The Evolving Paint Drying Market
In 2017, two independent shop owners—Tim Beal and Byron Davis—started U.S. Auto Cure, and partnered with engineers who have worked in the computer and aerospace industries to develop the Phoenix curing system. On May 19, the Phoenix was installed at Beal’s Auto Body & Paint in Prescott, Ariz., officially making it the latest addition to the robotic paint drying market in the U.S..
This technology isn’t a new phenomenon stateside (FenderBender first reported on it in 2014), and there are a handful of companies that produce and distribute advanced drying products for American shops. First introduced in Europe nearly two decades ago, robotic paint drying products come in a variety of models—from a full-arch system that passes over an entire vehicle in a paint booth, all the way down to small, hand-held options. Each uses a variance of infrared technology to speed up the drying and curing process.
Despite the proposed advantages of the technology, adoption in the U.S. has been slow, as it’s estimated that fewer than 100 shops use the larger full-arch or half-arch systems.
FenderBender spoke with U.S. Auto Cure and several other companies to both learn about the new robotic paint drying technology and gather updates on where each stands in the marketplace.
U.S. Auto Cure
Within the last year, Beal and Davis had to hire an independent company to certify the machine per federal regulations and the National Electric Code NFPA 70, a certification for paint drying equipment in a vented spray booth, Beal says.
Micky Myers, an electrical engineer, took Beal and Davis’ combined personal experience with infrared paint curing systems (which have been featured in FenderBender heavily in the past) and helped apply it to the design of the Phoenix with his fellow engineers. The design has gone through updates in the past year and has recently been installed into the shops.
Like other competitors on the market, the Phoenix is a gas catalytic system; it uses a gas reaction to super heat plates, which bakes the paint on the car. This type of reaction produces medium- to long-wave energy that cures from the outside in.
New additions to the machine include a weather station, which allows the machine to know the current temperature and humidity in the ambient air, he says. Phoenix also has a preheat feature for colder regions of the U.S. Beal says the machine is fully automated, and his company will also offer live training and online videos to help shops build an efficient process around the machine.
Gascat Dryers, a division of Garmat USA, is now the exclusive U.S. distributor of gas catalytic drying equipment for Greentech Dryers, an Italian equipment manufacturer that produces the equipment. This change took place in 2017.
The equipment uses the same natural gas or LPG that common spray booth heaters use and emits heat through a flameless technology, producing infrared energy. Within recent years, the software has been updated to include upgraded hose, cable carrier systems, upgraded pyrometers and collision sensors.
This technology reduces paint drying times by 50 percent and reduces natural gas usage by 30 percent. The systems can be installed into existing paint booths, prep dek or work bay. The systems can be installed in paint booths and prep decks. Installation times take between 3–4 days. The shop paint department and local jobber representative is included in the training process.
FixLine is Symach’s complete repair process that includes all phases of repair, from quotation to delivery. It is a repair system that uses a line on which the car moves sideways for the phases of body filler, primer, masking, painting, unmasking and polishing, says Osvaldo Bergaglio, owner and president of Symach.
In 90 of the technology’s products, there has been a reduced labor cost on average of 3–4 hours per repair and shops have repaired more than 80 percent of cars within the same day. Bergaglio says the training for their product will take about two to four weeks. The equipment can be used in both a spray booth and outside in the preparation bay, he says.
The GFS technology uses tungsten filament bulbs producing short wave infrared, Andrea Iacucci Ostini, REVO product manager at GFS says.
GFS today has both handheld and larger paint curing systems. The REVO Speed unit updates mostly come from software updates, says Jason Garfoot, senior technical advisor for GFS. The unit is able to cure the final clearcoat in 4–8 minutes.
REVO equipment uses short-wave infrared, which cures from the inside out, allowing the paint to cure in just one pass after the final coat of a product.
The Ionitec technology is currently being imported and distributed in the U.S. through Lone Star Performance, Inc, says Greg Gilmore, owner of Gilmore’s Collision Center and Lone Star Performance Inc.
There are half- and full-arch configurations on the market in Switzerland, with Ionitec gearing up for the U.S. market push in 2019, Gilmore says. There are also mobile units, handhelds and units for the body area as well.
One of the biggest advancements within the last couple of years has been the Booth on the Move, he says. It is a fully automated mobile spray cabin, which has a full arch installed as well as full humidity control. One booth can cover three to seven spray areas in a paint shop and the vehicle stays stationary for the entire refinish process. There is a fully grated floor and every spray area has air and power pods that retract into the floor when not in use.
The technology can cure with one pass, Gilmore says.