He also encourages contractors to shop around before investing in thermoplastic equipment. "Check and see all the different types of equipment available. And ask for a demonstration prior to buying so you fully understand what it is capable of doing," he says.
When contractors are used to working only with paint, they need to be prepared for the new safety aspects and requirements of dealing with thermoplastic. The most important safety concern is the temperature of the thermoplastic material. Contractors and crew members working with hot applied thermoplastic material should wear proper eye protection and cover all exposed skin. Heat-resistant gloves are also necessary. Melting thermoplastic may also give off an odor, in which case crew members should wear respirators as well. And always make sure to read the material safety data sheet, Diana Reyes of Pervo Paint says.
And be careful around the equipment, especially the heating equipment which may have an open flame. Be aware of any possible plugs in the hoses or application guns. Keep equipment maintained and take care of any issues right away. While working on or near the equipment, make sure another crew member is aware of your location and keeps an eye on you to make sure no one turns on equipment when they shouldn't or sprays hot thermoplastic in your direction, Hendrickson adds.
Some equipment and material manufacturers offer thermoplastic training. Pervo Paint, for example, offers two-day training that covers safety and handling of the product and how to apply it properly. Equipment manufacturers like MRL also offer on-site training on how to use thermoplastic application equipment and how to properly apply the material on the job.
Before jumping into thermoplastic application make sure you're well educated on the product and the market. Know the acceptable application methods in your area, Irons says. Understand who your competition is. And make sure to purchase material, supplies, and equipment from a reputable manufacturer. "Understand the material and its limitations, application, the road surface - all the variables," Irons says. If you're new to thermoplastic, take the time to practice and get the feel for it.
Thermoplastic material requires both a start up and a cool down time. Hendrickson suggests allowing for two hours of start up time at the beginning of the day to get the equipment ready and the thermoplastic material heated and melted. At the end of the day, the material needs to be cooled down and agitated as it cools to make sure the integrated glass beads do not settle on the bottom of the kettle, he adds.
"You don't want to heat the material up more than about three or four times because it distills the oils and the resins out of it," Hendrickson says. As the oils are removed it changes the material viscosity and alters the material from its original specifications.
Bidding and pricing thermoplastic jobs can be challenging, Wehner says. "The general rule of thumb is it's worth four to five times more than paint." But Wehner cautions, "Make sure you fully understand what the market will bear."
The use of thermoplastics has increased in the last couple of years. But contractors may still find paint the better option for some jobs. For example, paint may be a better option for temporary markings that are not required to last more than a year, Hendrickson says. Other customers, like airports, are investing in thermoplastic markings to decrease the frequency of remarking the pavement.