The market for automotive coatings has seen highly dynamic growth over recent years. Technological advances and greater awareness of high-quality surface finishes have led to a growing variety of coating options. In the course of these developments, the complexity of the production processes has increased, together with the requirements for high standards of quality and manufacturing. Today vehicle producers, original equipment manufacturers and automotive industry suppliers expect a high degree of flexibility. For coating manufacturers, fast response times and the ability to make short-term adjustments to the coating formulation are crucial if they are to survive in the market. They must therefore have a comprehensive knowledge of all the coating technologies in use, including cathodic dip coating as a first coat, fillers, base coats and clear coats. In order to meet current and future market requirements quickly and flexibly, but also to make work processes even more efficient, simpler and more transparent, BASF has launched the modular Lean Lab concept. Among other things, the focus is on work-sharing processes within coating laboratories and the digital recording and control of all manufacturing processes. All the integrated work areas of the laboratory, where practical sample production takes place, are linked together by a special software system which means that the entire supply of raw materials can be centrally coordinated and controlled. This speeds up workflows considerably, as the raw materials are always available in the right place at the right time.
Laboratory dosing machine with 300 dosing points
In the past, the development of coatings was a largely manual task. Laboratory employees added specific amounts of raw materials to the overall mixture with a pipette to create a coating. Today this process is highly automated. The Lean Lab uses an automatic laboratory dispenser developed for this purpose, which automates recurring tasks. Employees select a specific stored coating in the system. Then the system accesses the corresponding formulation and automatically mixes the raw materials together in the correct ratio. This ensures that the quality of the initial mixture is consistently high. Double diaphragm pumps from the manufacturer Timmer make this automation possible – they lie at the heart of the system and are essential to its functionality. This is because the pumps are responsible for supplying raw materials to the more than 300 dosing points available in the automatic dosing system. The materials are conveyed, metered and regularly recirculated via these pumps. The Lean Lab uses several hundred raw materials with different properties to develop the coatings. The raw materials that are being metered have significant differences in their flow behavior and viscosity. Without constant pump performance, metering accurate to the nearest gram would not be possible.
The complete article was published in IST 02/2021.
Author(s): Timmer GmbH, Neuenkirchen