Ford 3 Wet Paint Process Expansion

Way back in 2007, Ford became the first manufacturer to implement the high-solids, solvent-borne 3-Wet paint technology at its manufacturing facility in Ohio. At the Ohio Assembly plant, 200 Ford Econoline vehicles were painted using this technology and the durability of the paint was monitored by the plant personnel over a period on one month and a distance of 400,000 miles. These Econolines accomplished the mileage as they were put to work as U-Haul trucks and after noting that they still looked fresh from the factory, Ford proceeded to implement the 3-Wet paint technology at its other manufacturing facilities, bringing the total number to twelve. Ford is now adding four more plants, two in the United States, one in China and one in Spain to the list. In a nutshell, the 3-Wet process has helped Ford reduce CO2 emissions by 15-25 percent and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 10 percent.

3-Wet paint technology?

Baffling isn’t it? All those words that individually are familiar to primary school kids but put together leaves you flummoxed! Starting with the basics, the paint is a high solid, solvent borne formulation. High solid paints have higher content of materials the solidify after spraying, like resins and pigments and much less of the stuff that evaporates after spraying. This leads to the low content of volatile organic compounds (VOC). Less volume of the paint is required to achieve the required thickness of the coat, meaning less spraying operations and thus reduced process time. Some reports also claim that the flow and setting properties of high solids help the metal particles in the paint to align with one other leading to a brighter shine of the paint.

Intensive surface preparation as required by the method

The 3-wet paint process goes another step forward. Using conventional methods of automotive painting, the three coats, primer coat, base coat and clear coat need to be sprayed after the prior coating has been ‘cured’ in a dedicate oven. The 3 wet paint process eliminates the need for stand-alone primer application and a dedicated oven. Automated robots apply all three coats one on top of another before oven curing. These eliminations reduce the paint booth size, saves electricity from the blowers that circulate massive volumes of air through paint booths, and reduces its use of natural gas needed to heat the air and ovens. This is how, Ford’s global 3-Wet paint process has reduced CO2 emissions by 15-25 percent and VOC emissions by 10 percent compared to either conventional high-solids solvent-borne or waterborne systems.

Application of the 3 coats -primer, base and clear- by automated robots

3-wet paint process at Ford India’s Chennai-Maraimalainagar plant

Ford India stakes claim to having been the first Ford plant in the world to have adopted the 3-wet paint process after the pilot launch in Ohio. Ford is also the only manufacturer in India to use the Three-Wet High-Solids paint technology. The Chennai Ford plant also employs heat recovery by utilizing exhaust heat air to heat fresh air through a Heat exchanger in Topcoat oven and E coat ovens. Instead of diesel, Propane gas is used as a fuel in the ovens.

Ford India also proudly states that the VOC emission has reduced by 23%, the best in the Ford Asia Pacific region. Dock-to-Dock time has reduced by nearly 40% while CO2 emissions have reduced by 21%. Nearly 27.6 million kWh/annum energy is saved in the paint shop. Ford India points out that this energy is enough to power almost 12,000 households in Chennai for a year, or to light up all the street lights of Chennai every night for almost 4 months.

For a city that has faced severe water shortages over the last few years, Ford India does the city a favour with reduced water consumption, a reduction of 15000 KL/ annum.

Final inspection
15-25% lesser CO2 emissions

10% lesser Volatile Organic Compound emissions

25% faster process time

The 12 Ford Plants with 3-Wet Paint Technology

The new locations where Ford will be installing the 3-Wet process in 2013 are:

Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Flat Rock, Michigan
Kansas City Assembly Plant, Claycomo, Missouri
Jiangling Motors Co. Ltd., Jiangzi/Nanchang, China
Valencia Assembly Plant, Valencia, Spain

Locations that currently have 3-Wet capability are

North America:
Ohio Assembly Plant, Avon Lake, Ohio;
Cuautitlan Assembly Plant, Cuautitlan, Mexico;
Michigan Assembly Plant, Wayne, Mich.;
Louisville Assembly Plant, Louisville, Ky.;

Asia Pacific:
Chennai Assembly, Tamil Nadu, India;
CAF 2, Chongqing, China;
Ford Thailand Manufacturing, Rayong, Thailand;

Craiova Assembly Plant, Craiova, Romania