In Louisiana, This Company Pioneered an Innovative Manufacturing Process
Spools of metal wire, some industrial-sized, and others no wider than strands of hair, are on deck to be cleaned, coated and prepared for various commercial applications at CAP Technologies in Denham Springs, Louisiana.
The business of cleaning and coating metals is a bedrock function across American manufacturing, but CAP has pioneered an innovative process that is more durable and better for the environment.
Durability Meets Sustainability for Metal Coating
CAP’s patented process provides a green alternative to harsh acids commonly used in conventional metal cleaning and coating. The process — Cathodic Atmospheric Plasma technology — gives rise to the company name.
The uses of the technology are extensive, ranging from guitar strings and mattress springs, to metals used in industrial facilities, medical devices and the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
“Customers come in and talk to us about one need, and the next thing you know they’re asking if we can use the technology for something else,” founder Edward Daigle says. “That sends us down another road of research and development.”
Excellence in Manufacturing That’s Years in the Making
Launched in 2001 at the Louisiana Business and Technology Center at LSU, CAP Technologies embodies the spirit of persistence. The company got its start when Daigle had a chance meeting with two Russian scientists while working as an oil field consultant in the mid-1990s in western Siberia. The scientists had begun experimenting with an innovative process to clean and coat metals using ionized gas. They asked for Daigle’s help in moving the work to the United States and finding investors to back the research.
Ultimately, the budding project found a home at the LBTC business incubator, where the team set up a research and development laboratory. Research continued in the lab until 2010, when CAP’s board of directors believed it was time to scale-up operations. The company began working closely with Louisiana Economic Development to bring the process to market. Having secured new investment, CAP announced an $8 million project to open a production facility in Livingston Parish.
The site would clean and coat metals and would also serve as a beta test site, where companies interested in licensing the technology could see it in action.
One of the greatest benefits of CAP’s patented electro-plasma technology, or EPT, is its low impact on the environment. EPT uses only electricity and benign electrolytes to clean and coat metals, and does not rely on harsh chemicals like the ones found in acid pickling, a standard technique used to remove metal corrosion. Acid pickling deploys large volumes of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and nitric acid, which create byproducts that must be either neutralized, stored or disposed of in a manner that meets regulatory standards.
CAP’s EPT process also conserves water through a system that recirculates steam and captures rinse water. Although Louisiana hasn’t faced extreme drought or water shortages, many states have, says Daigle.
“Across the country, industry is paying a fortune for fresh water, sometimes more than it pays for electricity,” Daigle says. “We see that concern creeping farther east. Our production system is a closed loop, so we’re constantly capturing steam and putting it back in the system.”
Another advantage of CAP’s process is that it produces metals that are so clean and smoothly coated that they draw, or unspool, between 15-30 percent faster in production, saving time for manufacturers that use a large volume of metals.
“We’re able to eliminate the use of hazardous material, and deliver a product that is less expensive, cleaner and draws faster,” Daigle says. “We feel good about the future.”