Spray Foam Equipment & MFG’s custom spray rigs are built with the same attention to detail as their proportioners
By Ryan SpencerTradeoffs are a fundamental part of design, and we see these options all around us: fast versus luxurious; lightweight versus rugged; disposable versus sustainable. With plural-component proportioners, tradeoffs can be found as well: inexpensive versus long-lasting; spraying foam versus spraying polyurea. However, sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds; it’s just a matter of being unwilling to compromise on key performance capabilities.
“Our goal in designing our proportioners is to keep a simple design but not lose anything in the process,” said Eric Bentson, founder and owner of Spray Foam Equipment and Manufacturing (SFE). “They’re built for the guys who want to be able to turn on four switches and go spray foam; it’s a no-fuss way of making these machines work for our customers.”
Simple and easy to use aren’t mutually exclusive with performance, and that’s especially true of the design of SFE’s Boss Hydraulic Proportioners. Bentson estimates that hydraulic machines comprise roughly 70 percent of the market, so SFE has understandably invested significant time and effort to optimize the performance of their hydraulic machines.
“Our primary engineer has designed this new hydraulic system and he’s been integral in developing the performance of this hydraulic machine,” said Bentson. “We bring a much larger output and a better preheater package in our machines, so we land on the higher end of functionality.”
SFE’s hydraulic machines are actually built on the same chassis as their air machine, which translates to a compact machine with two times the output. The higher output allows installers to get the job done faster. In fact, SFE’s hydraulic machines can deliver up to 60 ppm at 1,200 psi, which Bentson touts as 50% higher than the average alternative machine on the market. The performance is due largely to how SFE approached the system’s design.
“We’ve optimized the size of our hydraulic cylinder, our drive cylinder, as opposed to the lower two cylinders,” said Bentson. “We’ve optimized the performance of the output of the machine to match the horsepower rating of the motor, so we’re getting every bit of power out of it.”
SFE’s focus on output optimization also extends to the proportioner’s hydraulic pumps, but in a unique way. Instead of going with a fixed setting pump like most companies, SFE opted for a variable setting pump. Why? Application flexibility. Machines designed to spray foam require relatively larger pumps to output a higher volume at a lower pressure, while machines designed to spray polyurea require relatively smaller pumps to achieve a higher pressure with less volume. Some companies address these applications’ requirements by designing two lines of machines, but SFE opted to build one line of proportioners that can spray either SPF or polyurea by simply changing the pump settings.
“We’ve used the same set of large pumps that go from low pressure all the way up to high pressure, with a quick adjustment of our hydraulic pump,” said Bentson. “Basically, it’s like having a transmission in the hydraulic pump, where you can choose how much pressure and how much volume you want from the same machine. You need to make just two quick adjustments on our machine to spray high pressure or low pressure.”
In a very real sense, the variable pump settings mean the Boss proportioner does the work of two machines. For example, a contractor can spray a foam roof and the polyurea coating with a single machine. Moreover, the machine is optimized for both types of applications with its higher output.
Beyond volume, heater efficiency is extremely important, as it can affect foam quality and yield. Specifically, if the preheaters don’t heat up the material to temperature properly, then it’s not going to react like it’s supposed to, resulting in diminished coverage.
“The sprayer may not understand that when you’re spraying, the foam may look good, but if it isn’t up to temp, which is hard to tell sometimes, they run out of foam before they run out of job,” explained Bentson.
Suppose a set of foam covers about 4,500 sq. ft. when sprayed at 120 degrees F. If foam is sprayed at, say, 105 degrees F, Bentson estimates this inefficiency can cost contractors up to $400 per set of foam. If an installer typically sprays one or two sets of foam per day, that’s up to $800 lost per installer per day. Extrapolating those losses through months or years results in an eye-opening reality about heating performance.
“The ability to maintain the temperature is key; you’d rather not have the volume if you can’t heat the foam up,” said Bentson. “Our idea: you build a machine around the preheaters.”
SFE optimized the preheaters, which are larger to hold more material and have more rods in them, so the product can stay in the preheater longer and rods don’t have to heat up so hot. Essentially, this design means it takes less energy to transfer the BTUs to the foam, so contractors don’t need as much wattage and can use a smaller generator to do the same job. Of course, this combination of efficiency and heating performance is critical in colder climates, but SFE maintains contractors in all climate zones can benefit form these advantages.
SFE is adamant about building lasting, durable machines from the ground up, rather than putting together a number of off-the-shelf parts in an effort to build machines for the masses.
“In many ways, our competitors in the spray foam industry have designed machines to generate parts sales,” said Bentson. “They’re not built to last.”
The company’s machine shop in Louisiana, with its high-performance machining equipment and experienced machinists, is fundamental when it comes to building their proportioners to perfection. Indeed, it’s that kind of quality-centric American manufacturing that adds an extra element to SFE’s machines.
“The machines we build are meant to be around 15 to 20 years from now,” said Bentson. “That’s the reputation we’re building in the industry now–we’re small in the market, but growing rapidly.” •
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Photos Courtesy of Spray Foam Equipment & Manufacturing