More repairers ‘seeing the light’ with UV primers
They’re not new to the collision repair industry, but ultra-productive UV primer surfacers are receiving renewed interest, thanks to advances in curing equipment. For users who want to use the technology for spot repairs, sometimes as part of a rapid repair fastlane process, the price has come down considerably for handheld units that resemble either a flashlight or spotlight, available for as little as a few hundred dollars. And with higher-powered portable equipment such as that from SPDI UV (as featured in the December Parts & People), shops can replace their current urethane primer surfacer even for large panels and be immediately ready to prep for paint.
“The UV light has always kind of been the limiting factor for anybody’s product,” said Jennifer Boros, director of marketing, collision segment for PPG. “A shop has to buy a piece of equipment that’s been bulky and expensive. That’s really changed recently. There are many more options for handheld lights.”
Boros said PPG has tested multiple UV lights, with some more effective than others because of their wavelength. She noted that PPG’s One Choice SUA1080 UV primer performs best with a wavelength of 360 to 365 nm, while one light it tested was emitting 390 to 400 nm, which will result in a longer cure time. PPG will soon make available its recommended light, which will be joined by a post-cure aerosol cleaner to replace its current pop-up-wipes offering.
Steffen Apollo, segment manager within the strategic segment for Axalta Coating Systems, said, “The biggest hurdle to making this a meat-and-potatoes product at every shop has been the equipment; good UV equipment has been very expensive through the years. And in the last three years, there has been more competition in the drying equipment area than in the previous 15 years. With a reasonably priced lamp, every shop should and could have UV primer.”
“We have had an aerosol since ’08, but we didn’t have all the drying techniques, so we relaunched it with the liquid style in a rebranded “F-style” can in October ’17, as well,” said Don Shearer, technical manager for AkzoNobel Coatings. “The equipment has made it a game-changer. We have the equipment to dry it and make it really successful, and that’s where we’ve been able to put it in a lot more facilities.”
Originally introduced to Sikkens’ VR Premium segment, some fleet customers have also seen the productivity benefits for their spot repairs, said AkzoNobel Product Manager Erica Clayton.
Stationary UV curing equipment tended to be cumbersome to use, requiring it to be repositioned to cure larger areas, resulting in little to no time savings, said Mike Carroll, new products introduction manager for BASF.
“We were able to cure ours in the sun, which alleviated some of the problem that I couldn’t get the lamp moved five or six times, but not all shops were set up where they could just back a car out into the sun. Now that some of the new handheld equipment has come out, I’m able to cure it with basically the same motion as how I just sprayed.”
UV can improve cycle time
UV primer surfacers are low-VOC, one-component (1K) products that require UV radiation to cure, and, depending on the paint manufacturer, are available in aerosol, quart, or liter cans. According to the manufacturers, UV products can be fully cured from 30 seconds to a few minutes, depending on the repair area and power of the lamp, with no sand-scratch shrinkage and little to no concern over scorching from overcuring.
“No additional reducers or hardener are needed. The whole idea is to have a 1K primer that yields results similar to or better than a 2K primer,” said Brian Dean, product manager of clearcoats and undercoats for BASF. “Because the value proposition behind UV is the quick cure, the shops that are going to want this are focused on cycle time, being productive, and getting cars through the door.”
The per-ounce cost is significantly more expensive, Apollo said, but “the productivity and usage of the material is really where the benefit is. For our customers who are all about the business and have switched from traditional technology primer to UV primer, they’re bouncing off the walls. They’re thrilled.”
As the paint manufacturers point out, there is no pot life, no waste, and less cleanup with the 1K product. The product can be left in the gun all day and poured back into the original container.
Application requires little adjustment
The spray equipment used to apply UV primer surfacer is mostly the same, although a smaller fluid tip (similar to that used to spray sealer) is typically used (on the SATAminijet, Shearer recommends a 1.0 to 1.2 fluid tip). A traditional aluminum or stainless steel cup, or a black disposable mix/spray cup must be used instead of translucent disposable cups, to shield the product from sunlight or other UV radiation.
For spot repairs, aerosols cost more than liquid cans, “but UV primers are for speed and productivity,” Boros said. “It’s ideal for shops that do a lot of quick spot repairs, probably nothing greater than eight to 12 inches in diameter; it’s just really meant for the speed.”
Depending on the manufacturer, UV primer surfacers are either transparent or semi-transparent. Because they rely on light to cure the lowest layer, they cannot be opaque. That tends to make painters over-apply the first couple times they shoot it. To aid painters in seeing where it’s covered, BASF reformulated its Glasurit 151-170 UV primer filler to include more gray pigment, Dean said.
“If light can’t get through it, it can’t cure it. You have to see a level of transparency,” Apollo said, noting that Axalta’s Spies Hecker Permasolid 1K UV Starlight Primer Surfacer 9002 has some pigmentation. If a painter sees that complete hiding has been achieved, “do not bother putting the light on it, because it will not cure. Wipe it off and start over.”
Prior to curing, any overspray can be wiped clean, so masking doesn’t need to be as precise. But because it cures only where the light is shone, special attention must be given to shine the light in places such as wheel arches.
Ideal for emergency repairs in the booth
Aerosol-packaged UV primer surfacers are ideal when the need for a spot repair is detected under the bright lights of a spray booth, Shearer said.
Carroll agreed, noting that fixing the defect correctly with a UV primer surfacer will also save time at the end of the process.
“You have a choice: ‘Do I spray it and fix it later, hoping I can buff it out? Or within five minutes, I can put some UV primer on it, let it flash, cure it, and be back to where I should have been before.”
What’s to come
As UV primer surfacer becomes more popular, more UV products may become available.
“We have a UV clear in Europe and we’re investigating the possibility of bringing it here,” Clayton said.
“I think we need greater penetration in the marketplace, with more shops using it for what it can do before a great expansion,” Apollo said. “I think it will happen, but shops need to continue to embrace it, use it, and ‘see the light,’ because it is really productive.”