The future of refinishing

Productivity and energy efficiency are important drivers for bodyshops looking to increase throughput and reduce running costs. Dr. Michael McInnes Ph.d., technical manager of Low Bake Systems, for Axalta Coating Systems in the UK and Ireland, believes that these will still be high on the list of priorities for the bodyshops of the future.

Michael explains, ‘From the refinish point of view, the bodyshop of the future probably won’t look very different to how it does now. The biggest change will be in the products that refinishers use, and how they use them.’

‘Today, as a result of industry legislation, there has been a move towards low VOC water-based and high-solids coatings. But these have had some limitations in terms of drying times and bake temperature requirements. However, Axalta is continually working towards making these products faster and more efficient. New, innovative products have already seen bake temperatures reduced from 80 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius, and bake times reduced from 30 to just 10 minutes. The new Ultra Performance Energy Clear CC6700 from Cromax is an example of one such product. It has been designed to dry quickly and at low temperatures, while still giving a brilliant, high quality finish’ said Michael.

He continued, ‘The next stage, in my opinion, could be faster, lower bake primers, which could enable bodyshops to increase their throughput and make energy savings. Competitiveness in the marketplace isn’t going to get any easier; bodyshops that invest in the latest product technology and get the training they need to maximise it, will surely have the edge.’

The future is digital – with an ultraviolet glow

AkzoNobel highlights two key trends which are set to revolutionise vehicle refinishing and make bodyshops more efficient and profitable: digital colour match tooling and the expanding capabilities of UV technology.

‘Comparing colours against charts and other traditional documentation will soon be a thing of the past,’ says Jon Amor, VR premium sales manager, UK & Ireland. ‘We have already shown the way forward with our Automatchic Vision digital spectrophotometer. This compact, hand-held device quickly and accurately measures colour, even on curved surfaces, and its readings can then be translated into a formula for the best match using our Automatchic Smart Search software.’

He adds, ‘Compared to the old approach, this digital tool – supported by wireless and bluetooth-enabled hardware devices – makes the whole process almost instantaneous. As well as saving time, it avoids the cost of reworks and customer dissatisfaction by guaranteeing the right match. With the increasing number, variety and complexity of colours today, digital assistance will be a necessity.”

George Sneddon, regional technical service manager, Akzo Nobel, Europe North, points to the cost-saving advantages and growing versatility of the company’s latest UV LED drying equipment. ‘In the future we will use UV curing for much larger repairs. As well as reducing energy consumption, it greatly extends equipment life expectancy. UV is also ideally suited to dealing with the ever decreasing number of repairs in the market, and to cold curing of hybrid electric vehicles which cannot be subjected to higher temperatures. Along with UV curing products, we expect to see a focus on faster-drying clearcoats for smaller repairs.’

Jon concludes, ‘To meet modern demands, bodyshops need to repair cars more quickly and efficiently – with no compromise on quality. Digital and UV advances allow rapid production-line repairs and slicker operations that minimise cycle times from first contact or insurance claim referral to handing back the keys.’