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Paint Curing Lamps: Improve Results, Save Time & Reduce Costs

You’ve probably heard the phrase “time is money” dozens of times — but if you can paint a car in less time, those saved minutes add up and equal more money in your pocket. While you certainly don’t stand around watching your car paint cure, you must wait a while between coats. And the longer the paint takes to cure or dry, the higher the risk of dust or other contaminants marring the finish.

Whether you’re a shop owner trying to increase revenue or an auto hobbyist looking for better results, consider adding an infrared (IR) paint curing lamp to your toolbox.

You don’t have to break the bank either — you can add a solid-quality IR lamp to your shop for $200 to $400.

What Is Infrared Light?

Infratech IR

There are a lot of benefits to using an IR paint curing lamp that we’ll get to in a minute, but first let’s talk about infrared light. Infrared light is simply a form of light (energy waves) that we cannot see, but we can feel its heat. IR is particularly well suited for drying and curing paint because the waves can penetrate the surface and heat from inside out.




Benefits of IR Car Paint Curing Lamps

Speed: 50-90% Faster

  • IR heat significantly reduces the amount of time required for all air-drying finishes such as primers, base coats, top coats, fillers and fiberglass. Drying times vary depending on the type of finish, temperature and humidity, but you can expect paint to dry 50 to even 90 percent faster with an IR paint curing lamp (than air drying only).
  • You’ll need to review your specific formula’s data sheet to gain some idea of how long it will take your paint to cure, but to give you an example: some lamps will cure water-based paint in three minutes! More on car paint curing times later.

Flexible for All Types of Automotive Paints

  • Lamps can be used with solvent-based and water-based / waterborne automotive paint. Waterborne paint is becoming the norm due to environmental regulations, but is more sensitive to humidity and temperature changes. IR heat helps prevent slow drying times that can ruin a waterborne paint job.

Reduced Energy Costs

  • IR paint curing lamps save energy for a couple of reasons. First, lamps can be positioned precisely where wet finishes are, without heating unnecessary areas or surfaces.
  • Second, they don’t require expensive enclosures to trap and recirculate heat.

Improved Results:

  • IR lamps improve results by eliminating the need for air flow. With no airflow, the risks of ruining a finish with airborne particles is significantly reduced.
  • IR waves penetrate the finish surface and dry from the inside out at higher temperatures, which results in less orange peel, better adhesion and higher gloss.

Safer, Cleaner and Quiet

  • IR paint curing lamps don’t emit exhaust, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides or other toxic emissions, unlike gas, diesel and propane-fueled equipment. This means your immediate working environment is cleaner, safer and quieter, as well as the overall environment.

Medium Wave vs. Shortwave IR Paint Curing Lamps

Remember earlier when we talked about IR light? IR energy waves are either long, medium or shortwave and each type cures paint slightly differently. Long wave IR light is best for heating surfaces such as a food in a restaurant kitchen or the heat lamp in your bathroom. It’s not ideal for curing car paint since it doesn’t penetrate the surface.

Medium Wave vs. Shortwave IR Paint Curing Lamps

Infratech IR

Medium wave IR lamps are ideal for drying and curing automotive finishes because they penetrate the surface and heat the substrate first. If the surface dries before the substrate (as in traditional convection heat), the solvents can “pop” out and create craters. By heating from within, paint solvents are pushed out into the air while the surface is still wet, preventing craters.

Medium wave systems are best for drying and curing larger areas and offer uniform heat distribution. They come in a variety of sizes and wattages.

An entry level one such as this Infratech Quartz Single Curing Lamp uses 1500 watts and covers a 2’ x 3’ area, ideal for small spaces and repairs.

If you need something a little bigger, check out this Infrared Quartz Dual Curing Lamp, which uses two 1500 watt heads and covers a 3’x4’ area.

 



Shortwave IR Paint Curing Lamps

Infratech IR

Like medium wave IR, shortwave IR light penetrates the surface and heats from within. Often using halogen heating elements, shortwave IR lamps get hotter and penetrate faster than medium wave.

Shortwave IR lamps are best for small, focused spot repairs. Infratech makes a High Intensity Shortwave Portable Curing Spot Lamp that uses a 1,000 watt halogen element and has a 14” extension arm for precise positioning. It can also be mounted horizontally or vertically.

A more powerful option is this 1,650 watt Infratech Speed Ray 2 Curing Lamp that covers a 3’x4’ area and offers lightning fast drying times (see below).

 

 

 

Controlling IR Paint Curing Lamp Temperatures

Many IR lamps offer 60-minute timers, which automatically shut the unit down to save energy and prevent overbaking. Lamps can also be positioned vertically or horizontally and have built-in reflectors for uniform heat distribution. Most can be adjusted to a 6’ height for curing hoods and roof lines.

While each lamp, air temp, humidity and paint job is different, a general guideline is start with placing the lamp 24” - 30” from the wet surface. Lamps can melt plastic and cause paint to blister if used improperly! As you gain experience, you can move the lamp to an 18” distance.

How Long Does Car Paint Take to Dry?

Example Car Paint Curing Times with an IR Lamp

Again, consult your data sheet for guidelines, but here are some example curing times for the medium wave model we listed above (Infratech Quartz Single Curing Lamp):

  • 2K Primers: 10-14 (minutes)
  • Waterborne base coat: 6-10
  • Plastic body fillers: 12-17
  • 2 K Top coats: 10-15
  • High build primers: 20-25
  • High solids clear: 15-25
  • Polyurethane: 30-40

View the lamp instruction sheet for additional finishes here: Infratech SRU-1615.

For the Infratech Speed Ray 2 Curing Lamp, average car paint curing times are:

  • 2K Primers: 5 -10 (minutes)
  • Waterborne base coat: 3-6
  • Plastic body fillers: 10-12
  • 2 K Top coats: 10-15
  • High build primers: 15-18
  • High solids clear: 10-15
  • Polyurethane: 15-20
  • Structural adhesives: 15-18

View the lamp instruction sheet for additional finishes here: Infratech Speed Ray 2.

IR Paint Curing Lamps: Portable & Affordable for Shops and Jobs of Any Size

Unlike other car paint curing equipment such as expensive, big, insulated enclosures with lighting rigs, infrared paint curing lamps offer a quiet, safe, affordable way for body shops and auto hobbyists to improve their overall painting outcomes. Check out the great selection of affordable shortwave and medium wave portable lamps at Auto Body Toolmart.

And don't forget to read our article about how to organize your paint booth!