Shortwave infrared from GFS can increase paint shop productivity, quality
Osseo, Wis. — The paint department is often the shop’s bottleneck. And faced with looming promised delivery dates, painters sometimes push the limits of their paint system, which can result in comebacks in the form of sand scratches or dieback once the materials finally cure after delivery.
One solution to speed up cure times — electric infrared lamps — has long been in use, although they required careful manual temperature monitoring by the technician to avoid overheating the panel and finish. But relatively new shortwave electric infrared curing sytems from Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) are even faster than the older medium- and low-intensity shortwave units and promise ease of use, the ability to speed up production, and improved quality because of the thorough cure they provide, said Brandon Lowder, vice president of auto refinish sales for GFS.
Infrared curing is not a replacement for the booth’s conventional bake cycle, he said, which is still the best choice for large-scale refinishing needed for a storm-damaged vehicle, as an example. But for the bulk of refinishing repairs, which are for only two or three panels, using either the stationary or automated REVO models can dramatically speed up paint department production and increase throughput by as much as 80 percent, he said.
“At SEMA last year, we put up a booth for Axalta to demonstrate its products,” Lowder said. “We used their UV primer and then used the REVO Speed for the sealer and basecoat/clearcoat, and they did a two-panel repair while shooting a video in 25 minutes or so. And that was completely done. In 25 minutes, it was ready to be put into service.”
Multiple models available to suit varying budgets, footprints
GFS debuted the REVO four-model line of shortwave infrared curing lamps a year earlier at the 2014 SEMA Show. The flagship of the line, the semi-automatic Speed, lists for $63,000, has a semiarch array of curing lamps, computer-controlled sonar, and temperature-sensing for automatic positioning.
It moves on an overhead rail installed in a prep station or paint booth to cure multiple panels, and can be installed in either a new GFS booth or retrofitted to most booth brands and models. The more compact Rapid, with two cassettes (movable heads with curing lamps), is available as either an overhead-rail or portable model for full panels.
“The way the operator interfaces with the machine is very simple and easy to use,” Lowder said. “It really creates an environment of predictable results. The Rapid and the Speed models have a five-inch color touchscreen on them, and they both have a sonar sensor. So for positioning, the technician just needs to bring it over — the sonar will tell them when it’s the proper distance away.
“Then they select the type of coating they’re going to cure, whether it’s body filler, primer, sealer, basecoat, or clearcoat, and then they select the color shade, which is basically light, medium, and dark, because the different colors require a different intensity from the bulb. A darker color requires less intensity; a lighter color requires more intensity.”
Other REVO models are available for spot repairs: The Spot, and the Handheld, which is also useful for removing glass and decals and for quick cures of smaller areas.
Traditional infrared equipment could be finicky, Lowder said, sometimes causing problems with overheating panels or inadequate cures.
“But with our REVO product line, we’ve really taken all of that unknown out of it because the technician is just answering basically four simple questions or doing four simple steps, and he gets the same results every single time,” he said.
Shortwave infrared curing is able to penetrate transparent and semi-transparent coatings to completely cure them from the inside (substrate) out, so all solvents evaporate and are completely cured (cross-linked) before the vehicle leaves the booth, Lowder said, with the added benefit that vehicles can be striped or decaled or driven in inclement weather immediately. Cooldown time decreases from an average of 45 minutes to 10. And because only the panels that need to be cured are heated, less energy is used for a cure cycle.
For waterborne paint, air movers are often no longer needed since shortwave infrared offers superior curing, he said.
The Speed includes three rows of lights, arranged in a semiarch, that successively pass over the vehicle’s panels to completely cure the coatings, Lowder said. The first preheats the panel — the substrate underneath — and will warm up the coating and start the evaporation and cross-linking process. The second brings the substrate to the desired temperature, and the third row of lights completely cures the product.
Complete cure results in higher quality repair
Because coatings are completely cured with infrared curing, “what you see” at the time of delivery is “what you get,” even down the road, Lowder said.
“It’s a common rework issue,” he said. “The technician put high-build primer on and didn’t let that thoroughly cure. So he sands it, he seals it, basecoats it, clearcoats it, it looks great, and Mrs. Jones gets her car. A couple of days later, she can see the sand scratches or see where the repair material built up, and she sees the repair. That’s because they rushed the repair and they didn’t have time for it to thoroughly cure. REVO eliminates that because everything is completely cured before they go onto the next step.”
The REVO lamps can help body filler cure in as little as 90 seconds, high-build primer in six to seven minutes, basecoat in three, and clearcoat in four minutes, Lowder said.
“You get rid of that quality issue of having products swelling or shrinking back,” he said. “And it completely cures and dries out waterbased paint. If you don’t get all of the water out, in three months down the road it starts dying back. The REVO eliminates that, as well.”
The greatest pushback for a potential sale has been the shortcomings of the older technology, Lowder said.
“They had an old infrared lamp 10 or 15 years ago and the guys had a bad experience with it,” he said. “Maybe they blistered some paint or some coatings didn’t cure completely. So they have a bad taste in their mouth for electric IR. But once we go back and show them how well the technology works, they get over that easily.”