Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paint, it's in the details...

I've received a LOT of questions recently regarding the necessary equipment for painting/finishing your own frames.  Much of this information has been posted in other areas, but I thought I'd bring it all together here.

What do I need to set up a paint booth?

Will your booth be subject to the local building code and permit process, annual inspection by both fire department and insurance ISO adjusters, and located in a commercial area zoned for manufacturing? If you fall into any of these conditions, the process, construction, inspection process and cost are significant but not prohibitive.

At the very least, I'll answer some preference queries and then describe the qualifying factors for many of the OSHA/ISO requirements.

The booth size is determined by your needs, but I've found a 10 x 10 with a permanent fixture placed in the center to be the minimum I like to have to be able to fully move around the frame, rotate it in all aspects, and still have space to work on forks, bars, cranks at the same time. I use a dual stage compressor that feeds all my air needs for the shop; dual stage is important for the blast cabinet to maintain constant pressure and air feed rate for prepping frames. The compressor has multiple water trap/air filters in line to protect against air contamination, an issue that will show quickly in the paint booth.

The booth must meet fire resistant construction standards, meaning it will be fabricated out of metal or multiple layers of fire retard drywall. The booth must be located greater than 16 inches from an exterior wall with load bearing responsibilities to protect the structural integrity of the building in case of explosion. All electrical connections must exist outside of the fume space. Lighting is typically achieved by placing all lights fixtures outside the booth, cutting windows in the booth wall, and sealing the lights behind glass with airtight rubber seals. Filtration is a two part consideration. Incoming filtered air can be passive if the combination of supply air and out going air meets the minimum cfm defined by your OSHA requirements. The incoming fresh air should be climate controlled to provide stability in the paint environment. A filter wall for paint over spray entrapment and cleaning of outgoing air, typically two times the size anticipated for the expected volume of air to be moved is a smart decision, allowing for redundancy in protection if you do not change your dirty filters as often as you should. An explosion proof fan within the plenum to create the exhaust flow in mandatory. The final consideration is fume space suppression. for the 10 x 10 area discussed, a small dry chemical suppression system with heat activated nozzle as well as an external activation switch is recommended.

Total cost for the system as described can be kept realistic if you utilize your local resources for the research on requirements and do the work yourself. The last booth I built broke down like this...

Permits and Inspection Fees - 275.00
Building materials - 3500.00
Filtration equipment (explosion proof fan, filters) - 400.00
Water traps for booth - 300.00
Suppression System - 1500.00 (used)
Annual ISO hazardous environment endorsement on insurance policy - 250.00

Associated costs include all your guns, airbrushes, hoses, consumables, compressor, personal protective equipment, and hazardous materials disposal fees for recovered paint products.

Whew, lots of info to consider. Keep in mind, for every one guy who does it right, there are twenty folks with an electric box fan in a window spraying in a small area tarped off from the rest of the shop rolling the dice with his health.

The investment in finishing your own product is easily returned over the life of your business, the skill set is difficult to learn but very rewarding, and the outlet for creativity is unparalleled. I encourage every builder to at least experience the finishing process, as it will give you new respect for your painter each time you write him a check for another job well done :)

What type of painting equipment do I need to invest in?

First and foremost should be your safety; insure that you have the proper personal protective equipment to protect your health.

Ideal is a self contained air supply system for respiration,  however, a 3M half face respirator rated for spray paint use with proper ventilation through the booth that meets OSHA standards can be used.  Make sure you wear the mask as soon as the can of paint opens til you finish cleaning out the gun...you should not smell any of the process along the way.  Additionally, TYVEC coveralls, rubber/latex/vinyl gloves, and goggles or glasses to protect your eye's mucous membranes should be used.  Not that I always follow my recommendations, but you should  :)

With painting equipment, you get what you pay for.  I believe it's best to spend the money once and buy right with no regrets.

Good paint begins with clean air.  I use a two stage in line air dryer to provide contaminant and moisture free air.  This model from Devilbiss is the nuts...

I use high volume, low pressure guns exclusively for my liquid and ceramic work.  When considering HVLP guns, the three I'd stick with are Devilbiss, Sata, and Iwata with a gravity feed, .8mm tip, and 4-8 oz cup size. You will typically find these under the "touch up" category in most automotive lines. Here's my favorite in it's current iteration:

 Additionally, you'll want a nice airbrush for detailed stencil work, love my Iwata HP-C Plus brush as a general do it all.

How do you do your graphics?

 All graphics/lettering are created in Adobe Illustrator and then cut out on a cutter/plotter using specific low tack paint mask.  Of importance is having a rock solid cutter and media that is flexible enough for round tubing but holds a tight edge.  I've used the 15" Graphtec 6000 weekly for 6 years now, for detailed paint masking, decals, and the occasional heavy vinyl lettering for signs, running it with the plug in for Adobe Illustrator.

The Graphtec cutter utilizes a swivel knife to create smooth contours, adjustable tip pressure that makes it easy to move between media types, and multiple friction rollers to insure the media stays oriented during long cuts. The more spendy models will incorporate optical sensing for multiple layer cutting and printing, not normally needed for bicycle work.

The Graphtec is built like a tank, it has been one of the best investments I've made.

I use Avery Premium paint maks, 1850 series, for the majority of my cutter driven masking. This product has been renamed as Avery SF 100 and is also available as FDC 2905 Premium Paint mask film, as seen here ... http://www.fdcfilms.com/series/premium-paint-mask-ndash-high-temp-removable-adhesive . This works well with low temp bake cycles  for liquid paint applications.

If you want a paint mask to leave on while powdercoating multiple colors, consider using Argon masking tape designed for cutting masks for powder coating, here... http://www.argonmasking.com/tape/green_powder_coating_tape_on_clear_liner.htm
This product can be cut to your design and does not shrink, pull, or lift during the cure cycle.  It is removed once the frame is cool. 

Alternatively, you can use standard sign vinyl, easily available locally, for temporary masking with two stage powdercoat processes.   The base color is layed down and baked to a full cure.  The vinyl is then layed on the powder base as a mask, shot with the top coat color, placed in the oven for ten minutes to wet out, then carefully peeled away revealing the base color as the graphic.  The frame can then be fully cured.

Painting can be the most rewarding and frustrating aspect of building your own frame, requiring a whole other skill set that takes longer to master than just sticking tubes together.  Remember, all painters will make mistakes, the masters just recover better :)

Hope this helps answer some of the more common equipment questions,



Mark said...

Thanks!!! Awesome information.

Richardo said...

I love reading your blog. Such great knowledge, advise, and information from a true pro! Beautiful work good sir! Thank you for spending the time on those who wish to know.