Spray Systems: Pressure Pot Versus Airless Versus Air-Assisted

      Which type of spray-gun setup is best for your shop? Pros go around and around on the classic equipment dilemma.January 13, 2006

I am currently shopping for a more efficient spray system. I am using a 1 quart pressurized cup gun to spray my stain, primers, sealers, and lacquers. I sprayed about 5 gallons of lacquer topcoat in the past week so you can imagine how many times I refilled that little cup, not counting cleaning it between different finishes. I was going to get a 5 gallon pressure pot system just for my lacquer but was wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of each type of system are. Personal recommendations would be appreciated also as well as suppliers. I run a one man shop with a part time helper and am using ML Campbell Magnalac as my lacquer of choice. I will possibly be switching to their Magnamax soon. Any feedback would be appreciated as this will be a decent investment in my shop and I donít want to waste my money.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
I am a coatings rep and many of my customers have gone to Graco's Triton HVLP pump system. All you need to do is set it on whatever container you want to spray and away you go. To clean it you set it on a container of thinner (or water if using waterbased coatings) and drain your line of material back into whatever you were spraying, then re-circulate the pump back into your cleaner. Then just move onto your next product. Youíre all cleaned in several minutes with no waste.

From the original questioner:
I should mention that if possible I would like to spray directly out of the 5 gallon pail that the finish comes in but also keep the can covered so dust and debris cannot get into the can.

From contributor A:
This unit will sit right on a five gallon can and keep all dust out. I can have information sent to you if you wish.

From contributor B:
I am a small shop with one employee. We bought a Kremlin. It is very nice! I have a lid with a stir prop mounted so that I can just turn on the air and it keeps my lacquer mixed. I put the lid on the 5 gallon bucket and leave it there until empty. I have a valve that can switch between different buckets.

From the original poster:
To contributor A: I would appreciate any info that you can give me about this system and I was also looking at the Falcon system, if you have information on that. To contributor B: What model is your Kremlin and where did you get it?

From contributor B:
It came from Finishing Consultants, Seattle, Washington.

From contributor C:
I have one question and a comment. Is there a system that has two or more inlets, to take the varnish (lacquer) from a can, a thinner from another, and a catalyst from a third and mix them on the way to the gun, instead of preparing before spraying?

I use a 10 liter pressure tank. I love the finish it gives and the ease of handling. It works easily and it is clean with no drops and is lightweight. The only problem is that to open it I have to release the pressure and wait a few minutes before opening it, then mix again and refill. For cleaning, I pass some thinner in it, and once a month some acetone to clean it better.

From contributor D:
My recommendation is an MVX gun on a 10/14.

From the original questioner:
What is the MVX gun - I am unfamiliar with the different pump ratios. What do they mean?

From contributor E:
To contributor B: I looked at the website you mentioned and the Kremlin system looks like it might be the ticket -- though the only model mentioned in the accompanying literature is the 10-14 wall mounted system. It looks like a bit of overkill for me, a sole proprietor. I certainly don't need the ability to run two spray guns. You do sound very satisfied, however - what did you have before the Kremlin?

From contributor A:
Triton pumps come with the HVLP Delta gun. This unit can be wall mounted or sit right on the five gallon pail. It is great for quick changes and cleanup. I have at least 20 customers using this unit with a few of them having several set-ups and have not had a single complaint! Graco has a nice 60 day try before you buy arrangement.

From contributor B:
I am very satisfied with the Kremlin. I don't think I can run two guns but what I can do is run two different coatings and switch between them with a valve. So I can have sanding sealer in one five gallon and lacquer in another. I do have to purge the lines between materials. We simply shoot the material into the sanding sealer bucket. I mounted mine on a cart that holds two fives of material and is on casters. Before, I had two pressure pots that only held 2-1/2 gallons, and I had to open them and pour the material in. Now I pop the lid and replace with the stir lid and use it until empty. I don't have to clean it out, just remove the tip and store in a Tupperware container of thinner. In the morning I turn on the air operated stir motor - there is a little propeller that stirs the material and I just let it idle slowly all day. There is never any unmixed residue in the bottom of the can. The transfer efficiency of the Kremlin is much greater than my old Binks guns. If you figure in the amount of wasted time messing with the old guns and the increased transfer rate of the Kremlin, it is an easy decision to make.

From contributor F:
I have the Kremlin air assisted with a heater - actually I have two and hope to have a third soon. I am a one man shop and it was hard to swallow the price but it has been more than worth it.

