IR Pre Gel Oven Case Study

​​Gas Catalytic IR Pre-Gel Oven

Pre Gel Oven Case Study | Reduced Energy Costs | Improved Quality

We now have a highly efficient, high quality paint finishing process. From the start to finish of the project Junair Spraybooths Ltd. did a great job. In particular, using Vulcan Catalytic Systems (now Heraeus Vulcan), for the design and supply of the Gas Catalytic IR oven components has proven to be a great decision. The improvement in finished product quality and reduced operating costs has exceeded our expectations.”

Ryan Davis (Production Manager, GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems)

When the Going Gets Tough......

Pre Gel Oven Case Study. When Ryan Davis (Production Manager at GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems) went home one evening a couple of years ago, after a normal busy day, he was pleased to put his feet up. Little did he know that, overnight, an unforeseen event would occur that would ultimately lead to the installation of a brand new powder coating system that he didn’t know he needed.

Ryan works for GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems, a global company that manufactures heat exchangers. The Fareham facility produces air conditioning and refrigeration units for industrial and commercial customers worldwide. The company has a well earned reputation for quality products, delivered on time, in a very competitive market. The company is a World Class manufacturer, which is undoubtedly due in part to the adoption of Lean Manufacturing techniques in 2010.

The unforeseen event?

The manufacturing plant in Fareham, Hampshire suffered a fire that destroyed 40% of the site. The sudden complete loss of their painting and powder coating plant was potentially catastrophic, but in true British Bulldog spirit, the whole team rallied together and put together a plan to ensure that the inevitable disruption was kept to a minimum. Local sub contract powder coaters stepped up to the plate and helped to keep production flowing until GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems could restore the manufacturing capability at the plant.

One of the first things that Ryan did was to call Angus Trenholme of Junair Spraybooths Ltd., GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems had successfully worked with Angus on many previous painting and powder coating projects, so it did not take long for a specification to be put together, quoted and ordered.

Gas Catalytic IR Pre Gel Oven - Part Of The Solution

Being a Lean Manufacturing company, GEA Heat Exchangers - GEA Searle Systems took this opportunity to update their powder coating capability; the shortlist of requirements was straight forward:

  • Minimum 6,000 parts  per week (mainly galvanized panels, 200⁰C cure polyester powder)
  • Improved quality
  • Reduced operating costs
  • Smaller footprint
  • 1.6 m/min track speed with potential to increase to 2 m/min and eventually 3 m/min
  • Reduced maintenance

A tall order!  Angus, contacted Vulcan Catalytic Systems (now Heraeus Vulcan), and asked us to design a suitable Pre Gel oven for the new powder coating system. The main purpose of the Pre Gel oven is to reduce the overall cure time by raising the powder temperature up to 200⁰C very quickly, so the powder flows and starts the curing process. Whilst we designed the oven and supplied the IR technology, Junair pulled together the rest of the project which involved new Pre Treatment plant, drying oven and powder application equipment. 

The Gas Catalytic Pre-Gel oven that we designed consists of two sections, with 10 individual heaters and three separately controllable zones in each section. The fully reflected design ensures maximum efficiency and the PLC controls are configured to optimize energy savings by automatically dropping into the energy saving  “Low Fire” mode when there are breaks in production.

Gas Catalytic IR Pre Gel ovens from Heraeus Vulcan offer a proven, flexible solution that can enhance any conventional convection oven ​. The main advantages are:

  • Increased line speed
  • Increased capacity and productivity
  • Reduced footprint
  • Reduced cross contamination of powder

The final system has now been up and running since December 2014. Ryan reports that he is very pleased with how it is working. Already significant improvements are being recorded, especially in energy consumption. The improvement in quality has been proven by the results of controlled Salt Spray tests, which will mean fewer warranty claims and a reduction in the Total Cost of Quality.

Lean MDF Powder Coating - Case Study

Lean Manufacturing - MDF Powder Coating

Lean Manufacturing, MDF Powder Coating, Case Study

“Increased productivity, reduced costs, winning business back from China. Now looking at 2nd line. I haven't even begun to advertise yet!”

Bells Powder Coating

Still Skeptical About Lean Manufacturing?

If there are still sceptics out there about Lean Manufacturing, the please read this Lean MDF Powder Coating Case Study!

