There are basically two types of striping machines. One uses air and it’s called a “conventional” machine. The other does not use air and it’s called…you guessed it…an “airless” machine. First, let’s take a look at the conventional.
How Conventional Stripers Work
The major components of this type of machine are a 7-gal. paint pot that can be sealed shut, a small engine and a small air compressor. The air compressor feeds air to four places.
* The first place air is fed is into the sealed paint pot. This air pushes down on the paint and forces it out of the bottom through a hose to the paint gun.
* The second place air is fed is into the actual gun. This air turns the paint into a spray. If air weren’t introduced here paint would come out of the gun like water comes out of a squirt gun.
* The third place air is introduced is into a little can that holds one of two types of liquid: paint thinner if you’re spraying oil-based paint or water if you’re spraying latex paint. This air forces the paint thinner or water through a hose right down to the tip of the gun. Why? To clean it out. This paint thinner or water completely bypasses the paint line and goes directly to the tip of the gun. After lines are sprayed for a time the operator can open the small valve for one or two seconds, then close it. Paint thinner or water will go to the gun and clean it out. Now the operator can start painting again with a clean tip.
* The conventional (air) machine also has two hoses coming from the back of the machine -- one for paint and one for air. This is the fourth place air can be fed. These lines feed a separate gun -- like the one you would use to paint a car -- and this gun is for stencils. If you want to use it simply open a valve that directs the paint flow to that gun. Open another valve to direct the flow of air.
Another important aspect of the conventional machine to consider is that these machines require two separate striping guns to accommodate two different types of paint. One gun is used for oil-based paint, the other for latex.
Why Use a Conventional Machine?
I like this machine because of all of the air adjustments I can make on the job. You can adjust air pressure pushing on the paint. You can also adjust the air going to the gun, which helps to make the perfect mix and perfect stripe.
It is also easy to travel with a conventional machine. Remember the sealed paint pot? When you’re finished with a job, you simply roll the machine onto your trailer and drive away without worrying about paint spills. There’s also no waste after cleaning and it takes about a 1/2 qt. of thinner or water to clean. Mix that with the next 5 gal. and move on.
Another added benefit is that the conventional machine is forgiving. You’re spraying paint through an orifice the size of a pencil lead. If there’s a foreign object in the paint, chances are it’ll pass through. Conventional units are also a little heavier than an airless machine. You could “hit a dog” and still paint a straight line!
Lastly, they’re easy to work on and repair – especially for the beginner. Why? Because any trouble with these machines will be on the outside and simple to fix. In other words, there are a couple of valves to direct air or paint, a couple of hoses to direct air or paint, and a couple of gauges measuring pressure on air or paint. All of these parts are on the outside and simple to work on.
How Airless Stripers Work
The other type of striping machine is the “airless” machine. This type of machine operates on the principle that if you squish the paint hard enough and force it through the tiniest little slit of an orifice…it will come out like a “spray.” It works no differently than if you place your thumb over the end of a garden hose to make the water “spray.” No air has to be introduced here -- you just have a smaller orifice.