While weight can vary, most handliners weigh between 275 and 300 pounds, empty. Add on a 20-pound propane tank, a dispenser that can hold 50 pounds of glass beads, and another 250 pounds of molten material and the operator is pushing near 600 pounds around on the pavement.
"The more material it holds, the harder it is to push," Mayle says. "That's why you want to make sure the machine you buy is well balanced. Pick it up from the back end and swing it side to side and push it back and forth. You'll get a good feel for how balanced it is."
He also suggests giving the machine a push on level ground to see how straight it tracks. "It should travel at least 25 feet straight and smooth," Mayle says.
Waxler adds that ease of operation also should include the operator's station, which is at the rear of the machine. "Most machines allow the operator to stay at the back side and operate the machine all from the handle," Waxler says. "It's important that everything is done to make the operator's job as effortless as possible."
Directly related to the ease of operation are the wheels on the equipment. The common configuration for handliners is two wheels in front and one caster wheel at the rear of the machine. Traditionally, all three wheels are locked so when the operator needs to turn the unit he actually has to lift it a half-inch or so from the rear and slide the back of the machine to change its direction or make a turn. Cody Irons, equipment sales for MRL, says many contractors like the locked wheel design because they feel the machines are easier to push straight when the wheels don't swivel.
Agitation is important because the thermoplastic material itself contains glass beads to provide the markings with higher levels of retroreflectivity as it wears. But for those beads to be effective they need to be dispersed throughout the molten material, and as the material is heated the glass beads tend to sink to the bottom of the tank. Agitation helps keep the beads in suspension in the molten plastic, which also prevents them from settling and clogging the system.
Shinners says that on equipment of this size, agitation is achieved by a hand crank. Some agitators are located at the front of the unit. Others, such as those on the Advanced Striping Equipment, are located on the handle where the operator works from.
Mayle says that all handliners should have a thermostat, and he recommends all thermostats be in clear view of the operator. "Keeping track of the material temperature is a big part of the success of a thermoplastic marking operation," Mayle says.
Irons says the operator needs to rely on the thermostat because the temperature of the material in the tank varies day to day as the air temperature changes. Plus, the temperature of the pavement has an impact on the job, so the operator needs to monitor the temperature throughout every job. "The better you're able to regulate the temperature, the better off you are," Irons says.
Shinners says buyers have the option of either an automatic temperature control unit or a manual one. "Roughly 60% of the units MRL sells have manual temperature controls and 40% have automatic temperature controls," Shinners says. "It's really whatever the contractor is most comfortable with."
Extrusion dies apply the material directly onto the pavement. Made of steel or aluminum, with carbide wearing edges to extend life, the dies are changed by the operator when a different width of line is needed.
Some dies are heated via radiant heat while others rely on an open gas jet to keep the die and its openings warm. Because dies often are changed in the field it's important they can be changed easily, and some feature a spring-release die-lock assembly.
Handliners are propane heated, and Irons says two areas of the handliner need heat: The material storage tank and the die. If either cools too much the molten material returns back to a solid as it cools and will not flow. If the die is not kept hot the material will stick to it and a good line will not be formed.