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detriot automaker to revolutionise their painting process

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i read this today and found it informative and interesting
so i thought id pass it along

Ford remakes paint process

Jan 13, 2006
By: Mark Johnson
Automotive Body Repair News

Chances are you have had a few months of fuel bills that have you wondering if there is a cheaper way to heat your paint booth. Now imagine what your fuel costs would be if your paint booth was hundreds of feet long and in operation 24 hours a day—and you need to bake each vehicle that goes through that booth three separate times. That cost was one of the reasons Ford Motor Co. developed what it calls the “the paint shop of the future.”

The shop relies on three technologies—new formulas, a process where three paint layers are applied but are only baked once and using paint fumes to generate electricity.

The new paint formula greatly increases the solid to solvent ratio. “Clearcoat technology is about 50-50 [solids to solvent] but in the near future resins will be about 85 percent while solvents will be about 15 percent,” says Mary Ellen Rosenberger, manager, paint strategy for Ford. That change will reduce the VOC emissions at Ford plants by approximately 10 percent. Rosenberger also pointed out that waterborne paints are less environmentally friendly than the new solvent-based formulas.

The change that may be the hardest to imagine is what Ford calls the “three-wet application process,” where primer, color coat and clear coat are applied one on top of the without baking or allowing the prior coat to dry. The three layers are then heat cured simultaneously, which has reduced the size of the paint shop and the amount of energy the paint process uses. Ford says that new paint formulas allow the three coats to be applied without runs, drips or sags.

“The new high-solid solvent-borne technology we developed with our suppliers requires new polymers and additives so the paint can quite literally fight gravity,” says Rosenberger. “One of the advantages of high-solids technology is that we are able to get the film builds we have used in the past—that is really critical.”

Ford expects further energy savings from its “fumes to fuel” process, which it developed in conjunction with Detroit Edison. Reduced to its essentials, the process collects the solvent fumes that evaporate during the curing stage and burn them to generate electricity. The problem with that simple description is that in reality VOCs are not concentrated enough to be burned as fuel.

Ford solved the problem with a system that works in two stages. In the first part of the process VOCs are removed from the air, concentrated and injected into the gas stream, which enters the second stage where the VOCs become fuel used to generates electricity.

The new system greatly reduces the amount of fuel needed to clean VOCs from paint shop exhausts and also reduces fuel use by helping to power the plant.

The big question for ABRN readers is “will this force me to change my paint process?” According to Rosenberger the answer is no. “We are adhering to our current color standards and masters, so this won’t change the color of what we offer at all. Our expectation is we will maintain the entire Ford color palette as it is today, which makes body work a lot easier,” says Rosenberger.

While the process won’t change, the new high solids paint formulation may help collision repair shops to deal with their own VOC concerns. “We work hand in hand with our auto refinish guys to drive similar kinds of improvements at shops around the world,” says Rosenberger, explaining that the new paints are probably going to be part of the repair shop of the future
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