Earlier this month we attended the HD Repair forum in Ft. Worth Texas, and the question on every attendees’ mind that we spoke with was how do you choose a paint booth for a Heavy-Duty truck repair shop?
The size and weight of the vehicles you repair require everything to be oversized and heavy-duty when compared to the typical auto body repair shop. With such a large footprint, the workflow is key to turning those cycle times. Even a smaller 6,000 square foot shop can turn high numbers if the process gets mapped out accurately and the equipment is up to the challenge.
Your paint booth is the cornerstone of your business, and one of the most significant and possibly only capital pieces of equipment you will purchase for your shop. It can either be a revenue generator or a constraint. So how do you choose a new paint booth that can handle the needs of your business today and twenty-five years down the road which is the life expectancy of a good and properly maintained paint booth used under normal conditions.
Step one: Select your airflow.
Airflow is essential to any quality paint booth, and you must have one to achieve the other. With a larger volume to paint in, you need a paint booth that can flow the amount of air required to keep the overspray away from the truck. Garmat truck and RV paint booths come in a downdraft, modified downdraft, crossdraft, and sidedraft configurations depending on your needs.
Paint booth types by airflow.
If you have never shopped for a new paint booth before, here is an overview of the airflow options and which ones are best for Heavy Duty truck painting:
- Good - Crossdraft: Air is pulled through one end of the booth, flows parallel to the floor, over the truck, and into the filters on the opposite side of the paint booth. The filters capture paint and dust particulate, and the air is exhausted into the atmosphere through ducting. Garmat only suggests this type of paint booth when the customer is not seeking a class A finish (such as painting heavy duty or farm equipment), and the price is a major determining factor.
- Better - Side Downdraft: Air enters the booth through a full-length ceiling plenum and flows downward over the truck. When the air reaches the floor, it is pulled into the floor-level filtered exhaust plenums on each side of the booth, and exhausted into the atmosphere through ducting.
- Even Better - Semi-downdraft: Air enters the booth through the ceiling in the first 25-30% of the cabin. The exhaust fan continues to pull the air through the enclosure, causing the air to change directions and become parallel to the floor. Air is then drawn over the truck, through the exhaust chamber at the booth rear, and vented to the atmosphere through ducting.
- Best - Downdraft: Air flows vertically from the ceiling intake plenum at the top of the booth, over the truck, and is pulled to the filtered exhaust pit in the floor. It then moves through the filters in the exhaust pit before being expelled into the atmosphere through the ducting.
Make a note of the Exhaust Fan Configuration you are buying.
It is worth noting that anybody purchasing a paint booth needs to make sure that they are aware of the type of exhaust fan configuration.
The exhaust fan selection is crucial to spray booth performance. The difference in design has a significant impact on the stability and consistency of airflow, the useful life of the filter the long-term durability of the motor and the bearings, as well as the maintenance cycle. Garmat paint booths feature dual inlet reverse incline fans with air foil blades in their standard line of automotive paint booths and as an upgraded option in their truck booths. Most industrial and heavy-duty repair paint booths feature a tube axial fan on the exhaust.
The Dual Inlet Reverse Incline Fan blades curve against the direction of the fan wheel. The backward direction of the blade creates a vacuum of air that surrounds the blades thereby reducing overspray build up. Another advantage is that the motor cannot be overloaded at a given wheel speed regardless of the amount of static pressure (filter load) applied to the system. These fans run at a lower RPM, so both noise and energy costs are reduced.
Efficiency is increased even further with the addition of the air foil blade. The airfoil design of the blade allows the fan to run at a higher speed more efficiently, and with less noise, than the standard reverse incline, while still offering the benefits of the backward incline fan. These fans are optimal for use in refinish equipment and give the most consistent air flow of any fan design in the market.
Axial Fans are designed to move high volumes of air. Tube axial fans are the standard axial fan design used in spray booth applications, often chosen for their low price point, not necessarily for their effectiveness. Tube axial fans are sensitive to changes in static pressure that is the resistance to air movement. As filters load the capacity of the fan diminishes quickly.
Step two: Consider your lighting.
After airflow, lighting is the next crucial element in booth selection. Paint technicians need adequate lighting to assure a quality paint job. Lighting is also one of those elements that separate one manufacturer from another. Some manufacturers run their light fixtures vertically which can easily get blocked by the paint technician creating a dark area where they are spraying. Garmat purposely designs their paint booths with horizontally placed light fixtures. This horizontal orientation creates virtually shadow-free illumination as it allows the light to reach the item getting painted despite any light obstructions the technician might create.
Step three: Consider your length and your height.
What is essential to consider here is not just the booth you need today, but the paint booth you will need in five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years from now. Most shops expect to see a twenty-five-year life out of their paint booth so if you have plans for growth, consider how the paint booth you are purchasing today will assist or hinder your plans for tomorrow.
Because of their size and special requirements, many HD truck booths are custom built to order allowing manufacturers to create a paint booth sized to fit any of your needs both current and future. In addition to commercial trucks, you may include construction vehicles, cranes or farm equipment or even high roof vans. Adding a divider within the paint booth will add more flexibility to the collision repair services you can offer.
Step four: Consider the Shop Layout
With such a large footprint, the workflow is key to turning those cycle times. Even a smaller 6,000 square foot shop can turn high numbers if the process gets mapped out accurately and the equipment is up to the challenge.
Space planning is an absolute necessity. The layout of the shop directly affects your workflow and production. The best thing to do is to work with your distributor early in the process to make sure that the equipment fits in the most productive layout. Garmat provides drawing and layout services as part of their services. Working side by side with their distributors, and with the experience of working with hundreds of shops, they can come up with floor plans that you may not have considered before. With a heavy-duty truck booth, you want to make sure that you have the best traffic flow through the building since size and maneuverability are significant factors. The last thing you want is to have trucks gridlocked in the shop due to an inefficient workflow plan.
Step 5: Get a site visit early.
Naturally, we encourage our customers to do as much research as possible before purchase, but nothing beats a site visit from a seasoned paint booth distributor. Be prepared to discuss production goals, business goals, growth goals as well as the nuts and bolts of the booth that you want to purchase. The right paint booth distributor will take all these factors into account. They can also guide you based on the building constraints they see while doing the site visit. An hour spent with a distributor on site could save you hours of research.
For thirty years, Garmat USA, along with their network of distributors has been an industry leader in paint booth engineering, and construction and service excellence by building paint booths as heavy duty as the trucks you put through them. Garmat designs and manufactures all their paint booths at their corporate headquarters located in Englewood Colorado. Contact us below to get matched up to a distributor near you to help you plan your next HD Repair facility.
*Contributor Don Wakeman of Wakeman Equipment Sales, Inc