The Evolving Paint Drying Market
After being on the market for more than a decade in Europe, robotic paint drying systems have become installed in U.S. collision repair operations within the last few years.
Several robotic paint drying models—which sports equipment that aims to dry paint within minutes as opposed to hours—come with a complete robotic arch mounted to a track on the ceiling of a paint booth, which passes over a vehicle at roughly three feet per second; a half-arch model, designed primarily for prep bays, that also travels on a mounted ceiling track and can be maneuvered to directly hit specific areas of vehicles; and a handheld version for smaller jobs.
In 2017, two body shop owners—Tim Beal and Byron Davis—started their own company, 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, 2018, the Phoenix was installed at Beal’s Auto Body & Paint in Prescott, Ariz., making it the latest addition to the robotic paint drying market.
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 the established competition.
The Independent Model
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 Fixed Ops Business's sister publication 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 body shops.
Like other competitors on the market, the Phoenix is a gas catalytic system. This system uses a similar technology as the catalytic converters used in cars, says Jason Garfoot, senior technical advisor with GFS. 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.
Unlike other equipment on the market, Beal claims the machine is fully automated. The equipment cost roughly $2 million to produce and will sell for roughly $249,000.
Beal says his company will also offer live training and online videos to help body shops build an efficient process around the machine.
Keeping Up to Date
Gascat: 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.
Compared with the U.S Auto Cure system, Gascat’s system can be used on natural gas or propane. The systems can be installed in paint booths and prep decks. Installation times take between 3–4 days. The paint department and local jobber representative is included in the training process.
Symach: 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 body 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.
GFS: 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 Garfoot.. The unit is able to cure the final clearcoat in 4–8 minutes.
Garfoot says the GFS equipment is able to directly heat the car through short infrared rays unlike other companies on the market. Through gas catalytic systems, an individual will have to cure every individual coat of paint. Garfoot says if the paint is too thick then the gas catalytic system could cause it to bubble and fail.
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.