Flexible Infrared Oven for Drying Tests

The infrared system at Akzo Nobel’s R&D laboratory can be flexibly adapted to different powder coatings

One of the world‘s leading coatings manufacturers has invested in a special infrared oven for its new R&D laboratory. The versatile, controllable oven forms part of a lab-scale powder coating line designed to allow coatings to be examined more closely.

The testing equipment in Felling, Tyne and Wear in the north-east of England is part of a € 9 million investment. This investment by Akzo Nobel also included a new laboratory for fire protection coatings and the establishment of an Expert Capability Group. In order to study coating and finishing more precisely, the coating line was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including a powder coating system, a product conveying system and drying ovens. The latter include convection drying ovens and an infrared system from Heraeus. This can be used for pre-gel heating before products enter the convection oven, for preheating of products or for full powder coating curing. The aim of the laboratory tests is to assist customers in optimizing their coating processes. The infrared system was designed to ensure maximum flexibility. For that reason, the infrared unit was installed on a frame with movable sides. This allows the space between the infrared emitters to be varied from 300 to 800 mm. Each of the side zones is divided into two units, each of which contains one module equipped with medium wave emitters with a nominal power output of 123.2 kW. This design enables the oven, with a maximum height of 1.5 m and a width of 1 m, to be adapted to different test products. At the same time, the variable side walls allow the oven to adapt to different component depths. A central control unit ensures that the power output can be set precisely in each of the four zones: to half, three quarters or full power depending on the test specifications.

Neil Engward, the Project Leader at Akzo Nobel responsible for the tests, explained: “This test coating line is very important for our work here in this laboratory. We need to simulate virtually every powder heating and curing condition that our customers experience. We also need the line’s coating process flexibility for our research on optimizing the powder coating process. We must ensure that the powder research work we carry out can be replicated in practical use.” Investment in the R&D laboratory marks the beginning of the company‘s plans to invest around € 110 million in a new high-tech production plant in the north-east of England.