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Infrared Curing

Figure 5-3 Recirculating Burner Box

form and consistent. Ovens should be specified to provide a maximum temperature variance of no greater than 15 F (-9.4 C) from the set point in the cure zone. Electricity An oven can function quite well with electricity and the design is very similar to the gas burner box. The electric heating elements take the place of the gas burner in a package type heater with a built in centrifugal recirculating fan. Electric ovens will take longer to bring up to temperature and to cool off, and they are at least 3:1 more expensive to operate than gas. No by-products of combustion are generated with electricity. Steam Like gas and electric, a steam heating system is a recirculating convection type. The return air should be filtered with high efficiency air filters to prevent clogging of the steam heat exchanger. The steam heat exchanger should be used with a self-operating regulator with an indicator. The regulator should have a strain for valve protection. A bypass line should be installed for proper heat control as well as a throttling valve self-acting steam control valve. Steam is typically not practical for curing powder coating unless a facility already has a boiler with excess capacity.

Infrared Curing

Infrared curing applies light energy to the part surface by direct transmission from an emitter. Some of the energy emitted will be reflected off the surface, some is absorbed into the polymer and some is transmitted into the substrate. This direct transfer of energy creates an immediate reaction in the polymer and crosslinking begins quickly once the surface is exposed to the emitter. V/8
Powder Coaters Manual 1/98

Infrared Curing

Figure 5-4 Infrared Behavior

Although IR ovens can cure a coating much faster than convection, differences in the part structure and mass will affect the results. Light energy is dependent on a precise and consistent relationship to the product for even distribution of energy and uniform curing. Areas of a part that are obscured from the emitter by their geometry will not heat up at the same pace as areas that are flush to the emitter. The distance of the part surface to the emitter will also have a profound influence on the curing of the coating. For these reasons, IR is seldom ideal as a 100% cure option for powder coating but it can be very useful when used with convection to accelerate the cure. Ovens that use some IR in combination with convection can provide some of the benefits of both technologies. There are certain situations where IR is the best cure method. When the part is very heavy and consistent in shape, IR emitters can be arranged in a pattern that can raise the surface temperature much faster than convection and cure in much less time. IR may be the only practical way to cure certain types of parts by providing a much shorter cycle time. For systems that run only one product IR can work very well. This is especially true of parts with even surfaces that can be run through the oven with a consistent relationship to the emitter. In cases where a variety of product with different shapes and masses is coated, IR alone will require frequent adjustments to the position and intensity of the emitters. Powder cure ovens are usually all or part convection type to provide the necessary flexibility for part size, mass and shape.
Powder Coaters Manual 1/98

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Infrared Curing

Figure 5-5 Electromagnetic Spectrum

Infrared energy is a form of electromagnetic radiation, located on the electromagnetic spectrum between visible light and microwaves and measured in microns. The three wave lengths of infrared, low, medium and high, will emit energy that will be absorbed by the organic coating, reflected from the surface, or transmitted into the substrate. The actual behavior of IR energy depends on the wavelength, the distance between the substrate and the emitter, the mass of the part and the surface area. The surface of a part with a low mass/high surface area will heat up very quickly when exposed to IR, while a part with a lot of mass and not much surface area will react more slowly. Short wave IR provides high electromagnetic energy levels. This intense band of electromagnetic energy does not provide much flexibility in the cure cycle. Long wave IR has low electromagnetic energy levels, providing less surface heating than short wave or medium wave. The most efficient use of IR energy is absorption by the coating. Higher absorption rates are usually found in the medium wavelength, 2.3 to 3.3 microns. Typically, testing should be done to determine the best setting, measured in microns on the electromagnetic scale.

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Powder Coaters Manual 1/98

Oven Heat Containment

A radiant preheat zone at the entrance end of the cure oven can be an excellent enhancement. Curing will begin immediately and can be accomplished faster than convection heating alone. Radiant cure can be energy efficient if properly designed because it does not waste Btus to heat the entire substrate or the surrounding air. In most cases where there is a lot of product variety, curing with radiant emitters alone is not practical. The variety of shapes and sizes require convection heating to ensure that all areas reach the cure window temperature and no area is overheated. High purity (quartz lamp emitter) IR ovens are very effective for this purpose and the bring up, or response time, is instant. The emitters can be arranged in zones for different part geometries. Turning on different numbers of emitters within a zone can vary the energy levels. The zone control can be turned on by a remote controller or operated manually. Gas fired radiant emitters work very well also. Like quartz lamps, they can be purchased in modular sections, they can be zoned, and they have a fast response time. The Btus required to operate a gas-fired IR emitter will typically cost less than the kilowatt-hours required for electric infrared emitters. Infrared preheat zones for powder cure ovens are typically around 30 to 60 seconds. For exact process requirements, testing must be performed.

Oven Heat Containment

It is recommended that all ovens have some method to reduce heat spillage (rollout). The best containment is by use of bottom entry/exit on an elevated or roof mount oven. On all ovens with horizontal entry/exits there are two (2) options: 1. Powered Air Curtains. 2. Heat relief hoods with a gravity stack and manual adjustable damper. Powered air curtains will help to reduce the heat rollout from the oven and make it easier to achieve a temperature balance in the oven. They also help to reduce the energy losses that occur as air is heated and expands.

Powder Coaters Manual 1/98

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