No two spraying applications are ever identical. Whether you're after humidity control or lubrication, precision adhesive applications or smooth chocolate coatings, every job and every material presents different challenges and engineering hurdles to overcome.
Some of these challenges, however, are a bit trickier than others.
Take that chocolate coating example. To coat, say, a peanut evenly, you have to first develop a system to roll, move, or float every nut 360 deg in a controlled, repeatable manner. Then you have to find a system that is capable of spraying thick, molten chocolate while also keeping that chocolate hot (but not too hot) all the way to the tip of the nozzle.
That's a rather tall order. But Spraying Systems Co.—an expert in particularly difficult precision spraying applications like these—also addresses an even steeper challenge: engineered wood.
To an outsider, the particle boards you pass at Home Depot or handle on a construction project may not seem overly complicated. But trust me, they are. Check out Spraying Systems Co.'s video on the process:
To understand this, let's go into a little detail.
First, the ingredients.
"All engineered wood products are basically made up of three components; wood, resin or glue, and wax," explains Brian Valley, the engineering lead for Spraying Systems Co.'s Web Lamination team. "These components are blended in slightly different ways for different products, but the mix is essentially the same whether it's for tiny particles, fiber, or even something as big as OSB flakes."
The goal in this manufacturing process—which is true for every spraying application—is to achieve precise, even coating with no wasted fluids or materials. In this case, it's also important not to glue up the entire machine.
Every step of that goal offers increasingly impossible-seeming challenges.
For Valley and his team, it all starts in the blender, where the wood flakes first meet the fluids.
"The blender looks like a giant clothing dryer," he explains. "Only it has tines that flip the chips around while spraying glue and wax so they get evenly coated." As you can see in the video, that machine is an engineering marvel in itself.
The spraying of the glue is another degree of complication.
The resins, he explains, have roughly the same consistency as maple syrup—or sometimes even thicker and more viscous. Spraying these accurately with the proper droplet size to match the batch load without clogging up the works, requires a system much more complicated than your standard $20 nozzle.
And then there is the wax.
"Wax can be even trickier," Valley says. "When it's heated, wax turns into a fairly non-viscous liquid. That makes it sprayable, but you have to keep it hot all the way to the tip."
Basically, if any spot in that line gets cold, he says, it can plug up the whole system, causing downtime and costly repair work to get things running again.
And finally, there is the matter of precision. These are extremely expensive adhesives and waxes going into extremely expensive machines that are filled with a floating cloud of wood flakes and sawdust. Anything short of near perfect transfer efficiency—where 100% of the product hits its intended target and nothing else—and you will end up with a gummed up mess beyond compare.
"If you coat the inside of a blender with an inch thick of sawdust and glue, then you have to go in there with a construction jackhammer to get it out," Valley explains. "That takes a lot of time—it's a lot of manpower and a lot of downtime."
In an industry fighting to maintain low prices on final products, these costs are unacceptable.
So, to summarize: in this process Spraying Systems Co. is facing very challenging conditions, infinite variables, and heavy stakes for its customers.
Spraying Systems Co.'s answer to this challenge is a line called the PanelSpray System, which was featured in the video above.
The system brings in all of the heavy-hitters from the company's spraying lineup. It includes Precision Spray Control to ensure consistent, uniform fluid application, plus an AutoJet spray controller and electrically-actuated PulsaJet nozzles to precisely control flow rate.
Together, these system components cut waste and ensure that every drop of glue and wax go exactly where they are meant to go, even if operating conditions change (so no need for the jackhammers). If the line speeds up, the spraying system accommodates; if it slows, it follows without changing the drop size or flow rate.
And the final system is a work of art.
Not only that, Valley notes, it also saves a lot of time and money.
"Some of these companies are investing millions of dollars in these coatings, and this system can cut those costs significantly," he says.
Most companies using older, homegrown systems, he notes, only achieve about 70 or 80% transfer efficiency on their spraying applications. That means the other 20 or 30% is wasted.
Cutting out even a fraction of that waste will have a significant impact on costs—let alone safety.
Learn more about the PanelSpray system on the NED Directory.
"For customers using millions of dollars' worth of resin per year making these boards, saving even a small percentage of the coating is a big deal," he says. "That means the payback can be pretty quick, even on a significant capital investment."
But savings aside, he argues, this solution offers its users some significant benefits that few others have offered before.
"They can improve production based on less downtime," he says. "We can allow them to run faster while improving overall board quality."