The Ultimate Cure: How We're Using Infrared Light To Deliver The Cleanest Ceramic Coating Result
A ceramic coating is a much stronger alternative for adding protection and shine to your vehicle’s paint finish than traditional waxes are. Once applied, the coating will harden into a “shell” which in turn helps to reduce the risk of swirling or scratches harming your finish. Additionally, it makes washing your car much easier as there is no need to apply wax after the washing process is done.
One way we like to ensure that our coating applications come out smooth and clean is by using an Infrared Curing Lamp. This tool helps to expedite the curing process by adding heat to concentrated areas of the vehicle’s surfaces for a predetermined amount of time, allowing the coating to harden quicker. This is an important part of our coating process, as we know that the less time a coating needs to cure, the less chance there will be for the curing environment to allow stray particles to settle as it cures.
If you’re wondering how essential it is for your shop to have an IR lamp, it’s not. No shop absolutely needs to have an IR lamp, but it can be a good way to increase vehicle throughput. As mentioned, curing a ceramic coating on a vehicle takes time, and as a result, the vehicle will need to sit longer if being cured naturally. We love using IR because in addition to helping to provide a clean and contaminant-free finish, it reduces the amount of time that the vehicle needs to sit to cure before we are able to deliver the vehicle back to the client. As a result, we have more space in our shops to free up for incoming vehicles (and, our clients are happier!). If you’re serious about getting an IR lamp, the main characteristic to consider is the type of lamp you’ll need. There are several configurations and options to choose from, so it’s important that you align your search with the needs of your shop.
You’ll want to start by understanding the three types of Infrared light systems on the market - short wave, medium wave, and long wave IR. Long wave IR is fairly irrelevant to the automotive industry, as it is the least efficient curing method; you won’t see any detailing or paint shops using this type of system. Medium wave IR lamps are ideal for curing mostly flat or simple surfaces, such as hoods and roofs. Short wave IR is the most ideal overall solution for curing, as it is the quickest curing method, and can be used for treating any coated surface on a vehicle.
The wavelength you decide to use is important. What separates the three types of IR tech is their respective abilities to penetrate the painted surface of a vehicle. Exposing the surface to IR causes molecular stimulation on the coating as well as the painted surface. Through conduction and subsequent radiation from the heated surface of the vehicle, heat from the IR lamp passes through the coating, hits the paint and then passes back through the coating, allowing for the coating to cure much quicker and cleaner than with natural curing methods. Shortwave infrared light is the best solution for this curing process as it is able to generate the most heat, allowing for a high quality cure.
The next thing you’ll want to consider when choosing an IR lamp is the price point. As mentioned there are several options when it comes to IR systems, and with that comes a diverse price list, starting from a few hundred dollars to thousands for higher end models. The model we have is a UNITED UD-3D Shortwave Infrared Paint Curing System. It’s a higher end model that uses shortwave IR along with a host of features and settings to ensure a timely, thorough and complete curing process for all of our vehicles.
In addition to being the ideal curing solution for coated vehicle surfaces, IR lamps are also an efficient alternative to paint ovens or traditional heat exposure. The heat from an infrared curing lamp can be directed and focused to specific areas, allowing for increased efficiency and decreased energy consumption, with no warm-up or cool-down periods.
Is infrared technology right for you? Will it benefit your shop and as a result your business? There are a few questions you should ask yourself before making the move. IR is a great solution for a busy shop, and it can greatly benefit you, as well as your clients in the long run.