Spotlessly clean with plastic granules and water.

More than 800 million cars currently traffic the world’s roads, and the  global vehicle fleet gets larger every year. In China and India, as their middle classes expand dramatically on the heels of economic liberalization, have added 125 million cars just in the last few years (along with 100 million computers and 870 million television sets).

Prosperity markers to which Europeans and North Americans have long been accustomed – relaxing in front of the television set, shopping at malls and sitting in traffic jams – are spreading around the world. The private automobile is an important element of the comfort that accompanies increased affluence, and it remains a desirable status symbol in virtually all societies. The number of cars in China grew from 1.6 million to 8 million between 1990 and 2000, and is projected to reach 170 million in 2020 – about as many as are currently owned by Americans.

After several rough years of deep recession, the global auto industry is beginning to find its footing again as market conditions improve, and that means more business in mechanical repairs, body work, wheel replacement and accessories. One example is the Swedish environmental engineering company Hedson Technologies, which develops and markets cleaning, curing and hoisting equipment for auto painting and tire shops. Hedson is convinced that environmental benefits are an important part of the business equation for the automotive aftermarket.

Wheel washer uses plastic granules and water

The brake dust, pulverized asphalt and salt that stick to car wheels can cause discoloration, paint damage and corrosion, which is why many tire shops offer to wash your wheels when you change tires. But these washers can release hazardous substances such as oils and other hydrocarbons, heavy metals and particulates – pollutants that shouldn’t be flushed down the drain.

Under its Drester brand, Hedson has developed a green wheel cleaning system. “We built the world’s first wheel washer in 1989, and since then we’ve improved the concept with each generation,” says Eva Löfgren, product manager at Hedson. “Our wheel cleaners provide both safety and environmental benefits. Dirt and dust stay inside the cleaner for improved safety and less wear on other equipment in the workshop.” Eva goes on to note that wheel balance can be thrown off by as little as 40 grams of dirt on the wheel.

The company’s cleaning method, which it calls The Drester Way, uses plastic granules and water. “In most cases, this is sufficient for thorough washing, but if extra tough dirt requires more, the fluid can be heated and a foam-free biodegradable detergent can be added,” says Eva. Here’s how:

  • The plastic granules and water are sprayed on the rotating wheel at high pressure. The system contains two types of granules: hard white chips flake the dirt off, while softer blue ones rub it away.
  • The system uses a closed water cycle, so the machine is operated without water or sewage connections, requiring only electricity and compressed air. The Drester system uses water very efficiently, consuming just one liter per wheel. This recycling means that the cleaning water can easily be cleaned of dirt and residues through simple sedimentation, after which the water is drained and the bottom sludge is collected manually or with a vacuum device. If necessary, the water can be further purified with coagulants and a built-in centrifuge to separate out waste products. The treated water is clean enough for discharge into the sewer system, and the bottom sludge is disposed of as hazardous waste.

The primary markets for Drester wheel washers are regions where tires and wheels are changed between summer and winter, including the Nordic countries, Germany and Russia.

Energy efficient drying in a spray booth

Faster drying with short-wavelength infrared light.

Repairing paint damage on cars is a standard task for body and paint shops, where drying fresh lacquer consumes the greatest share of time, energy, space and manpower resources. Under its IRT brand, Hedson has developed drying equipment that minimizes delays in the painting process while reducing energy consumption, and the product range includes both mobile devices and larger systems.

The IRT PowerCure paint curing system heats and hardens selected parts of the car. Using a touch screen connected to a computer, the operator selects the sections to be dried and indicates the type of paint to be used. Sensors and microprocessors then steer the drying equipment into the right position and control which individual lamps to turn on and off for fractions of a second. The system uses only the energy needed for drying, providing significant savings. Typically, a drying job can be completed in ten minutes or less, and after another five minutes the car can be moved from the spraying booth for polishing.

Drying takes place with short-wavelength infrared lights, and an effective cooling system stretches the lifespan of the lamps to as much as 20,000 hours. Because the system doesn’t heat the air in the spray booth, the painter can enter immediately when drying is complete. This too provides significant energy savings compared to traditional systems that heat an entire booth.

Hedson products are sold primarily in Europe, but markets in Asia and the Middle East are gaining in importance for the company.

Article published in March 2011