Adding ThermoPlastic to Your Stripping Business
When it comes to traffic markings, not all materials are created equal. The amount and type of traffic, budgetary constraints, climate, and other factors play a role in choosing the right marking material for the application. Of the many materials considered for striping applications, Thermoplastic is a popular choice for those applications requiring greater durability and low maintenance.
If you’re a striping contractor looking for ways to expand your business, Thermoplastic striping presents a great opportunity and getting started might be easier than you think – especially with advances in today’s equipment technology.
What is Thermoplastic?
Thermoplastic is a highly-durable, cost-effective material that’s popular for heavy-traffic applications such as roads, highways, and intersections. This highly-durable material consists of a mixture of resin, reflective glass beads, and filler that’s melted and applied to the surface.
In its raw state, Thermoplastic is a granular material that typically comes in bags. To prepare the material for application, the bags are loaded into a hopper or melting kettle and heated to a manufacturer-specified temperature (generally around 400*F). Once it reaches the manufacturer-specified temperature, it’s applied to the surface at a thickness of 90-120 mils and allowed to cool. Once cooled to solid form, Thermoplastic markings provide 4-6X the life of traditional waterborne traffic paints and require little to no maintenance.
Successful Thermoplastic application starts with ensuring the conditions and surface are conducive to getting a strong bond. The surface should be clean, dry, and free of debris or contaminants that could hinder a strong bond to the substrate. Additionally, the surface should be at least 50*F as applications below that often result in a weak bond that will not last – defeating the purpose and added cost when choosing Thermoplastic material for the application.
Finally, it is critical to make sure the material is heated to proper temperature as specified by the manufacturer as material that is not to sufficient temp will not bond to the surface.
Getting Into Thermoplastic Striping
If you’re already a striping contractor, the learning curve with Thermoplastic is fairly straightforward and potentially very lucrative as relatively few striping contractors perform the work. The biggest investment when getting into thermoplastic striping is the equipment. With that said, it’s never been easier to get started.
Historically, getting into Thermoplastic striping required large truck or trailer-mounted kettles for melting the material and walk-behind handliners for applying markings. That has changed with Graco’s innovative ThermoLazer ProMelt handliner. The ThermoLazer ProMelt handliner is ideal for first-time stripers looking to get into Thermoplastic striping because it eliminates the need for a costly premelting kettle system.
Unlike other handliners which are not designed for melting Thermoplastic, the ThermoLazer ProMelt is capable of melting 300lbs of material in 1-1.5 hours depending on conditions. This enables users to tackle small to medium Thermoplastic jobs such as stencils, arrows, and intersections without a costly premelting system. It achieves this with Graco-exclusive features such as a 100K BTU burner system and the QuadMelt™ 4-chamber melting kettle that provides maximum surface area for melting material.
The ThermoLazer ProMelt can also offer greater mobility than a traditional premelting system. In urban environments, streets are often narrow and congested. This presents a challenge for a parking and operating a large premelting operation. The compact footprint and melting capability of the ProMelt makes operating in these environments a lot easier. It’s also compatible with Graco LineDriver ride-on attachments that allow operators to striper faster and longer by riding instead of pushing the handliner.
Adding Larger Thermoplastic Jobs
As your Thermoplastic business grows and you start considering larger jobs such as long-line striping, you will need to invest in additional equipment to increase your production capability.
This additional investment typically includes adding larger melting kettles that provide the ability to melt the thousands of pounds of material needed to complete these jobs. Depending on the job size, additional handliners, such as the Graco ThermoLazer 300TC and 200TC, may also be needed. For long-line striping applications, a Thermoplastic striping truck will also be a required investment.
Regardless of your striping experience, adding Thermoplastic striping capabilities can be a great way to grow your business with relatively low additional investment. The new jobs and clients can help you reach goals that may never have been possible before.