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Key Decisions for Powder Coatings: Batch or Automated, Spray-to-Waste or Reclaim


 

 

Read time: 5 minutes

TL;DR

  • Although the powder coating process can be carried out in a variety of ways, the efficiency of the spray booth setup will depend on the production process and product being finished.
  • When assessing your spray booth needs, consider the pros and cons of automated equipment and spray-to-waste systems.
  • Although some products can be efficiently sprayed with automatic powder guns and conveyorized finishing systems, some products will require manual sprayers to achieve quality and efficiency.
  • All spray systems need equipment to collect overspray. One of the benefits of a powder system is the ability to reclaim and reuse over-sprayed powder.
  • Reclaiming overspray is not always cost effective. Reclaim systems are expensive, so their cost must be balanced with the reclaim savings.

 

As powder coated parts and products become more popular across a range of industries, the number of finishing solutions for manufacturers to choose from has also increased. In an effort to achieve maximum efficiency when poWhat You Should Know About Powder Coatingswder coating products and components, manufacturers are left asking:

  • Should I purchase a batch spray booth or an automated one?
  • Is it better to spray-to-waste or reclaim powder?
  • How do I know what is most cost-effective for my business?

These critical questions must be answered to determine the efficiency of your spray booth, but their answers vary depending on the product you’re finishing. Take a look at the following variables to consider when reassessing your spray booth needs: upfront and ongoing cost of the solution; integration into your production line; the number of colors available and downtime required.

Batch or Automated?

No matter the type of spray booth being added, a powder coating structure should integrate seamlessly into a production line. This integration is easier with batch booths, as they are typically freestanding and can be used to finish large numbers of products in batches, often done manually by sprayers with powder guns.

There are some products that can be efficiently sprayed automatically by powder guns and conveyorized finishing systems, which are nearly always automatic. It all depends on the product being sprayed to determine which system is a better fit for your production line.

Costs

Without automatic powder guns and conveyors, batch systems can cost significantly less than automated systems. While the equipment for batch systems is cheaper, they do require more manpower to operate. Conveyorized automated systems are intended to run at all times with minimal supervision, requiring less manpower than batch booths need, but come with a higher upfront cost. Workers are still needed for both types of booths to move the products in and out of the painting area, even if the spraying is automated.

Though batch systems may seem like an easy choice due to the lower price point, automated systems can be more cost-effective for production. A production process that is already conveyorized can be hindered by a batch system that delays production. In addition to initial and ongoing costs, integration of the booth into the production line is always a critical factor in the decision-making process.

Integration into Production Line

It may seem simple to match a batch production line to a batch powder spray system, but there are other factors that determine if efficiency will be achieved in the production line. The type and number of parts being finished should play a role in determining which type of spray booth is the best fit for your production line.

For thousands of similarly sized parts passing through the production line, an automated system is a good option. A batch system is better equipped to handle parts of varying sizes. Although automated and conveyorized systems can get the job done quickly, human operators can more easily adjust to different part shapes and volumes using a batch spray system as opposed to one that’s automated.

Production rate is another factor that impacts the selection of a batch or automatic spray system. A faster production rate should not be delayed by the introduction of a human-operated batch spray system. However, an automated system may not be necessary if finishing already outpaces the production rate.

Number of Colors

If your production line utilizes multiple colors of coatings, consider this with your selection of a spray system and the associated equipment to spray and reuse colored powder. Automated systems are often optimized for one color at a time. If a manufacturer wants a conveyorized product to be finished in two different colors, they may choose to have two automated paint spray booths, so one can be rolled forward at a time to paint the products on the conveyor.

Although batch booths are much more flexible, it does take some time to change out the colors on manual spray guns.

Downtime

Downtime is required for both automated and batch booths, to move products, change colors, switch out powder collection filters, and collect reclaimed powder. Automatic conveyor systems reduce human downtime as well as downtime on the production line. In addition to moving the products quickly from one step to the next, automatic spray booths remove much of the health and safety risk from the production process simply because employees are not doing the spraying.

The downtime to change colors can range from five minutes to an hour, depending on the system being used. That can be reduced if multiple booths are used on the production line, only requiring the time it takes to roll each booth into place.

Changing colors within a single booth can take more time, whether the system is batch or automatic. The speed of the color change also depends on whether the booth is reclaiming powder or simply spraying-to-waste.

Spray-to-Waste or Reclaim

Although all spray systems need equipment to collect overspray, one of the benefits of a powder system is the ability to reclaim and reuse over-sprayed powder. In a non-recovery powder booth or a spray-to-waste system, the powder is simply collected for disposal —colors are intermixed and the powder cannot be reused. In a reclaim system, also called recovery powder booth, a cartridge or cyclone system is used to separate out and reserve wasted powder for reuse later.

Costs

Reclaiming overspray is not always cost effective. Both cartridge and cyclone reclaim systems are expensive, so their cost must be balanced with the reclaim savings. Cyclones are also a confined space, so additional safety protocols may need to be put in place, which can increase initial cost.

To determine if reclaiming powder is a cost-saving option, estimate the amount of overspray that the spray booth is likely to produce. Multiply the amount of overspray by the cost of the powder to get the potential cost savings over a period of time.

Over what period of time is the amount saved with a reclaim system more than the cost of a reclaim system? In some cases, it can take years for the reclaim system to "pay itself off." However, reclaim systems can still be a great choice for high volume facilities with a large amount of overspray.

Integration into Production Line

Both reclaim and spray-to-waste systems require equipment to capture overspray powder. Although both spray-to-waste filter systems and powder reclaim cartridge systems are small and easy to maintain, there can be costs associated with the overspray powder disposal, while reclaim systems reduce the cost of new powder. Cyclone reclaim systems allow for the reuse of colors. They are larger and can be more difficult to maintain but have the ability to separate and reclaim multiple colors.

Number of Colors

Facilities that use a large number of colors may not be able to cost-effectively reclaim powders, but it’s certainly possible. One-color reclaim cartridge system filters need to be changed out between colors, and cyclone systems can only handle so many colors. In these cases, spray-to-waste may be the best choice.

Down Time

Spray-to-waste cartridges, reclaim filters and reclaim cyclones all require downtime. Reclaim filters are often changed between colors, which may increase the amount of downtime required. While cyclones cost more initially, they can handle more colors, reducing downtime for reclaim, but because of the confined space the equipment is in it might take more time to remove the reclaimed powder.

Each manufacturer has different needs for powder coating systems. When it comes down to it, considering all factors, including the costs of booths and equipment, integration into the facility, number of colors used and downtime required will result in the most efficient and cost-effective production line.

Our booth design experts will ensure a spray paint booth customized exactly to your specifications that integrates seamlessly into your facilities. No matter what booth you choose to employ, trust Spray Systems to craft a perfect match for your operations!

 

posted on Friday, November 16, 2018