Auto Body Evolution

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In April of 2012, we published a story called “The Future of Paint Drying,” which outlined the use of robotic drying technology in Europe and its potential in the U.S.

The gas catalytic drying process, even though it had existed since 2001, seemed sci-fi. Robots that could dry paint in less than a minute, or dry a whole car in 6 to
8 minutes.  

At the time, there were still many regulatory hoops for the equipment manufacturers to jump through and the technology’s use in American shops seemed a very distant possibility—and just a possibility at best. But here we are, just shy of three years later, and a handful of collision repair facilities have drying robots installed and operational in their facilities.   

There are three major players in the U.S. right now—Robotica (through Bodyshop Revolution North America), Symach and Ionitec. They all promise unprecedented reductions in drying time, enabling massive throughput improvements—at least for the shops with the right processes in place. The technology comes at a hefty price, but like the equipment, the return is supposed to be swift. 

Time will tell if that’s the case, but early reports are promising. Aaron Marshall, manager at Marshall Auto Body in Waukesha, Wis., says his Robotica equipment has performed as advertised since installation in December. By the time this issue of FenderBender hits, several other industry-leading shops are slated to have gas catalytic drying equipment in use.   

Though the implications on the greater industry are a ways down the road, the potential impact cannot be ignored. It is perhaps the most significant refinish product this industry has seen since the paint gun. See Bryce Evans’ feature, “Robotic Revolution,” for a deeper dive into this game-changing technology. 

Jake Weyer

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