From contributor G:
I'm a 1.5 man shop as well. After using and testing a Kremlin on a large casework project, I couldn't let it leave the shop. It is expensive, but you'll understand if you get your hands on one. I keep a Sata K3RP hooked up to a 2 quart Bandit for small stuff, or when I need the flexibility of its pattern and control. Several local finishers think I'm nuts to have the Kremlin when I only use it 1 or 2 times a month. One gave it a try and changed his tune on the spot.

From contributor H:
An air assisted or Airmix system will greatly outperform an HVLP gun. My suggestion is to get a demo from a distributor who sells equipment Ė it has been my experience that they know more than the person who sells paint and equipment. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that you will eat much less overspray with the better gun, and that is worth a lot.

From contributor A:
To contributor H: Our equipment division does over 3 million in sales which allows us to get special pricing which we do pass on to our customers. The coatings division and equipment division work hand in hand with our customers to make sure they get the best results possible. I have been on the other side where the equipment supplier blames the finish supplier and vice versa. I do not know who you have dealt with to come to this conclusion but I could give you at least 500+ customers that would dispute your feelings in the New England area alone! We must be doing something right because the experts here in the north are now bringing in coatings to distribute along with their equipment.

From the original questioner:
To contributor A: I am still waiting to hear from you about the Graco system. I would greatly appreciate less wasted finish as overspray. I spray a couple times a week and I have a very thick coating of overspray on my walls and floor.

From contributor I:
It is a proven fact that Air-Mix is upwards of 30% better in transfer efficiency over HVLP, meaning more money back in your pocket. I think it was 8 month buy back on our first Kremlin 10/14 system. To be completely fair, this is all relative to what, when, and how you are spraying. The Graco system is definitely a great system, but what are you trying to do? For the small single shop sprayer, return on investment is huge.

From contributor J:
Let the equipment do the talking. Try the Kremlin system. You have nothing to lose.

From contributor K:
To contributor A: I agree with you most of the time but not this time. A simple pump with an HVLP gun versus an AirMix is simply road kill. The AirMix, or any air assisted airless, is so much better when spraying in a box (cabinet) than any HVLP, that there's no comparison. If the pump just replaces the pressure pot then there's no HVLP gun in the world that will compare to an AirMix system and that's from a guy who's got damn near every HVLP gun in the world.

From contributor A:
To contributor K: I think I was misunderstood. I am not saying that the HVLP was better at all. I was only going on fast cleanup and his ability to switch to another product. I also have many customers using the AA1500 and straight airless. I was only saying that the Triton pump is a lot better than a pressure pot set-up as far as change-outs go. I actually when over my customer list today and the breakdown is pretty even across the board on what they are spraying with. Of some 100 accounts 30% pressure pots, 30% Triton and 25% mix between Kremlins and Binks AA1500 system with the remaining % using airless, turbines and cup guns.

From the original questioner:
My Kremlin 10/14 pump w/MVX gun and 5 gallon lid with agitator is going to be here Saturday.

From contributor A:
Don't get discouraged, as you'll go through a learning curve. You may find that you will have to adjust your coatings some. This is normal.

From contributor L:
I have first hand experience as a customer with contributor A and his company. What a pleasure doing business! That's the way all suppliers ought to be, period. Tech support is phenomenal as is customer service. I needed tech support and customer service and hand-holding. I was impressed and not disappointed. My question on air-assisted airless and Kremlins remains unanswered and lacks discussion. Is there really an Airmix magic or is it a little bit of hype, air-assisted airless being special and Kremlin being just one well-known name? There's Heinz and there's other ketchups. How does Kremlin fit in with that scenario?

From contributor G:
If you have a close rep, it wouldn't cost you a dime to find out. You could also search back to posts about the system and get lots of information.

From the original questioner:
The Kremlin Airmix is just their trademarked name for air assisted airless. I just asked the rep who set my system up today.

From contributor A:
The only thing we can do is give our opinions, as when it comes right down to it we all have our likes and dislikes. The bottom line here is that the original questioner found someone local who will help him. I personally do not care for AAA (airless air assisted) type equipment and it does not matter who makes it. I like airless as far as speed, overspray and transfer goes. As a coatings formulator I feel the AAA introduces too much air into the coating as its being applied and you either have to add air release agents, spray less mils, or retard the coating more so as not entrap the air.

From contributor G:
Too much air?

