Making the switch to waterborne was a hot topic eight to ten years ago in the body shop world. Environmentally conscious states such as California were the first to lead the charge. The switch to water was once feared but is embraced by shops across the country now. That is because switching to waterborne paint carries with it some distinct advantages, one of the most significant benefits being the color match.
Almost all OEM’s worldwide are using some version of waterborne on their paint lines. Matching those beautiful bright-chroma colors is easier with waterborne. Matching that OEM texture and the metallic effect is faster with waterborne. Additionally, blending waterborne into waterborne makes that invisible edge blend much smoother.
Advantages To Switching To Waterborne
There are other reported advantages such as faster production and increased throughput as well. This advantage is due to the ability to paint waterborne wet on wet and not have to wait on flash times. In small shops, this isn’t much time savings, but in high production shops, it can mean an extra car or two a day.
When waterborne paint first came out, it wasn’t without its problems. Some of those problems resulted from user error from painters and body shop owners rushing to clear before the base was dry. Other early missteps were the result of initial product issues that have all been resolved by the paint manufacturers.
For those body shop owners who were not mandated to make the switch to waterborne misguided opinions were formed based on those early issues of eight to ten years ago. Unfortunately, many owners haven’t considered switching to waterborne since. Perhaps you are one of those shop owners reading this right now but are reconsidering your position.
Recommended Airflow When Switching To Waterborne
Any auto body shop owner making a switch in their shop will next want to know whether they need new equipment to switch to waterborne. The paint gun and staff training are the first order of business, and that leaves the paint booth as the remaining element involved in the switch. The question is, can a spray booth that is built to bake solvent also work for waterborne? The answer depends on your airflow.
As you know, heat dries solvent, and airflow dries waterborne. Therefore, your next step is to check the airflow of your existing paint booth. As a rule of thumb, we recommend at least 200+ FPM measured at the belt-line to dry waterborne.
To get to the desired velocity around the vehicle is dependent on the geometry of the paint booth and the capacity of the makeup air unit. Factors such as spray booth manufacturer, amount of ductwork and size, and also maintenance level of the spray booth will mean the difference between how your spray booth is rated, versus what it flows. With waterborne, it matters more what your spray booth actually flows. We recommend having a qualified paint booth installer or even a Garmat distributor to perform an onsite test.
What do you do if you have less than optimal airflow?
If you have less than optimal airflow, you don’t necessarily need a new paint booth. You can augment the system to improve performance.
Paint manufacturers suggest that in addition to airflow, you also need to agitate the air around the panel to break the laminar airflow. This disruption of the air will increase the speed of drying, and this is where adding air acceleration systems come into play.
Retrofit With Accele-Cure®
For the ultimate in accelerated airflow, Garmat recommends the use of our patented Accele-Cure® air acceleration system. Our propeller fan-based air systems are designed to move more airflow at a faster velocity directly over the vehicle. This effect accelerates the evaporation process, which ultimately results in substantially quicker curing times. Another advantage of the use of Accele-Cure® is that it decreases flash and cure times for both waterborne and solvent paints. By accelerating air over the vehicle Accele-Cure, ® helps to achieve uniform metal temperatures and quicker evaporation of water during flash off.
Retrofit Blower System
The next best choice for shops after the Accele-Cure® is to consider adding a blower system to your booth. All of our blower system options can be retrofitted into existing paint booths. They include vertical corner blowers, hip-mounted blowers, and flush-mounted horizontal blowers. The hip-mounted and corner blowers are available with or without lighting.
When evaluating auxiliary air movement devices, be wary of placement and design, as many competing brands add dirt collection zones. Our hip-mounted styles are located in the cleanest part of the spray booth, near the plenum. This location means there is less of a chance for dirt to get blown into the paint job. Our wall-mounted blowers are flush against the panel, as opposed to competing brands whose blowers jut out from the wall. Either style can get outfitted with nozzles or an air knife. The corner blowers are installed in the corners of the paint booth with a slightly slanted top to discourage dirt collection.
When It May Actually Be Time For A New Booth
If one of our retrofit systems cannot get you to your airflow goals, that is an indication that it is time to replace your paint booth or repower the mechanical. Air acceleration systems enhance an existing paint booth’s airflow. However, if you have insufficient velocity as your starting point, then replacing your paint booth is your only solution to maintain production levels in your shop, while taking advantage of the benefits of waterborne paint. Garmat has many solutions to fit your process and production needs.
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