Focus On: Spray Guns

Feb. 23, 2006
New information and sales tips on spray guns.

Many painters, also referred to as refinish technicians, like routine. They become set in their ways and are resistant to change. Once they find a technique that works for them, they don't like to rock the boat.

Unless you're already doing business with them, this type of customer can be a bit intimidating. But relax, in many ways painters aren't much different than any other automotive technician you serve. When purchasing tools, painters are primarily interested in quality and performance. The only curve ball being any environmental requirements that must be met. So when selling spray guns be sure to answer these concerns, as well as stressing the obvious.

Buzz Term: Transfer Efficiency

HVLP guns have become the norm in body shops over the past decade. Producing only 10 pounds of air pressure at the cap, HVLP guns produce smaller mist clouds and reduced amounts of overspray, which results in less material waste and a minimized impact on the environment. Tom Wright of Walmec North America says many painters are under the assumption that they need an HVLP gun to comply with environmental standards. Although not completely true, it's one reason why demand remains high.

However, "compliant" guns continue to be a strong growth segment in the spray gun category, particularly as more areas across the country approve their use. Producing more air pressure at the cap, sometimes 25-30 PSI, compliant guns bridge the gap between HVLP and the conventional guns of yesteryear. They offer enhanced material atomization and a faster working speed, especially when it comes to clearcoats.

Driving the need for these two categories of spray guns is a new buzz word in auto refinishing, transfer efficiency, which measures the percentage of material being sprayed that actually sticks to the object being painted. "The EPA and various state and local air boards continue to change the way they want to rate compliant spray guns," says Bill Ruffini of Transtar Autobody Technologies.

"First they said HVLP was the standard. Now they're saying it's all about transfer efficiency; who cares what kind of gun it is, so long as it's at least 65 percent transfer-efficient. That's why we think HVLP is going to become just another choice of gun, as opposed to the norm."

According to Ruffini, most HVLP guns are in the 50 to 60 percent range. Walmec North America states their Walcom Geo System offers a transfer efficiency of 70 percent. Similarly, SATA says its SATAjet 2000 HVLP is significantly above the 65 percent standard. Transtar says its new line of low-volume, low-pressure guns (LVLP series) is in the 68 to 70 percent range.

Regardless of which type of gun your customer is leaning towards, transfer efficiency is an important feature that you'll want to stress. "Higher transfer efficiency reduces overspray," Ruffini reminds. "That leads to better paint coverage and less material waste, not to mention a much cleaner work environment."

Air On The Side Of Caution

Air volume demand is another important topic to discuss with customers, especially those with smaller air compressors. Air-hogging spray guns can lead to headaches down the road.

Wright says 3.5 CFM per compressor horsepower is a good rule of thumb. For example, a smaller shop with a 7.5-HP compressor has 26.25 total CFM available. Some spray guns demand as much as 18 CFM. This leaves only 8.25 CFM to power any other tools while the painter is using his gun, which can place the shop in a bit of a predicament. Many popular random orbital sanders on the market require 8-11 CFM alone. In this instance, a low-consumption spray gun becomes very important.

"We're trying to build our message around the fact that our HVLP products provide the best possible atomization, while using the lowest CFM," Wright says. "A shop that's running a 10-HP compressor can use all three Walmec HVLP guns at the same time. That just might make the difference for a growing shop that doesn't want to invest in a larger compressor."

Air volume demand is another reason compliant guns are gaining favor with body shops. For instance, the SATAjet RP (reduced pressure) works well with smaller compressors. Due to the higher air cap pressure, as compared to an HVLP gun, less compressed air is required for atomization (7-10 CFM, generally speaking).

Transtar expects its new LVLP guns to rapidly gain popularity for the same reason. "Our LVLP guns require roughly 50 percent less CFM than the typical HVLP gun," Ruffini points out. "You can spray one of our LVLP guns out of a 3-HP, 30-gallon compressor."

It's All In The Design

In addition to transfer efficiency and air volume consumption, here are some other features and selling points to remember when dealing with spray guns:

  • Size, weight and ergonomics. While painters want a durable, well-constructed gun, they don't want something that's too heavy, bulky or hard to handle. Other features that make the gun easier to use, such as anti-slip cushions and the overall trigger design, are equally important.
  • Construction. An anodized body, along with stainless steel internal parts, nozzles and needles, help ensure longer life and safe use with waterborne coatings.
  • Setup. A variety of nozzle sizes should be available, providing painters with a large application sector. Smaller nozzles, sometimes as small as 0.7 mm, are better for clears and basecoats. Larger nozzles, sometimes as large as 2.2 mm, are better for primers.
  • Nozzle design. Vic Holom, Walmec North America's sales manager, says there are two philosophies on nozzle design. One is that the fan and atomization are created outside the air cap. This design works well for basecoats, but not clears. The second philosophy says the material should be pre-atomized inside the air cap and then atomized again at the horns of the spray gun. This design, due to the pre-atomization, works well for clearcoats.

Other Selling Opportunities

Painters need a host of associated products to keep their spray guns functioning as intended. So don't forget about these complementary product sales opportunities.

  • Replacement parts. "Things break, especially during cleaning," Ruffini reminds. "Guns are also dropped quite a bit. Make sure your customer knows you have re-build parts readily available."
  • Cleaning products. "The spray gun is the painter's way to a professional finish, and ultimately the amount of money he'll put in his pocket," Wright says. So cleaning tools such as brushes and square broaches are essential. To this end, SATA offers special cleaning needles to help keep the air cap free of debris, and all Walcom spray guns come complete with a cleaning kit. Transtar offers a 17-piece spray gun brush cleaning kit as an accessory.
  • Dedicated paint gun washers can also be a good product for you to offer. There are a variety on the market from several manufacturers, including SystemOne Technologies, Herkules Equipment and Gun Spa.
  • Associated products. Spray gun cups and filters are products every painter needs. Magnetic or boltable gun holders and other storage devices also have appeal. Most spray gun manufacturers offer them, as do specialty product manufacturers such as Karajen Corp. For painters who are using non-digital spray guns, air regulators and gauges are also important accessories. Specialized spray gun lubricant comes in handy, too.
  • Point-of-use air filters perform an invaluable task. "The quality of compressed air in painting is critical," Wright says. "It's an area that seems to be forgotten until the clear is not clear, or the paint has dirt or fisheye on the surface. A good point-of-use filter can give painters final assurance that the air is clean and safe to use."

Regardless of who you're trying to sell to or what you're trying to sell them, giving the customer a final assurance helps build their confidence in you and your product. All of your customers are looking for quality and performance at the right price, and it's no different with spray guns.

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