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Future-Oriented Process for Coating Three-Dimensional Plastic Parts

Eisenmann is the plant-development partner in the joint ENSIKOM project

Böblingen, Germany, 23 February 2011. Plastic components are becoming more and more important in numerous industries. These products frequently receive functional and decorative characteristics by means of a high-quality coating. However, the coating process is energy-intensive and resource-intensive owing to the substrate properties. The joint ENSIKOM project, promoted by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), is dedicated to this problem. ENSIKOM is a German acronym for development, simulation and controlled-process implementation for more environment-friendly and more economical coating of complex plastic components. In this project, Eisenmann is the partner for development, production and operation of a pilot plant and for defining a reference coating process.

The aim of the project which has been set up over three years (1 November 2009 to 31 October 2012) is to make the coating process more environmentally friendly, lower-emission and more material-efficient by the cooperation of all those involved along the value-added chain (coating raw material, coating material, plant and applicator manufacturer, in addition to coater). At the same time, the new process is to outmatch the previous technical properties and be economically attractive. UV technology has turned out to be a promising approach for this.

In close cooperation with the project partners, Eisenmann is currently developing a plant that allows application of a UV clear coat in an inert gas atmosphere and allows it to be flashed off and cured. The oxygen content is to be reduced to a minimum during this process so that more radiant energy reaches the components. The inert gas also reduces adverse reactions on the surface as the result of free radicals (inhibiting oxygen). At the same time, the formation of ozone is inhibited by the lack of atmospheric oxygen. The UV clear coats are cured solely by UV radiation. One important aspect when this happens is the arrangement of the UV lamps. In the case of geometrically complex plastic parts, it must ensure both that the sides in shadow are irradiated and that the components are cured at depth.

UV curing of UV lacquers is far faster than conventional drying processes. On the one hand this allows high production speeds to be achieved and there are advantages for the plant operator owing to the fact that there are no long, gas-fired ovens and downstream cooling zones. These advantages include the small area required for the paint system and the lower energy consumption.

Other objectives to be implemented with the new paint system are recovery of the UV coating material overspray occurring and recovery of the solvent shares from the surrounding air. The non-explosive inert-gas atmosphere allows a high concentration of the solvents, so that they can be recovered almost in full, and can be reused.
This also makes a contribution to boosting ecological and economic efficiency.

As soon as the new process for coating with UV clear coats supplies satisfactory results, the project is to be extended to UV base coating. Eisenmann anticipates that it will be able to successfully conclude the UV clear coat process by the end of year 2011.

Besides Eisenmann, the following companies and institutes are partners in the ENSIKOM project: BASF SE, Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft für Oberflächenbehandlung (German Surface-Treatment Research Society) (DfO), Fraunhofer Institutes for Production Engineering and Automation (IPA) and for Production Engineering and Applied Material Research (IFAM), Fusion UV Systems, Esslingen Academy, iLF Forschungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft Lacke und Farben (iLF Lacquer and Paint Research and Development Society), JKL Kunststoff Lackierung, Linde Gas, Mercedes Benz Cars, TESA and Wörwag.

About Eisenmann

Eisenmann (www.eisenmann.com) is one of the leading international suppliers of general finishing technology, materials flow automation and environmental techno-logy as well as high temperature technology. Close to 2,800 qualified employees develop new technologies and facilities for production, assembly and distribution. Engineers, technicians and specialists from various disciplines handle the planning, design, construction and start-up operation of the most advanced systems, including maintenance and system operation.

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