Specialized Coating Services – Garage Start-up to Coating Services Giant
From a garage start-up to a company employing over 100 people and rising, Specialized Coating Services opened its second coating services facility in Billerica, MA on May 15th. The CA based company is run by former racquetball partners, Rick Ramirez and Kim Atkins. Borne out of a gap in the market for high quality, Specialized Coating Services in Fremont California, Ramirez and Atkins have built up an enviable reputation in “The Valley” as the go-to people for coating and potting challenges.
The electronics manufacturing industry is peppered with experts like Ramirez and Atkins who have a particularly deep and detailed knowledge of their subject area. This becomes clear when you spend just a short time in the company of Rick Ramirez with his quiet, confident manner. He is clearly passionate about coating materials and applications.
The CA operation moved several times as the business grew and now has its permanent home in a 25,000 Sq. ft factory in Fremont, where it employs over 100 people. The core competencies are in all liquid protective coatings. The company is also working with hydrophobic nano-coatings. All products are thoroughly cleaned in Aqueous batch defluxers and often, the boards are plasma activated to create better surface adhesion of the coating material. Cleanliness testing is performed on an ionic tester to ensure all boards are clean before they are coated. Prior to coating, products are masked to avoid splatter and keep the coating to the designated areas. This can be a time-consuming process, but one that Specialized Coating Services feels is essential to maintain the highest quality service.
Application of the materials is undertaken by hand using high-quality spray guns, or robotic spraying using PVA coating machines. Robotic dipping is also available using the latest in robotic dipping equipment. Coating thicknesses are 1 -5 mils for acrylics and urethanes. Silicones are applied at 2-8 mils. Mil builds are closely monitored and measured using a Posimeter which measure by Eddy Current.
All spraying activities take place in customized spraying booths, fitted with state-of-the-art forced air heating and air filtration systems that maintain accurate temperature control up to 160 degrees F. There are separate spray for silicone applications versus urethanes and acrylics. Even the dedicated masking areas are separated. Silicon areas are marked in green to avoid cross contamination. At one end of the factory is a “Mission Critical” room where they undertake the highest quality jobs for space applications.
Curing is undertaken in a variety of methods range from curing in air to baking in one of four dedicated ovens.
Each job is listed and monitored using a job shop manufacturing software called JobBOSS. On a central monitor in the middle of the factory, which is synced with both facilities in CA and MA, employees can see the status of any job in real-time.
Applications and markets
Specialized Coating Services covers a wide range of markets, ranging from military, aerospace, space, medical and automotive to consumer and LED products. Potting and encapsulating are also used for security applications to protect IP. Specialized Coating Services has a number of industry accreditation’s including ISO 9001:2015, AS-9100D, ITAR and ESD S20.20.
Potting is another key service offered by Specialized Coating Services. Potting using epoxies or silicones is a significant part of Specialized Coating Services business. They can perform a range of potting functions and build fences to pot specific areas of the board. Disassembly of parts to remove boards for conformal coating or potting and then reassembly is quite common.
Both Ramirez and Atkins presided over the opening ceremony, along with Jim Carr who was credited with helping identify the location and manage the construction and permitting with the local authorities. They were also joined by the management team that will be responsible for bringing the MA facility online. By the time it reaches full production Specialized Coating Services expect to employ over 30 employees at this site.
Over 25 percent of Specialized Coating Services current customers are located on the east coast, so the Billerica plant will start business with an established customer base.
The magic sauce
Both Ramirez and Atkins are very open and easy people to work with. They are hardworking and passionate about their area of technical expertise, which they use to solve challenging issues for many of the industry’s largest manufacturers, military and small shops who don’t have coating in-house. Many of these products ramp up into high production and in some cases they are taken off-shore. Rick Ramirez feels strongly that a lot of the quality and reliability is lost when this happens, but he has also been involved in many reshoring projects, where manufacturing, and in particular, coating issues have been brought back to Specialized coating Services for rework and repair.
Like most companies they keep their real secrets close to their chest, but there is, without doubt, a certain magic that makes them giants in the coating services space.