Some time ago we were contacted by Bells Powder Coating in Massachusetts. They had just gone through a Lean Manufacturing Program, and the savings allowed them to invest and expand. They chose to move into powder coating MDF, and bought a specialist Gas Catalytic Infrared oven from Vulcan Catalytic Systems (now Heraeus Vulcan). Gas Catalytic IR technology fits well with the principles of Lean Manufacturing as it helps to reduce some of the major sources of waste.

 Here are a few of the Before and After comment from Bells Powder Coating:


  • "Half a million $ in lost revenue"
  • "Another half million $ in work going offshore"
  • "We needed to get a handle on costs right away"
  • "Competition was intense"
  • "We wanted to move into hot new markets, like powder coated medium density fiberboard (MDF)"
  • "Return on investment was too long"
  • "At about $98,000 per year, our natural gas bill was a huge expense"


  • "Increased productivity by 7%"
  • "Reduced costs by $70,000"
  • "Winning business back from China"
  • "Able to take a second look at launching the MDF product line"
  • "The Vulcan Catalytic (now Heraeus Vulcan) oven alone saved us $27,000 per year"
  • "15 companies interested in our powder coated MDF, through word of mouth alone"
  • "I haven't even begun to advertise yet!

Lean MDF Powder Coating

The added benefits of the MDF Powder Coating oven from Heraeus Vulcan, which is perfect for use in a Lean Manufacturing environment, means the benefits are multiplied, as they can make best use of the Lean advantages that an oven from Heraeus Vulcan can offer. Wait till we tell them about the advances in single coat technology for MDF. But I suspect they already know!

Heraeus Vulcan Leads the way

Heraeus Vulcan are the undisputed experts in MDF powder coating, having built the two largest, high production ovens in the world. Recent full production trials in Slovakia, ran faultlessly, with 0% defects. The trial only came to a halt when part production could not keep up with the powder coating line, and they ran out of parts to powder coat! Please contact us for further information.  

Powder Coating Ovens - How To Choose

Powder Coating Ovens - How To Choose

Powder Coating Choices

If your company is involved in powder coating products and parts, then you will either be subcontracting the work out, or will have your own in house powder coating oven. Alternatively, you may be thinking of moving from a liquid finish to a powder finish. Whatever your situation, the drive for cutting the cost of manufacturing is ever present, so this article will outline the various powder coating oven technologies available, to help you choose either a new system, or upgrade your existing facility.

Liquid or Powder Finish?

The move from liquid to powder is well established. The advantages of powder over liquid can be summarized as follows:

  • A powder coated finish is significantly tougher than a liquid finish.
  • Over spray losses for liquid finishes can be as much as 75%.
  • Around 80% of liquid finishes used in the USA are solvent based and present environmental issues.
  • Even aqueous based finishes still contain some solvents contained within the resin structure
  • The storage and transportation of liquid finishes requires the use of IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers). These require special handling and storage techniques.
  • Overall, powder finishes represent a more cost effective way to getting a better finish.

Powder Coating Ovens - Available Technologies

Gas Fired Convection (batch or conveyor line)


  • Least expensive capital cost
  • Suitable for complex geometry parts


  • Inefficient
  • Expensive to run
  • Large floor space required
  • Due to long start up time, cannot be shut down during breaks in production
  • Produces noxious gases
  • High carbon footprint
  • Very large batch sizes required
  • Not particularly suited to heat sensitive substrates

Gas Radiant


  • High heat intensity


  • Expensive to run
  • Inefficient
  • Produces noxious gases
  • High carbon footprint
  • Not particularly suited to heat sensitive substrates

Gas Catalytic Infrared


  • 50% less expensive to run
  • Short ROI (Return On Investment)
  • Improved quality and consistency of finish
  • No noxious gases produced
  • 50% smaller floor footprint
  • Highly controllable
  • Allows small batch sizes
  • Ideal for Lean Manufacturing
  • Proven on heat sensitive substrates


  • Initial cost 50% higher than convection

Electric Infrared


  • High heat intensity
  • Highly controllable


  • Very high capital cost
  • Very high cost of running (4 x cost of gas per kW)

How To Choose?

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when purchasing a new powder coating oven, is the initial Return On Investment (ROI). Then, the long term cost of operation. Do your calculations carefully, talk to as many different operators of the different technologies as you can. It is vitally important to run trials of your products. Do not forget to factor in the ongoing "Total Cost of Quality". Lastly do not forget to consider the overall reduction in your Carbon Footprint.