Thielco: Innovation anchored in tradition.
From being one of the first European companies to deploy mechanical zinc plating, surface treatment specialist Thielco Staalindustrie B.V has always looked to lead the way for its customers. Now, celebrating its 70th anniversary, the company is once again keeping ahead with the opening of a fully automated production line, which will enable it to produce on a zero defects level with perfect traceability.
Founded in 1950, Thielco took on its current name in 1956 after a fire forced the company to rebuild its facilities and begin again as a producer of steel gratings. In 1964 its first zinc bath was opened and was upgraded again in 1971 to double its size. More recently, back in 2017, this very same zinc bath was completely modernised and became, what Thielco believes, one of the safest and most environmentally friendly facilities in Europe. In the early 1980s, the decision was made to establish a new business unit, completely dedicated to the corrosion protection of fasteners. This resulted in the company’s first hot dip centrifugal facility, hot dip spin facility, in 1984. This was a massive innovation during that time and was hugely successful, providing a solid basis for growth in the industry. A second, fully automated, facility was added in 1990, which was again a small revolution in possibilities for Thielco’s customers. More specialised lines were added in 2003, 2007, 2016 and 2020, providing made to measure corrosion protection for fasteners up to Grade 10.9. In 1987, parallel to the hot dip spin galvanising (HDG) processes, Thielco reports it was amongst the first companies in Europe to deploy mechanical zinc plating. Mark Thijssen, sales and marketing manager at Thielco, explains: “This process was an American process and quickly became the best possible solution for hardened products, as it excluded any risk of hydrogen embrittlement or modification of the product hardness. As with everything, we have optimised this process throughout the years, leading to the opening of our fully automated production line in the summer of 2020. The aim is to produce on a zero defects level with perfect traceability, in-line with the market requirements from the automotive, wind and railway industries.
In 2005, Thielco acquired the licence of the Geomet® zinc flake coating technology and went on to build a state of the art barrel and rack facility to service the automotive, wind and construction industries. “Here at Thielco, we believe that innovations in quality and processes make the supply chain stronger and our history is built on that. We are a thriving family-owned business employing almost 200 employees, with all processes under the same roof. Requirements are increasing in all areas, whether it concerns price, delivery time, quality or traceability – the market is always looking for improvement,” explains Mark. “We answer these demands by extensively automating our processes. As a result, the output of a process is no longer human-dependent and our employees are increasingly playing a coordinating role. This helps improve efficiency and quality, which keeps Thielco in a good competitive position.” In relation to fasteners, Thielco offers three general categories of anti-corrosion surface treatment, each with specific benefits. The first process is HDG. The company has six modern production lines for HDG, between them offering high and low temperature options, as well as the choice between both rack and barrel goods. Its latest investments in this area are a completely robotised rack facility, dedicated to heavy, high strength fasteners for the wind industry, and a specialised facility for the rework-free galvanising of threaded rods up to 4m in length. The second process offered is mechanical zinc plating or mechanical galvanising. Instead of high temperature, this process uses the kinetic force of a large barrel, filled with glass beads, to build a strong zinc layer on the products. Being a non-electrolytic and cold process, there is no risk of hydrogen embrittlement or modification of product hardness, making it well suited for specific products such as washers, nails and springs. Thielco says this process is in high demand because of the absence of parts sticking together. The patented Geomet zinc flake technology is the last process from Thielco, which is offered both in barrel and in rack. “Across these processes our automation and digitalisation has proved invaluable during these recent times. We operate a very flexible capacity system, which allows us to easily scale up and down.
our production capacity,” mentions Mark. “On the purchasing side, there was a little uncertainty about the availability of certain zinc products at the peak of the pandemic, but fortunately this ultimately had no effect for us.” “The biggest worry looking forward for us is in how our customers emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. The most severely affected industries such as the automotive industry will change, but we cannot begin to fully understand the effects of this in the long-term. We will rely on our own flexibility and our partners, to thrive under new market conditions.” Mark concludes: “As a surface treatment provider, we have to be able to listen carefully to our customers and their stakeholders to understand their needs. We also need to be willing and able to invest to meet these needs to the fullest. This has been Thielco’s vision for the last 70 years and we will keep supporting the industry in the same way for years to come.”