Spray Painting Technologies

This blog is where I describe the different types of spray painting equipment.  If you’re not interested in the technical side of things then you may want to skip this post and spare yourself all the definitions and distinctions.

If you’re still reading, thank you and let’s get into it.

Originally, the only type of spray equipment was “airless”.  This is a large and rather expensive but powerful machine that fires paint out the end of a gun at a huge volumes needed to paint everything from ships to the ceilings in big-box stores.  It is still an ideal method to use for large projects because it’s fast and efficient.  And like everything else it has its drawbacks.

The biggest drawback of airless is overspray and waste.  As much as 30% of paint volume is lost in a halo of paint mist that will coat everything around the work area and so set up is time consuming and paint waste adds to costs.  Also, the operator must wear a full mask and respirator and protective suit so they’re not covered in paint themselves. 

Those two limitations are the reason why airless is ideal for new construction and painting large objects outdoors like barns and oil storage tanks.

The other drawback of airless spray guns is that the paint is cycled through the machine that pumps paint out of the nozzle.  Clean-up procedures are rigorous and time consuming.

For smaller projects that don’t require vast volumes of paint, the newer HVLP (high volume low pressure) machines are smaller, less expensive, and are ideal for things like residential interior applications. the machine is powered by separate electric air pump and a separate ‘gun’ with an attached pressurized bottle of paint that the operator uses to apply the product.  This separation of paint and air means that the operator only needs to clean the gun and bottle afterwards which is less time consuming.

There is far less overspray and waste so that factor makes these machines easier to use in smaller spaces.

Recently, manufacturers have started offering machines that can do both, airless and HVLP painting using only one machine.  They are more expensive than traditional HVLP outfits and allow contractors to buy one machine instead of two.  We don’t have one of these newer machines so I can’t comment on whether or not they combine the best of both worlds.

The latest technology is a newer version of the standard HVLP system. It’s called a “turbine” gun and it allows us to use our HVLP air compressor with a newer more efficient gun.  A turbine system has fewer moving parts and uses more air and less paint. It’s a bit slower than a traditional HVLP system but it allows us to do detailed work with even less overspray than earlier HVLP models.  We’re using turbine guns now in homes where we would traditionally have to tent off and mask off wide spaces around the work area.  The paints dry faster with less prep and clean up times.  Sounds like technology is marching in the right direction.  Oh, and did I mention that the quality is outstanding?

Some areas ideally suited to HVLP are fireplace mantels, doors and trim, built-in book cases and shelving units and anything that would benefit from a smoother finish.

So give us a call if you have a paint job that you are wondering would be suitable for an HVLP system.  It’s still more expensive than painting with a brush but depending on the look you’re after it may be worth the investment.