Speed Up Your Operation with Infrared Drying Technology

April 25, 2019

As the number of work orders and competitors in the collision repair industry continues to rise, body shops must find a way to increase throughput while maintaining quality. Both are achievable with infrared (IR) drying technology, which can offer unmatched throughput gains, quality improvements and energy cost savings.

The main options for infrared drying units on the market are gas catalytic and electric. The differences between the two are the size of the IR wavelengths they produce and the way the systems generate energy, which cause varying throughput times and quality results. Both types provide significant time savings over a traditional cure cycle or convection dryer, as vehicles do not have to sit overnight before polishing.

Gas Catalytic Systems

Gas catalytic dryers rely on the flow of natural gas to a catalytic ceramic plate, in which gas is forced through small holes that break the bonds in the gas molecules. Once oxygen is added, the transformed natural gas molecules generate heat.

The heat produced by the natural gas catalytic reaction is mostly medium-wave IR, with some long wave IR, which may result in solvent popping and die-back issues in the top layer. If the longer wavelengths fail to penetrate through the top layer, solvents can be trapped inside while the surface of the coating dries faster than the layer closest to the substrate. This is problematic when curing thicker coatings, such as primer or clear coat. Body filler is also finicky with long-wave IR systems.

The catalytic reaction occurs in gas IR systems once they reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which can take up to 15 minutes. To prevent time lost during warm-up, gas catalytic units are typically left on all day, consuming a large amount of energy. When turned off, the plates on gas units remain hot for about 15 minutes. Workers must use extreme caution moving the unit after shutdown, and must wait an hour before polishing can begin.

Electric Infrared Units

Electric IR technology is generated by sending electrical currents to a tungsten filament, which produces mostly short-wave energy, in addition to some medium waves. Short-wave electric IR penetrates directly to the underlying substrate, then directs heat outward, delivering consistent, controlled heat to each layer of the filler or coating. The heat neither passes through the panel nor causes the temperature to rise inside the vehicle.

With short-wave electric IR curing systems, drying time for both the prep and paint phases of repair can be reduced by hours, freeing skilled technicians to complete other repairs. Additionally, short-wave electric IR energy costs are a fraction of the expense of a conventional bake cycle, as energy is concentrated only on the panels needing repair, and the technology cures filler and coatings much quicker.

The exceptionally fast curing of short-wave electric IR allows for high-quality results that reduce the need for rework. As a result of the fast curing, there is less time for the wet coating to be exposed to contamination. By curing from the inside out, short-wave electric IR systems completely cure the coating. Solvents will not get trapped in the coating, which can lead to significant quality issues. Plus, with short-wave electric IR systems, there is no need to add expensive accelerators or express clears to speed the drying time.

The Benefit of One More Car Per Day

Wasted time in your shop translates to lost profit. Short-wave electric IR systems, such as REVO Accelerated Curing Systems from Global Finishing Solutions (GFS), speed up the entire refinish process from primer to clear coat, delivering an even, complete cure of filler and coatings.

Reaching curing temperature almost instantly and ready to cure a repair immediately, REVO Systems cure primer more than 20 minutes faster than standard heat lamps. Saving 20 minutes per repair gives most shops the ability to put through one additional car per day. This can have a significant impact on a shop’s bottom line.

With the average U.S. work order around $3,000 and an average gross profit of 40 percent, most shops are making $1,200 in gross profit per vehicle. Putting through one more car per day means the potential of $288,000 of additional gross profit per year. Even if a shop puts through only one more car per week, that is still $62,400 of additional gross profit per year.

REVO Systems Offer Immediate Returns

Minneapolis-based Mulroy’s Body Shop switched from a gas-powered IR system to a GFS REVO-integrated paint booth when their shop expanded in 2017. Total vehicle repair time from body filler through paint is now less than an hour, as their semi-automatic REVO Speed cures three coats of primer simultaneously in 6–9 minutes, without skinning or solvent popping the top layer. For a two-panel job, clear coat is cured within 5–6 minutes in just one pass with REVO Speed.

“We are killing it on cycle times,” Mulroy said. “We are able to use less product, see better cycle times, and get cars in and out of the paint booth faster.”

Like Mulroy, Jim Smiciklas has benefited from significant throughput gains since adding electric IR to his Las Vegas shop. He chose REVO Systems over a gas catalytic unit for the 2018 expansion of Express Collision Center because of the considerable time and energy savings.

“I like that our repairs are 100 percent cured before customers leave the shop,” Smiciklas said. “It gives us the ability to offer a warranty, our paint jobs are much cleaner and there is less settling on a fresh paint job, which means less buffing. A 100 percent cure gives a similar chip-and-scratch resistance as factory paint jobs.”

Save Money with Electric IR

The beauty of short-wave electric IR is that it can be easily integrated into a shop, oftentimes without changing a shop’s footprint or requiring additional labor. Whereas gas catalytic systems require shops to install new gas lines throughout their facility and electrical connections that must be run to the unit, REVO Systems from GFS use only the electrical power already supplied in the shop.

Electric IR also offers shops significant energy savings over gas catalytic systems. Using REVO Speed, a complete cure cycle with primer, base coat and clear coat on one panel costs a shop about 50 cents in electricity. The average paint booth cycle with a gas catalytic system costs $50–$60 in electricity and gas.

When considering an upgrade to your shop, the indisputable benefits of short-wave electric IR drying technology, like REVO Systems, should not be ignored. Short-wave electric IR improves quality, offers energy savings and eliminates obstacles that slow the drying and rework process—everything you need to put through one more car per day and stay ahead of your competition.

With four REVO Systems models to choose from in all different sizes, there is something to meet the needs of shops with varying production levels. Contact Global Finishing Solutions to see for yourself how the technology works, how it can be easily added to your shop and how it can make an immediate impact on your bottom line.

Contact Global Finishing Solutions to see for yourself how the technology works and what it can do for your shop.

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