A Few Notes on Spray Painting

Tips for better spray painting and industry color trends are discussed...


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Often I am called in to review a customer's finishing line in order to point out areas where it could be tweaked for better performance. After reviewing the finishing lines, the following changes are frequently recommended. When implemented, these changes lead to more consistent and improved finishes.

Tips for Better Spray Painting

  • Establish standards that detail acceptable ranges for important paint line variables. These include fluid and air pressures, nozzle combinations, coating temperature and viscosity. Once these baseline values are established, they should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure consistent results.
  • Evaluate spray booth lighting. In many cases, cleaning protective glass will improve conditions significantly. In others, additional lighting may be required. Improved lighting can lead to improved coverage with fewer rejects.
  • Hang parts in batches according to size and configuration whenever possible. This allows the painters to adjust their pattern width and minimize overspray conditions.
  • Train painters in the recommended methods for applying the various coating products they are required to use. Poor painter technique can contribute to excessive waste generation. Sometimes technique problems can be attributed to high line speeds that make proper technique secondary to keeping up with production.
  • Trigger spray guns only when actually coating the product. Triggering guns when moving from one product to the next leads to significant amounts of overspray as well as wrapback onto the next operator.
  • Hold the spray gun an appropriate distance from the ware.
  • Maintain a spray gun motion that is parallel to the ware's surface. A waving or arced movement leads to inconsistent film builds and increased waste.
  • Adjust the size of the spray pattern whenever possible to match the dimensions of the substrate. Using a 14-inch pattern to coat a four-inch wide part results in significant amounts of overspray.
  • Hold air and fluid pressures to the lowest possible level while still producing acceptable results. With electrostatic spray, high pressures overcome the electrostatic effect, resulting in lower transfer efficiency.
  • Maintain equipment properly and keep guns as clean as possible.

Changing Your Stripes

Product manufacturers who keep an eye on color trends would do well to note a surge in the popularity of monochromatic and metallic colors, pointed out Julie Komos, consultant for Color & Design Marketing for The Sherwin-Williams Company. The group studies customer preferences and color trends, and recommends product colors to manufacturers in a variety of industries: home decorating products, contract lighting, toys, appliances, agricultural equipment, business machines, office furniture and medical equipment.

"In most industries, a wellplanned color palette will last a manufacturer five to 10 years," stated Ms. Komos. "As we move into the latter half of the l990's, many manufacturers are recognizing that it is time to update their product color offerings."

New technology makes it easier to offer custom colors. However, many manufacturers are condensing their color palettes by offering fewer standard colors. They are offsetting this decrease, however, by increasing the number of custom colors they make available, said Ms. Komos.

But color palettes must be updated carefully, because buyers today are more sophisticated in their attitudes toward color. They are more knowledgeable and insistent about what they want. "Color intensity and hue are important considerations," Ms. Komos noted, "because studies show that even a subtle change in color can result in as much as a 20 pct increase or decrease in sales of a given product."

The way color is being used also is changing. "There is more use of color, particularly monochromatic color," Ms. Komos said. "In the business machine market, we used to see frequent use of a neutral base color, often with pinstripes of a second, more vivid color added for highlighting and accent purposes. Now, we are beginning to see more Eurostyling, where whole pieces of equipment are coated with a single, vivid color."

In the office furniture market, metallic colors are coming on strong, and more manufacturers are beginning to offer mica, a matte or pearlescent-like metallic finish. "These complex finishes were perfected by the automotive market, which often leads the way for other industries," Ms. Komos said. "Metallic and mica finishes provide the sophisticated, high-tech look that many manufacturers are seeking for their products, particularly as the year 2000 approaches."

Despite the influence of strong colors in the new contract color palette, neutrals still have their place. Ms. Komos stated, "Today's neutrals are more weathered than those found in palettes of the past. Whites are more natural rather than antiseptic, and grays, particularly charcoal with purple, green and red casts, are making a comeback." Neutrals with a blend of undertones are creating a new class of colors dubbed "chameleon."

"We call them that because these neutrals have the unique ability to pick up the colors of whatever surrounds them," Ms. Komos pointed out. "As a result, they blend in anywhere and are more likely to have a long-lasting appeal."

"Today's colors are soothing, not abrasive," noted Ms. Komos. "They are relaxed, classic and comfortable. Increasingly, buyers are seeking colors that can evolve with future trends, not colors that will die out within a year."

For manufacturers with a good understanding of the importance of color to product marketing, Ms. Komos points out that it is not just color offerings that affect sales, but also how the colors are presented on a color card or chart. "The placement of colors on a card is important, because it can either confuse customers or aid the selection process."

Color chips on a color card need to be arranged in an attractive progression in which they flatter each other, and in a manner in which they can be logically compared. When color chips are arranged haphazardly they can clash rather than enhance each other. The names applied to colors on a color card also can affect their appeal.

Equipment manufacturers also need to keep in mind that judicious use of color actually can aid customers in using their products. "Color can help to convey information by reinforcing usage instructions," Ms. Komos remarked. For one client, a manufacturer of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), information provided by Sherwin-Williams Color & Design Marketing Group was used to develop a more attractive and easily used customer interface.

"Color marketing is an art as well as a science, but it's based on the principle