AGROSTROJ Pelhřimov, a.s. put one of the largest and most advanced smart paint shops in Europe into operation. It filled a niche on the European market which has been lacking a sufficient capacity for high-quality large-sized parts painting so far. We talked about this investment with Jaroslav Habáň, Sales Director of Agrostroj Pelhřimov.

What is the approximate size of this investment and who was the supplier?

When it comes to the technological part, it is a large investment not only within the Czech Republic, but also in Europe, costing approximately 30 million Euro. It includes a fully automated, computer-controlled paint shop from Eisenmann on a usable surface of 23 thousand square meters. We built it in less than two years. It serves for cataphoretic coating followed by final surface treatments. There are three large powder booths and a booth for specific parts. The cataphoretic coating line is connected to a smaller powder paint shop for smaller parts.

What does this paint shop offer?

Cataphoretic paint pans 17.5 meters long, 4.5 meters wide and 5.2 meters high. These are intended for parts of up to six thousand kilograms. These parameters make it the largest universal paint shop in Europe. Even though we did not build the paint shop only for commercial purposes, its capacity is about five million square meters per year. This is why we offer about a third of its capacity to third parties.

Why did you decide to invest into a new paint shop project?

Agrostroj Pelhřimov is the largest universal cooperant in Europe and the biggest agricultural machines producer in the Czech Republic. The production programme consists of our own final machines, toolmaking and cooperation with important supranational companies in agricultural machinery industry, trucks, buses, construction machines and fork lift trucks manufacturers. Apart from subassembly units we also produce final agricultural machinery which is supplied mostly to our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners’ sales network.

Our production portfolio also includes a utility vehicle segment which we supply with weldments and assembly units for trucks, buses, construction machinery and municipal or logistic technology. The size of most of our products has been increasing, with some of them achieving a length of up to 15 meters. This is why we need a paint shop of a sufficient size. Of course, the paint shop can be used for smaller parts too.

It means that we offer one of the most modern paint shops in Europe for commercial purposes for machines and parts of the above mentioned sizes. This segment has not been fully covered on the European continent so far.

Have you commenced the new paint shop project also based on the initiative of companies you cooperate with?

We have 23 OEM partners in total; each of them is on the first to fifth place in their core business in the world or in Europe. Therefore, Agrostroj Pelhřimov is a global supplier, and to provide a complete service for its partner it has to have a paint shop meeting their current requirements. Otherwise we would depend on outsourcing which is very limited and risky. Moreover, as I have already mentioned, when it comes to parts of these particular sizes we struggled with insufficient capacity.

Nevertheless, we have four paint shops in total. Cataphoretic pans in the smaller one are seven meters long. This line is connected to eight fully automated powder booths. In the wet paint shop there are four large boxes where we can paint parts of up to ten meters and eight tons.

Can you briefly describe how a cataphoretic paint shop works?

The process starts with a series of pretreatments when the part is degreased and pores in material are cleaned. After that the part is coated with a zinc phosphate layer. It is then dipped into a paint bath and connected as a cathode. The polycation movement is directed towards the cathode using DC current. Hydroxyl ions eliminate on the surface of the product. As the coating thickness increases, the layer resistance increases too and the elimination rate decreases. This process continues particularly on places where the layer thickness is still small. This creates a very even coating across the whole surface, including places which are hard to access. We achieve a result of one thousand hours in corrosion testing of the surface resistance in salt chamber, which is higher quality than the in the automotive industry. In terms of resistance, out paint shop produces parts as if galvanized.

Paint baths are connected to seven kilns where we can set optimum time and firing temperature according to the material thickness (up to 180 millimetres) and other parameters such as weight (maximum 6 tons). The main criterion is perfect hardening of the paint layer.

How does the new paint shop ensures environmental protection and energy saving?

When planning the paint shop we wanted the environmental burden to be smaller than in a usual household. It means that all emissions are caught and then burnt at 780 °C. All dangerous substances are destroyed at that temperature. Waste water is drained into a sewage treatment plant and two thirds return back to the production after cleaning. The remaining one third goes back to the river after being processed in a biological waste water treatment plant. Waste created during the production is disposed of by special external companies.

Concerning energy saving, all waste heat is used for heating where necessary by the painting technology. It includes, for example, heat produced during the emission burning. Apart from that the paint burning inside a kiln is controlled so that the energy consumption at a given time corresponds to the exact weight and size of the part. It means that the energy performance per one square meter of the painted surface is significantly smaller than in any other paint shops.