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The introduction of a waterborne paint system at Toyota New Zealand’s Thames-based Signature Class plant is saving the company $40,000 a year and improving the environment, particularly for the workers and the surrounding Thames environ.
Formerly a Toyota assembly plant for the now defunct local motor industry, it is one of the largest car painting facilities in New Zealand.
The switch to the use of waterborne paint in the two, triple paint and drying booths, where six vehicles can be worked on at a time, has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction of solvent usage and 35 per cent in energy savings equating to about $40,000 a year.
“We expect to make greater savings once everybody is used to working with the new system and the potential improvements it’s capable of,” said Peter Manning, the Manager of Thames Vehicle Operations.
While the paint – 12,000 litres of it a year – costs a little more, less of it is used and the baking cycle time is reduced by 35 per cent, requiring less energy.
By changing to a waterborne paint, the Thames Signature Class plant has reduced the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the base coat, which reduces possible health issues, as well as improving air quality and has resulted in greater efficiency and quality of the vehicle refurbishing process.
It also improves the colour matching when only part of a vehicle is being painted.
The change has only cost $235,000 – mainly for new air-drying blowers – as well as three months staggered training for the six paint booth staff, who also had to continue painting Signature Class cars.
The main change in replacing the solvent basecoats has been the addition of blowers to the drying process to speed up the water evaporation. Previously conventional bake ovens were used to dry the paint. The faster drying process leads to the improved paint quality.
The new drying process has created fewer problems and the need for fewer repaints, while the initial application process is also easier.