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What you need to know about spraying finishes with nitrogen

Tuesday, September 25, 2018 - 06:00
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“At what point can we stop jumping on every efficiency effort and just get paid fairly? Why do we have to be the ones who are constantly expected to change?”

That was the lament a repairer confided in ABRN nearly a decade ago when one seemingly could not open an industry trade journal or talk business with a consultant without hearing about “lean processing” and “lean operations.” The repairer had a point. Shops, especially those wanting to survive and expand, were under considerable pressure to expend resources to cut every last bit of waste while hoping the results showed up in their revenue columns. Sometimes, it seemed, their efforts didn’t pay off or pay off enough.

Repairers can be excused if they are more than a bit skeptical of every new cost-cutting product that hits the market. But they also need to take a long, hard look at those that are proving their worth. Such is the case with nitrogen spraying systems. This technology has been around for more than a decade, steadily, though quietly, gaining converts.

(Photo courtesy of NITROHEAT) Nitrogen spraying system typically consist of technology that filters oxygen and trace gases out of atmospheric air that is already 78 percent nitrogen. Painters simply plug their guns into the system.

Is it time you took the dive into what could be a better way for you to apply finishes? Consider the following responses to the most common and significant questions surrounding this product from both experienced repairers and spray manufacturers.

Why nitrogen?

Due to its chemical properties, the nitrogen (N2) used for spraying offers a number of benefits over standard compressed air.

First, it’s anhydrous, meaning it contains no water, so flash and bake times are reduced significantly. Some nitrogen spraying manufacturers says flash times can be eliminated all-together, allowing painters to move from one coat to another with no wait time.

Second, nitrogen is inert--its molecules don’t contract or expand. More uniform molecules translate into more product transferred to the vehicle so there’s less product waste. The uniformity also translates into more uniform distribution of the product onto the finish and fewer coats needed for a job.

Nitrogen sprays also are ionized so they aren’t drawn away to static surfaces like the spray booth or painter. This factor further reduces product use and cuts spray booth filter maintenance costs. Additionally, the ionization prevents contaminates from being drawn to the new finish, cutting down the number of potential flaws that must be addressed later.

Solvent levels too are significantly reduced (manufacturer Eurosider says levels drop from 40 percent to seven-10 percent). Shops not only benefit from having fewer harmful emissions in their work spaces, a higher gloss finish is produced with fewer coats and less sagging and dripping. Moreover, using fewer solvents helps eliminate orange peel, saving considerable time spent fixing this flaw later.

Finally, nitrogen-enriched air (as much as 99.5 percent) is much cleaner than compressed air. Impurities from oil, oil fumes and dust are eliminated.

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