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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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Even the Most Traditional Manufacturers Going Green

If all goes according to plan, KenWalt Die Casting will begin this month to generate electricity from the solar panels installed on one of its buildings in Sun Valley. In manufacturing, one cannot get more traditional than the work done at KenWalt. Massive machinery injects hot metal into a mold to make parts used in the aerospace, medical device, automotive and building industries. It is also a high-energy process and any opportunity to reduce costs is closely looked at. If energy costs can be cut then the price quoted to a potential customer can also be lowered. That is helpful in an industry in which KenWalt has domestic and overseas competition. When the 36 kilowatt solar installation begins producing power, the company’s utility bill is expected to drop by 10 percent. With what passes for winter in Los Angeles coming to an end and another sunshine-filled summer ahead, the timing is right for KenWalt to benefit. “When it’s hot out we cannot complain as much,” said Kenny Zaucha Jr., co-owner and quality manager of the firm he operates with his father, Ken Sr. Many manufacturers do what they can to be more sensitive of cutting down waste and use of harmful substances. Some are required to, such as those companies that must meet RoHS, or Reduction of Hazardous Substances, standards in order to sell their products in the European Union. Others do it because it is the right thing to do. When WET, the designer, manufacturer and installer of elaborate water features, built a new center for its training, research and development and testing departments in Sun Valley included was a permeable grass surface as the parking lot that takes water and soaks it back into the ground or is used for the landscaping. Scientific display manufacturer Photo Research Inc. no longer uses Styrofoam peanuts as packing material. It switched over to shredded waste paper. Flamemaster, a maker of sealants and fire retardant materials, now uses solar power at its Pacoima facility. International Laser Group in Woodland Hills uses certified fiber in its packaging and buys back empty ink jet cartridges. In Valencia, when Troll Systems moved into a new building in 2007 part of the renovations included applying a reflective coating to the roof to cool down the interior. It also installed multiple small globes that direct sunlight through mirrored tubes as a light source for the second floor offices, the warehouse and manufacturing area. Visitors to the building cannot notice the difference, said Michelle Scott, president of Troll Systems. Natural light As for the employees, Scott is of the opinion they benefit as well. “People do better in natural light to begin with,” Scott said. “It is hard to measure but I think there is an increase in productivity.” Troll designs and manufactures data links used in the broadcasting industry and has recently branched out to include aerospace and defense markets. The motivation behind the natural light devices and other environmental efforts is that Scott describes herself as a green person to begin with and will take an opportunity whenever possible to make changes that help the environment. So when the price on 2010 Priuses dropped at the end of last year, Troll purchased one to make deliveries and for transportation when employees who are based out of state are in visiting. The car has replaced a van that doesn’t get used much anymore. Troll has also installed a reverse osmosis water filtration system to cut down on the plastic water bottles employees bring to work, and is voluntarily complying with RoHS standards to remove lead and other substances from its products. Some companies have run into roadblocks when it comes to reducing energy costs. Scott and Sandee Andrews of Andrews Powder Coating have been working for two years to install a small, co-generation turbine at their Chatsworth business which applies a powder coating onto parts used in the automotive, aerospace, and transportation industries. The recession, however, derailed their plans to install the microturbine last year. The $25,000 cost wasn’t in the cards. The couple hasn’t given up and still wants to see the turbine in use. The machine will run on natural gas and lower energy bills and its exhaust will then be used to run the ovens used to cure the parts that get sprayed with the coatings. “It is a greener way to go,” Sandee Andrews said. “It is one energy source to power two needs of ours instead of two (sources).” Looking at wind The alternative power source that Kenny Zaucha first looked into for the die casting shop was a wind turbine. The more Zaucha learned, the more he realized wind wasn’t as efficient as solar and the cost savings wouldn’t be as much. Zaucha worked with SolarCity on getting the panels financed and installed. KenWalt may indeed be the first die casting company in the U.S. to use solar as a source for its machinery. While solar may be new, die casting has always involved recycling of some sort. KenWalt, like other companies, melts down the zinc and aluminum left over from a job order for use in a new order. The fluids used in the machine can also be recycled. “There is nothing that goes in the drain or in the dump,” Zaucha senior said. “It’s a cleaner, less polluting industry than you imagine.” Troll Systems Inc. Valencia • When renovating building in 2007, installed solar lighting system for the second floor offices, manufacturing floor, warehouse, and engineering lab. Also applied reflective coating on roof to cool down the interior. • Installed reverse osmosis water system to replace employees bringing in plastic water bottles • Purchased 2010 Prius to make deliveries • Looking at getting LEED certification for its building Kenwalt Die Casting Sun Valley • lSolar panel array on building roof that will reduce energy usage by 10 percent • lRecycles raw materials such as aluminum and zinc, and reclaims hydraulic fluids WET Sun Valley • A permeable grass surface was installed as the parking lot for the building housing the training, research and development and testing departments. Rain and other water runoff soaks back into the ground or is used for landscaping. Andrews Powder Coating Chatsworth • Developing plan to install microturbine generator that runs off natural gas and will take the company off the electric grid. Waste heat from the turbine would power the ovens used to dry parts.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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