There are a number of methods that can gain greater paint department throughput. A shop may add a booth, or it may use speed clears, accelerators, and other refinishing products, some of which may not be recommended or come with durability or appearance drawbacks. And curing systems speed up the time required to get a vehicle or parts out of the booth and ready to assemble.
The new U.S. Autocure Phoenix medium-wave gas catalytic curing system speeds curing times and is distributed by Industrial Finishes & Systems.
Portland, Ore.-based Industrial Finishes & Systems Inc., with distribution centers around the U.S., recently introduced the modular U.S. Autocure Phoenix medium-wave gas catalytic curing system, which works with existing paint booths and is designed to provide a rapid cure on even multi-angle surfaces. As the exclusive distributor of the new system, Industrial Finishes partnered in its development and marketing.
Development of the new system was started by two body shop owners. Byron Davis, owner of Autobody Specialties in Springfield, Ore., and Tim Beal, owner of Beal’s Autobody and Paint, in Prescott, Ariz., were experienced with other infrared curing systems. But frustrated with some of those systems’ limitations, they saw an opportunity to improve upon them with their own design, said Mike Duncan, director of marketing for Industrial Finishes & Systems.
Beal and Davis enlisted the aid of aerospace engineer Mickey Meyer to develop the system to the point of having working units.
“They were looking for a partner to help them take the project to the next level, provide distribution, and be able to assist them with getting production up and running. We saw that as an opportunity to get involved in new technology that we think is going to be good for our customers,” Duncan said.
New design overcomes line-of-sight restrictions
Gas-catalytic curing systems burn either natural gas or propane for infrared curing, but there’s no open flame. The problem with previous competitive gas-catalytic curing systems is they are often arch designs that pass curing energy over the component from a fixed, nonadjustable distance. It’s a problem the Phoenix overcomes by using infrared emitters with 11 points of articulation.
“I don’t think there’s any piece of a car that’s flat anymore,” Duncan said. “Think about the difference in distance on a truck between the hood, the roof, and bed. And if one is 36 inches from the energy source, the other is 48 inches away, and the other is 60 inches away, those won’t all cure evenly. By allowing the emitters to articulate and cup around the components, we greatly reduce or eliminate that as a concern.”
This design also means a speedier cure, as the dwell time, or amount of time the energy is focused on a particular portion of the component, can be decreased for the far-away panel.
Curing is more rapid and thorough
In addition to shorter curing times, the technology allows for a more thorough cure, which better mimics an OEM oven-baked finish, Duncan said.
This dually fender illustrates how the emitter articulates to focus energy for a faster, more thorough cure.
“In a typical booth, at what we historically considered to be full-cured, it might be 45- to 50-percent-cured. With this machine, you get on the order of 80 percent. So it makes the cut-and-buff stage easier, it allows for a little bit closer match to the factory finish, and there’s less opportunity to introduce contaminants to the component or vehicle after it’s left the booth.”
Because the Phoenix needs to heat only panels and not the entire spray booth cabin –and for a shorter time period- it uses less gas than would a booth air makeup unit to heat and maintain a bake cycle, said Duncan, who noted that the more throughput there is in a day, the more considerable are the energy cost savings.
Validation included input from refinish manufacturers
Industrial Finishes Chemist Pat Mormile logged more than 100 hours of testing of 20 products from three key refinishing materials manufacturers, Duncan said, to make sure the Phoenix delivers the desired results, regardless of what product is used in the booth.
“We’ve had a lot of tremendous support from the major paint companies. They’ve been very eager to come in and lend product support and personnel to validate the findings we have with the technology.”
The modular design fits booths of various configurations, and it’s also certified to be in compliance of Canadian and U.S. Fire Prevention Class 1, Division 2 standards.
“It was a lot harder to get than what anyone had anticipated. The takeaway from that is it can go in an existing booth without being in a separate enclosure, with everything that goes along with getting a separate enclosure like that certified for your fire marshal.”
This illustration shows how the Phoenix travels on rails and the curing emitters articulate at angles to direct curing energy at various panels.
Competitive units that do not have the Class 1, Division 2 certification are technically illegal, and the shop owner incurs a potential liability should a problem occur, Duncan cautioned.
U.S. manufacturer means quick after-sale support
One of the frustrations experienced by Beal and Davis was in trying to get speedy and effective after-sales service and maintenance from a European manufacturer, Duncan said. The Phoenix is made in the United States.
“We’re available and we’re 24 to 48 hours away from being able to get out into the field and initiate a repair,” he said. “Plus, our machine has a lot of cloud-based diagnostic tools which allow for a lot of service updates. A little bit of the maintenance can be done remotely without having to have a tech onsite. People want to invest in a piece of equipment and feel like they can rely on it. Relying on it sometimes means that if there’s an issue, I can make a call, and somebody’s going to respond.”
Distribution will begin with existing customers
Duncan said the company’s roll-out plan includes identifying shops with which Industrial Finishes already has a relationship. Industrial Finishes representatives will identify customers who would benefit the most, including not only collision repair facilities but others, such as RV and specialty vehicles and manufacturers.
“We think in the long-run, that represents only a fraction of the available markets and applications for which we can produce technology.”