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Knape Industries was founded by Herb Knape in 1965 after leaving Knape & Vogt manufacturing with the title of Production and Engineering Manager.  He brought his engineering and organizing skills to the finishing industry to supply the local zinc die-coating industry with vacuum metallizing services.  Early products included tail lamps, side marker lamps, and turn signals.  Early processes were dichromating of zinc castings, spray painting and vacuum metallizing.  Early process addition and improvements included electrocleaning and painting chrome and zinc phosphate as in bonderize and prime.  Knape grew and prospered quickly being profitable even in the 1st year.

Knape ventured into decorating plastics early because it was a large growth market for vacuum metallizing for both automotive (interior and dash and panel components) and consumer products (appliance parts, finishing lure, trophies, and many other products where bright chrome like appearance was desired).  General painting on plastics followed because of the natural fit with production processes and the need for finishing services for the fast growing local injection molding industry.  Examples of early plastics decorating includes:

  • Many shift indicator lens (P R N D…)
  • Fascias – plastic fillers to go between car sheet metal and chrome bumpers.
  • Grilles – Gremlin X Grilles mask sprayed in body color and accent striping applied.
  • Vinyl rub strips stained and highlighted and coated with a UV protective satin overcoat.
  • Vinyl arm pads to correct color and gloss
  • Formed urethane drawer fronts for desks and file cabinets painted with 2k urethanes.
  • The very first cases for apple computers sprayed and spatter coated with 2k urethane.

Knape Industries experienced a fire in 1971 and lost all production facilities and equipment.  Alternative facilities were leased and painting operations were back online in only 2 weeks.  Vacuum metallizing jobs were subcontracted with poor results.  Vacuum metallizing equipment was purchased, installed in the new facility (on the same site) and running in 6 months.  The new facility allowed for increased and increasingly efficient operations.

Knape’s customer base has changed over time.  Before the fire most of the customers were metal processors and since the fire, plastics companies have become the norm.  Still during the remainder of the 1900’s paint over chrome, bonderize & prime, and vacuum metallizing on zinc and aluminum castings continued, and grew in volume.  Vacuum metallizing for extreme temperature projector headlight reflectors and demanding chromating and paint applications on aluminum extrusions and castings were a common process.

Plastic Processing also grew with the customer base expanding locally and regionally.  Knape vacuum metallized many aerodynamic forward light products including the first plastic headlamps (with UV cured base coat) produced in the United States for export to Europe where they were already legal.  Chmsl reflectors, tail lamps, fog lamps, and turn signal housing were produced in large volumes using both UV and conventional cured coatings.  The emblem business grew during the time and expanded and changed from a local customer base to a national one serving primarily the reproduction parts manufacture and marketing companies.  Knape’s ability to produce parts to current automotive standards and the talented work force and flexibility  to produce small quantities of difficult parts proves to be a competitive strength.

Presently Knape is building on that strength serving design engineers, rapid prototype and development firms with a unique blend of talents and capabilities needed by these quickly moving leading edge suppliers.  Automotive lighting and plastics painting still utilize the majority of Knape Industries capacity with low volume prototype work growing in importance.

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