fencing. Providing the look and feel of wood without the maintenance issues, Resysta is a waste product composed of roughly 60 percent rice husks, 22 percent common salt and 18 percent mineral oil, making it a highly environmentally friendly material.

“At RSW, we are very conscientious about the environmental impact of our products,” said Zoraida Morales, general manager and co-owner. “That’s why we dedicate ourselves to the Resysta material profile. We like it because the rice husk is waste product that now is being put to good use. It speaks to the core of our company’s values.”

In keeping with its commitment to environmental stewardship, RSW recently has switched to using a Resysta sealer that utilizes UV curing technology. After researching the different types of sealers currently available, Morales determined that UV sealing allowed RSW to stay a step above the competition. According to Morales, there are three other Resysta distributors in the US, making it important for RSW to offer customers something they won’t find elsewhere.

“UV is really top of the line right now,” remarked Morales. “As we were researching different sealers, we looked at which sealers were more robust, as well as which ones were better for environment. In the end, we found that UV was that best way to go. It offers better quality and allows us to distinguish ourselves from our competitors.””

In order to get started with the new sealer, RSW purchased an MPI400 curing machine from Miltec UV. Starting with a single, D-bulb lamp approximately 10 inches wide, workers were able to cure one plank at a time.

“Most of our profiles are 12 feet long and average between 5 and 8 inches in width, so the 10-inch lamp worked perfectly,” stated Morales.

The sealer itself is applied once the Resysta panels have been dyed and dried. The sealer then is brushed on the planks by hand before being cured under UV lamps.

“We’ve only been using the UV sealer for a year,” Morales explained, “so we still are very much at the beginning of this technology. However, in the short time we’ve been using it, demand has increased enough that we’ve added another lamp to double the amount of product we are able to cure at one time. We’re also gradually moving into spraying sealer, rather than applying it by hand. We’re still familiarizing ourselves with the technology, but we hope to automate our process even more in time.””

Although the new sealer has proven popular among RSW’s customers, the switch wasn’t without its hiccups.

“None of us are chemical or process engineers, so we’ve had to learn the hard way how to deal with UV curing,” stated Morales. “It has been challenging at times as we learn the different parameters.””

For instance, RSW had to find the optimum time to let the UV sealer’s water content evaporate before UV curing to avoid the risk of bubbling or blistering on the product. Employees also noticed that the UV sealer is a thicker solution with shorter pot life than the previous 2K sealer. In addition, when the UV sealer was tested in an automated sprayer, the machine lines and guns plugged constantly. The machine was only able to run for two or three hours at a time before employees had to stop production to take the sprayer apart for cleaning.

With support from the sealer and sprayer manufacturer, however, Morales believes the company may have found a solution to the plugging problem. “The sprayer hasn’t been as effective as we would like, but with new parts and a new regulator, we believe the issue will be taken care of,” she said.

By moving to a more automated spray process, RSW also hopes to increase consistency and efficiency. “When applying the sealer by hand, everybody does it a little different,” said Morales. “Some people might apply a little more, others a little bit less.”

Automation will allow workers to program exactly how much sealer is applied and the rate of curing, ensuring greater consistency from plank to plank.

In addition to helping protect materials against stains and weather, UV sealer is much more scratch- and abrasion-resistant than the 2K sealer that RSW used previously. Additionally, once the planks have gone through the UV curing process, the newly protected surfaces can be cleaned easily under running water or by using a soft brush without danger of leaving marks. This is good news for RSW customers, who have yet to voice any concerns about the new sealer.

“In our scenario, no news is good news,” stated Morales. “We haven’t had a single complaint since we moved to the UV sealer. We’re happy and optimistic that it will remain the best choice for us.”

While using UV sealing technology with Resysta products is unique to RSW, Morales predicts other distributors will begin following in its footsteps.

“Other distributors typically look at what we’re doing and wait for us to go through the trials and tribulations,” she said. “I imagine they will start using similar technology within the next few years.””