After the hot metal processes are completed, the steel is put on a conveyor belt and cooled enough to touch. The formed steel products are then placed into a 1,001 degree draw furnace to change the metal grain structure from loose to tight. This changes the steel to the appropriate strength for use as sway bars or helper springs. Without the draw furnace, the steel would be far too brittle to place into a vehicle.
Once through the draw furnace, the parts are rinsed and the quality control inspects the sway bars and springs. A small percentage of sway bars and springs are then adjusted with cold hydraulic presses to bring the parts into Hellwig’s specifications.
Speaking of cold presses, not everything at Hellwig is heated until orange hot, bent, pressed, and then soused in bubbling mineral oil. Tubular steel bars used for smaller automotive sway bars are bent without heat with a hydraulic CNC press. In these photographs, Dave Wheeler programs the CNC press and then steps back as the machine automatically bends, twists, and turns the metal into shape.
After passing quality control, the sway bars and helper springs are placed into one of two large metal tumblers that descale the products until smooth.
LEFT AND CENTER: In the these photographs you can see one of the tumblers and the metal medium inside the tumblers that removes the scale.
RIGHT: This photograph shows a part before entering the tumber (right part) and after (left part). Once the sway bars and helper springs have been tumbled, they are ready for powder coating.
Fresh out of the tumblers, the sway bars and helper springs are hung on metal racks and wheeled over to the powder coating area. Power coating applies a very fine mist of polyethylene plastic powder which sticks to the product when an electrostatic charge is applied. In these photographs, Gino Hernandez (LEFT) and Rogelio Vega (CENTER) apply the powder to sway bars with powder coating guns. The right photograph shows the oven where the powercoating is baked.
Once the powder has been applied, the sway bars and helper springs are placed into a 400 degree oven and baked for thirty minutes. This liquifies plastic onto the metal creating a durable bond to protect the products against corrosion and road abrasion.
In the above three photographs you can see the product as it appears from the tumbler (LEFT), with the powder coat applied (CENTER), and after baking (RIGHT). Hellwig sway bars and helper springs are given one of two powder coat colors, gloss black (pictured right) and hammertone, which is a grey speckled finish. After powder coating is completed, the sway bars and helper springs are ready to be packaged and shipped to Hellwig distributors.
As Hellwig receives orders from their distributors, the products are pulled from the shelves and racks (LEFT) and assembled into Hellwig packaging. Once the products for an order are packaged, the packaged products are placed onto a palette for shipping.
Mike Helon is the foreman in charge of the Hellwig Products warehouse. Mike showed us how he packages the products (CENTER) and wraps the completed palettes for shipping. We were most impressed with the fire breathing Shrinkfast blowtorch device Mike uses to shrink wrap the palettes (RIGHT). Let’s just say Mike and his Shrinkfast give new meaning to “packing heat”.
We truly had a blast at Hellwig Products. Actually, make that blasts plural including blasts of heat from their 2,200 degree furnaces and blasts of steam from their tanks of hot bubbling oil. Of course it was also a blast getting to know this dynamic family owned company and its team. We’re very excited that they’re turning their attention to truck campers and look forward to our interview with Mark to learn more about the company’s history and the benefits of their products.
And did we mention they’re cooking up something specific for the truck camper market? That’s one iron in the fire that will have to wait.
For more information about Hellwig Products, visit www.hellwigproducts.com.