The Value of New Application Equipment
Q. We have an old set of automatic spray guns. The controllers are an analog design with none of the more modern features we see at shows and online. How can we save money on gun operation and how do we evaluate the savings?
A. I will look at it as though you have a pretty old system. Newer gun technology uses better pumps, digital controls and more precise design to give you better efficiency than what was available 5 to 10 years ago.
Some offer control functions like factory presets and can dial in precise and repeatable recipes for accuracy and consistency. They can be equipped with a variety of features for gun movement, flow control and electrostatic functions.
There is no doubt that new guns can save money in compressed air, powder material, gun maintenance and lower reject rates. The other question is how to measure and understand those savings.
Start by generating a baseline for where you are now. Determine how much powder you use for a starting point. Measure film thickness on your parts and calculate your transfer efficiency (TE).
Compare your actual current film build to your target film build and see if you are reasonably accurate with your current equipment. Chances are that your film thickness varies quite a bit. TE can be measured by setting up a controlled run of parts.
Weigh the parts before and after coating and weigh the powder before and after coating. This will tell you how much powder was used to coat the parts.
Next, visit the lab of a vendor you are considering for new application equipment. Run the same parts and see how they come out. How well can you control film thickness and how much powder do you use to coat the same parts?
You should find better film build control and lower powder use at a lower flow rate when compared to your current guns.
Compare the flow rate, powder use and film build control. The savings will probably be in the area of 10 - 30 percent when compared to your current guns. Considering the value of the powder, you can develop an expected return on investment (ROI) and then see if the purchase price makes sense.
Sometimes the cost is hard to understand because the lack of precision in the older equipment means you spend more time adjusting and maintaining the guns and you generate more rejects from the inconsistency.
The spray equipment supplier can help you compile information on potential savings. The savings can be substantial in less than two years.
Originally published in the June 2017 issue.
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