What happens when a chemical engineer with an MBA and decades of experience in manufacturing gets frustrated with the inconsistent color and long lead times for the anodized aluminum parts he needs? After analyzing the anodizing process, Dwayne Dayley decided he could do it better. He leveraged his decades of experience in engineering, manufacturing, operations, process improvement, and management to carefully plan and execute his new company. With a vision to provide high quality, consistent anodizing with short lead times, Sapphire Metal Finishing was born.
Highly reactive, pure aluminum creates its own surface layer of oxidized aluminum when exposed to oxygen. Anodization is the electrolytic passivation process of increasing the thickness of the natural oxide layer of aluminum to increase corrosion resistance, allow dyeing, and improve adhesion for coatings. Naturally occurring aluminum oxide in crystalline form can create sapphires, known for their remarkable hardness. Dwayne likes to say he’s putting a layer of “sapphire” on his customer’s aluminum parts and named his new venture to reflect the relationship between the metal and the gemstone.
The most abundant metal on earth, aluminum has become equally abundant in our everyday lives. Strong, lightweight, durable, flexible, and infinitely recyclable, it is a key element of U.S. manufacturing. Due to its use in beverage cans, we may think of it today as a less-than-precious metal, but it was once more expensive than silver or gold. In fact, Napolean served his most honored guests with aluminum cutlery and when completed, the Washington Monument was capped with an aluminum casting. Once a commercially viable way to extract aluminum was discovered, aluminum was no longer in short supply and the price plummeted.
While anodized aluminum may be common, creating quality results in the anodization process isn’t easy. There are multiple variables such as source material, surface prep, temperature, and electrical current that impact quality. Chemistry is crucial and strict controls in PH, concentration, and time must be maintained during each step of the multi-step process of anodizing. Because machined aluminum commonly shows tool marks and blend lines, another challenge is obtaining a consistent finish. If these imperfections are unacceptable or if a matte, non-reflective surface is desired, glass bead blasting smooths the surface. Sapphire Metal Finishing offers bead blasting surfaces in-house and built their own equipment to ensure they create the desired surface effect on their customers’ aluminum parts. Only a strong commitment to best practices, a culture of process improvement, and attention to detail result in Sapphire Metal Finishing providing consistently high-quality anodized aluminum parts.
Anodizing aluminum commercially can also be costly. Sapphire Metal Finishing uses the same amount of electricity during the anodization process that would be needed to power 90 homes. Masking, racking, bead blasting, and other steps in the anodizing process are extremely labor-intensive and therefore reliant on the challenges of human resources to produce. Any defects on the aluminum will have effects on the finish, requiring expensive rework.
Exceeding expectations, every time is the goal at Sapphire Metal Finishing, even if rework is required. Over 99% of Sapphire’s customers are also manufacturers — OEMs, small businesses, and fabricators across industries and they need quality parts to produce quality products that meet or exceed their customers’ specifications and expectations. As Dwayne Dayley knows too well, producing high-quality results in exceptional lead times makes his customers not just happy, but also more profitable.
As an original member, Dwayne Dayley’s relationship with Idaho Manufacturing Alliance began during his tenure as president of Rekluse Motorsports. A manufacturers’ manufacturer, the opportunities to network and learn about other manufacturers help him build stronger business relationships. Committed to building a mutually beneficial partnership with each of his customers, he hopes that by helping them better understand the anodizing process he can provide them with long-term benefits that in turn, help them please their customers.