Paint booths and finishing systems

In this insightful roundtable, BUSRide Maintenance discusses the purchasing and implementation of paint booths with the following panelists:

Guido Pippa vice president of automotive sales Accudraft Paint Booths

Chuck Koenenpresident  Kayco Spray Booths

Describe your company and products in terms of your service to public and private bus coach operators who choose to paint and finish their vehicles in-house.

Guido Pippa: Accudraft SAIMA North America has been in the finishing industry since 1980. For the first 15 years we focused solely on automobiles and trucks, which includes buses and motorcoaches from the manufacturing level to operators and repair facilities. While this remains the core of our business, we have since branched out to include aerospace industries, which encompasses some interesting and complex processes that speak to our capabilities.

Chuck Koenen: Kayco Spray Booths has been building spray booth solutions since 1978. We work closely with each of our customers to determine the best application for their needs. Once we know their business processes, we can design and build a customized paint booth and spray system to fit in the available space; from a single standalone spray booth to one with a drying chamber as production needs dictate.

We build extremely strong, using support steel and pre-punched, nut, and bolt construction.

At what point in a bus and coach operation does it become feasible to design, purchase and implement an in-house paint booth and spray system?

Koenen: A couple of factors drive the decision for an in-house finishing facility; such as if the company currently does mechanical work and if it is continually subbing out the finishing work.

Outsourcing tends to place the company at the mercy of someone else in terms of quality, timelines and tracking the work.

Another consideration is whether the paint and finishing department is manufacturing or repair, and the extent to which it can generate additional income for the company.

Pippa: Their decision depends on the level of the company’s involvement in painting and finishing their fleet. Most operators sub this work out to specialized paint shops. At some point it may come down to internalizing this function once they realize the cost, particularly if they reach a point when they are doing more than minor repairs and touch up painting.

What existing conditions or business circumstances would prevent an operator from implementing an in-house paint booth and spray system?

Koenen: We can do a lot in the production of a spray booth to fit different applications. But there are instances where the available floor space is simply too limited, or the building is not deep enough to accommodate the vehicles.

Property lines can also become issues where the work must meet national safety codes, as well as local zoning restrictions.

What advice do you have for bus and coach operators making the purchasing decision?

Koenen: My advice for our customers considering the purchase of a spray booth is to first educate themselves on the product and process of what is included and what is not, and not just focus on the bottom line cost in the quote. It is essential for buyers to know what they are responsible for, as well as the responsibilities of the other parties involved.

Pippa: A paint booth is much like any other tool. At the very least, it allows the operator to meet code and work safely without spray painting illegally in an open garage or warehouse. However, installed properly and maintained, paint booths can help save on operating costs and bring new potential to the business.

What are the key considerations in the design and engineering of a paint booth and spray system?

Pippa: It begins with where the paint booth will be located to conform with the existing structure. It must allow for smooth traffic flow in and out for the vehicles. When possible, a drive-through system is ideal.

The operator may want to consider installing the paint booth outdoors. The mounting pad not only expands the overall useable space, it also saves on interior space— and the installation is much easier. We come in and do the complete install without interrupting operations during construction.

Koenen: The design and engineering of a paint booth installation involves multiple airflow configurations. It is important to understand the different air movements in terms of advantages, drawbacks and price. For example, a crossdraft system is the least expensive, while a downdraft system provides a vertical curtain of air and involves more construction during installation.

What does normal maintenance of the paint booth typically entail?

Koenen: Maintenance of the spray booth is fairly straightforward; it’s as simple as remembering to change filters before they become extremely dirty and inefficient. Much like a standard home air conditioner, clogged filters will keep the system from moving the air, which can lead to serious problems if not changed regularly.

Pippa: 99.9 percent of paint booth problems are user-related. Neglecting to change the filters can lead to irreparable damages. Scheduled maintenance every six months is a good rule of thumb. The operator who waits until the system is broken pays three times the cost of scheduled maintenance.

What regulations and mandates guide the installation and operation of an in-house paint booth and spray system?

Pippa: The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the International Building Code (IBC) have strict codes to govern paint booth design and installation. Each state’s Department of Environmental Protection can also be involved in permitting. They want to know what kind of filtration is in use. Operators also need to look for the third-party ETL Listed Mark which companies pay thousands to secure; much like the qualifying UL Mark on most appliances.

Koenen: From the standpoint of spray booths, National Fire Protection Agency 33 is the standard for spray applications using flammable or combustible materials.

The International Fire Code (IFC) is likely dealt with the most frequently, as a lot of municipalities have adopted it as the standard throughout their fire departments.

Inspectors from these agencies want to ensure the company is compliant to the code at every step, and it should not be taken lightly.

What recent technological innovations have improved your paint and spray products?

Koenen: Two specific innovations have improved performance. One is the variable frequency drive that controls the pressure inside the heated booth, and allows some latitude in keeping the pressure balanced. The second is the advent of water-born drying accelerators.

Pippa: We have incorporated energy recovery in our larger systems, which involves adding heat to the booth to remove the exhaust air. We connect the two phases through an energy recovery unit that passes the warm air through a heat exchanger and tempers it, then passes the heat back to the incoming air.

Also, our internet-based control system that connects with our customers’ systems allows us to monitor and troubleshoot issues.

What points do you continually drive home to your customers concerning their paint booths?

Pippa: Considering the costs involved in a paint booth and spray system that may range from $40,000 to upwards of $500,000, any estimate must encompass the associated site work and the permitting of a fully compliant paint booth and finishing facility. We always begin the discussion by ensuring they understand the complexity and totality of the project. We strongly advise against shopping online for a cheap paint booth.

Koenen: We try to help people with their fear of government red tape and the temptation to take short cuts. When customers ask if they can install a paint booth without the permitting, our answer is always no. The penalties are 10 times worse than the process. Understanding this serves everyone better.

It’s important that an operator not go with the lowest priced-package, which doesn’t provide everything needed. Something will invariably go wrong. A spray system incorporates many important components and processes that the buyer must be ready to pay for.