The Industry’s Latest Robotic Spray Applicator
By RYAN SPENCER
Consistency is crucial when applying spray foam and spray-applied coatings; every step must be taken to provide assurance for the customer that a project was completed to spec. In the case of commercial SPF roofing or industrial polyurea waterproofing projects, the sheer size of the applications can be obstacles to consistency. In recent years, contractors have turned to robotics to ensure that their projects meet spec. With expertise in both designing machines and producing plastics, Italian manufacturer ValPolymer gives contractors another consistency-improving option with the RS12 robotic applicator.
ValPolymer can trace its history back to 1924, to a plastic button manufacturing operation that, in 1969, began manufacturing polyurethane shoe soles, eventually producing pairs of soles for companies like Rockport. In 2002, ValPolymer as it stands today was formed and now produces all kinds of polyurethane products, from small technical parts like seals and wheels, to large-scale products like floor mats and secondary containment dams.
All the while ValPolymer has been manufacturing polyurethane parts, they’ve also been making the machines that make those parts. In some cases, a machine is made solely for a special production, and so ValPolymer has as much experience with producing machinery as it does with manufacturing parts and products. In the past 6 years, ValPolymer has been working with polyurea, and as with the polyurethane products, the company produced a machine that manufactures polyurea–basically, a robotic spray applicator known as the RS12.
“It’s a very simple machine, really,” said Antonio Valli, owner of ValPolymer. “We wanted to make it usable for everyone.”
The trolley of the RS12 is a triangular aluminum base with two fixed back wheels and one swiveling front wheel for turning and positioning. On the back of the trolley, above the fixed wheels, is the horizontal track and moves the spray gun back and forth. The track’s gun mount can hold virtually any spray gun. On the front of the RS12, opposite the track and above the turning wheel, is the control panel. Between the control panel and the track is a boom from which the hose is hung that swings left and right as the gun moves along the track. Valli asserts the machine has been built and tested to withstand the demanding conditions of spray applications time and time again.
“We did a test of 1.5 million passes on the reciprocator, and it’s still working, nothing happened,” said Valli. “There aren’t really any consumable parts that can get damaged, there’s just small simple components.”
The RS12, Valli asserted, is portable and maneuverable, weighing in at 213 kg (470 lb.). When disassembled, it can be shipped in a box with the dimensions of 200 cm. x 100 cm. x 80 cm. (6.6 ft. x 3.3 ft. x 2.5 ft.).
“It’s very good, it’s durable, it’s more stable than the other options on the market, and it has better performance,” said Valli.
Not only has the RS12 been tested for reliability, it has been built for prodigious production capabilities. ValPolymer has pegged the machine’s full output at 1,800 square meters (over 19,000 square feet) per working day. The RS12 can move up to 8 km/hr (5 mph) and handle inclines up to 10% grade. When it comes to using the machine, ValPolymer kept true to its goal of producing an easy-to-use machine, as the operator needs only to contend with two factors while operating it on the job site.
“It’s just setting the speed of the reciprocator of the gun and to fix the speed of the wheels on the trolley,” Valli said. “The combination of the two gives you the width and the thickness.”
With the RS12’s simplistic operation, ValPolymer gives applicators a solution that combines performance with consistency for even the largest-scale projects.
“You can go at the same speed over hours and hours, from the morning and into the night,” said Valli.
Nighttime was actually a fairly serious consideration for ValPolymer, as it recognized that many industrial waterproofing projects like bridges and highways are done at night, when traffic is minimal.
“It’s important to have lights because on public roads you can only do work at nighttime, not during the day, so we had to put lights on it,” said Valli.
It’s clear that the RS12 was purpose-built with industrial waterproofing applications in mind, but the machine is equally adept for spray foam roofing applications, because equipment that can spray polyurea can also spray SPF. While the RS12 hasn’t yet been used for an SPF roofing project, the only additional consideration would be getting the machine onto the roof surface, which could be accomplished with a lift or a crane. In any case, the RS12 can be utilized as a highly consistent, high-performance option for a variety of applications. What’s interesting about the RS12 is that despite the machine’s benefits, ValPolymer sees the technology as underutilized in the European market.
“Frankly speaking, in Europe, polyurea…it’s not such a hot business on the market, it’s not a hit like in the States,” said Valli.
Knowing the RS12 could reach its full potential in the right types of markets, ValPolymer set its sights beyond Europe, with the U.S. being its top target. Currently, the company is working on developing partnerships to get the RS12 into contractors’ hands.
“Our path to the States is not clear at the moment, but we would like to get a distributor,” said Valli.
However ValPolymer’s journey continues in the U.S., the company is confident that the RS12 will be expediting and assuring proper spray foam and coating applications in the foreseeable future.
For more information about ValPolymer and the RS12, visit www.valpolymer.com.