From contributor A:
Airless Air Assist pumps air into the coating as it sprays and in my opinion can make it troublesome for the coating to release it in higher solids coatings. It has been my experience in either waterborne or solvent coatings. This can all be adjusted but it will also change with temperature which changes almost daily here in the Northeast.

From contributor M:
To contributor A: It seems to me the AAA would introduce less air than HVLP or conventional spray, because the coating is atomized with pressure and the fan is fine tuned with minimal air. With the HVLP its atomization is all air but less than conventional? That is how I understand how the different systems work. I may not understand the equipment correctly so would explain your reasoning why AAA would put more air into the coating.

From contributor H:
With so many air assisted units out there spraying most all the wood coatings, I am surprised that you think they introduce so much air and cause entrapment, but you are a chemist and I am a sprayer. In at least one of my units the air pressure rarely goes above 15psi and I spray 40 solids. Could it be that your customers have the atomizing air too high?

From contributor G:
On my last job with white Magnamax I used 5 psi. It was plenty for the material. It made a perfect 1.5X9 at 9-10 inches away. I had the idea that I'd use 10 or more psi, but I really didn't need it. What little overspray there was probably came from the material off the cases more than the air.

From contributor A:
The biggest problem I had came from Binks AA1500 guns using CV. There was also a ton of air movement in the spraying area so maybe I just had too many things going against me from the start. I was able to adjust the coating with an air release agent but it is something I would prefer not to do. This company was using another supplier before me and they were thinning the conversion varnish so much that they had very poor build. As soon as they would try to get any kind of build at all they would get air entrapment. The problem was that the supplier before me would not do anything to adjust the coating and just allowed this to go on.

From contributor M:
To contributor A: I understand that this one coating was a problem but how does AAA put more air into a coating than any other?

From contributor I:
I found that the Kremlin system had less of these small issues and I demo'd just about all of them and continually do over the years. And I think that is why I did and still do go with Kremlin. They are the only ones who can call it "Air-Mix". In the long run, educate yourself and always use technology to keep ahead.

From the original questioner:
I got the Kremlin on Saturday. The rep set it up and showed me how to use it and everything. Itís like a dream come true. No more refilling the cup every 5 minutes. I just have to get used to how it lays the finish out. Itís definitely a quicker delivery system that my cup gun is.

From contributor G:
So, the cup size changed a little, did it? I'm curious - what pressure settings did your rep recommend as a starting point? Also, how's that agitator lid? Iím thinking about one for my set up.

From the original questioner:
Yes, 1 quart to 5 gallon is a little change. I like the agitator lid because the lacquer I use has a flatting agent in it and needs to be mixed periodically. The only problem is that I have a pretty small compressor and the agitator makes it kick on rather frequently so I only turn it on before Iím going to spray and off when Iím done. We set it up with 50 pounds on the fluid and about 8 pounds on the air. What is everyone else using as their settings? Iím not sure what size tip I got, but it was the second one we tried. The first was too small. Iím still getting used to the change but in this case change is a good thing.

From contributor G:
Thatís very close to my first time settings (5&50), and Iím trying less on the material (40) and about the same for air. This seems to work very well with properly thinned material (PreCat in my shop). My gun came with a 09-94(I'm guessing), and I requested an 09-114 for the slightly wider pattern. My guy had a box full of all sizes, so no problem. On our first 2 days, we realized you can almost start and stop on a case interior side wall. The pattern edge is tight. That really helps with loading in the corners, but I'm still learning. Feathering is a no go - pretty much all or nothing, but it's not a problem with cabinets here.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor R:
I have been using HVLP with a turbine for 20 years. Recently I tried the Cremlin System. I found that there is very little adjustment, you are either spraying almost nothing or too much. Also, the pattern is very small. I can get a much better finish and better control with my HVLP. I also feel the warm air helps the finish lay down better and dry faster.

Comment from contributor S:
You choose your equipment based on your needs. I sell acrylic finishes for exterior work (mainly Sikkens) and AAA is by far the best system for this. For volume spraying of clear lacquer you could use AAA or airless, as no control on fan size is required (this can only be achieved by tip changing, though AAA allows for a little with the air control). For constant varying of fan shape, use HVLP or standard pot guns.

By the way, the atomizing air in AAA is used to soften off the pattern, a must when spraying translucent products. As to what the fluid pressure should be Ė it shouldnít be on the datasheet for the product. Otherwise, take out the tip and spray the product into a bucket. You should get a 10-12" jet before gravity starts to cause the jet to turn towards the ground. Put the tip back in and then bring in the atomizing air to remove the tails from the spray pattern.

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