Graco has made significant improvements to the reliability, automation and diagnostics of its range of sprayfoam equipment and the new machines typically feature 15 key new components. Graco said that at least 5% of its annual profits have been invested in the Reactor’s development since 2008.
The development process included the installation of a test unit comprising eight machines spraying 30,000 gallons (113.5m³) of material over more than 24m cycles.
Graco’s Fluid Technologies department has around 100 full time engineers and 2013, the R&D budget was $50m. It has developed Graco’s second generation of spray fluid dispensing machinery which, the company calls a global fluid dispensing revolution.
Speaking at Graco’s European HQ in Genk, Belgium, sales and marketing director Rafael Ortiz said the developments were built on the success of the firm’s established Reactor range.
Ortiz explained why Graco had redesigned the machines and added: “We have listened to you the distributors and we have listened to the contractors too.”
Product marketing manager Tryg Waterhouse said: “Our goal was to create a product that will enhance the spray foam market in general and ensure a better spray foam product. The Reactor 2 is a revolution that can change the market, advance the market” added Waterhouse.
Graco is aiming the machines squarely at companies buying equipment for spray foam insulation and polyurea coating applications with two distinct offerings.
For spray foam applications, the Reactor 2 E-30 Elite model has Graco’s new on-board computer - InSite and fluid inlet sensors already fitted. The standard spray foam model, Reactor 2 E-30 does not have fluid inlet sensors or InSite installed, nor can inlet sensors be retrofitted, but it is possible to add InSite to the standard model later.
The maximum fluid temperature for both Elite and standard E-30 models is 88°C with a maximum output of 13.5kg/minute and each weighs 161kg in total. Both machines have a maximum working pressure of 138MPa.
For polyurea coating applications, Graco created the Reactor 2 E-XP2 Elite and the Reactor 2 E-XP2. Again, the standard model comes without InSite or fluid inlet sensors – with the same opportunity to upgrade with InSite.
The Reactor 2 built for polyurea applications has a maximum working pressure of 240MPa and an output limit of 7.6 litres/minute across both the standard and Elite models.
The polyurea range’s maximum temperature is also 88°C but the machine’s weight is 2kg less than the spray foam version.
The polyurethane market is widely agreed to be growing in the US and is thought to be worth $35bn/year in the medium term. Polyurethane research experts IAL Consultants puts the growth in spray foam and polyurea applications at around 3.7 % per year to 2018. In the US, IAL estimates that 1.2m tonnes of spray foam formulations are produced every year.
Waterhouse said end-user and distributor feedback had inspired his firm to increase machine efficiency and also offer a machine with a one US gallon (3.78l)/min flow rate.
“The message we were getting from end-users and distributors was: ‘If you are not spraying, they are not paying,” said Waterhouse.
Waterhouse said that it was generally accepted that you could spray insulation foam and polyurea “continuously for 50 minutes to an hour then applicators had to stop to unclog the gun. We decided that was not right,” said Waterhouse.
He said the firm’s goal was to ensure machines spent more time spraying and “less time in repair,” said Waterhouse. To help improve productivity Graco developed a troubleshooting system which gives applicator real time operational guidance, said Waterhouse.
In addition, recipes for mixing the materials can now be accessed by the machine directly, removing the requirement for a machine user to input the specifications needed for the job. Waterhouse added: “The goal was to create a system that would get them up and running faster in the event of a problem.”
A key feature across the Elite range of machines is its In-site on-board computer. Michael Nash, Graco’s sales manager US, Eire, Middle East and Africa, said that this remotely accesses and stores up to 24 recipes and references the material producers’ recipe and application parameters.
This reduces the danger of operator error since the machine calculates and monitors the proportions of materials in use. Issues critical to processing fluids – the correct heat, flow pressure and ratios – have been automated, Waterhouse added.
In addition, Waterhouse said, this gives contractors the comfort that, if a problem arises with the foam or coating after the job is complete, the machine can produce a data report detailing production its parameters.
“This development,” said Waterhouse, “allows you to show your customer that you applied a quality foam product.”
If the machine starts to malfunction its Advanced Display Module generates a troubleshooting code as well as a QR code which can be read by a smartphone. The QR code directs the operator to the Graco’s website where help is available.
The Reactor2 Elite collects information and collates it through a mobile phone network. Users with a smart phone or internet-enabled computer can see receive a real-time activity feed for the machine.
Mix heads from other manufacturers are compatible with Graco’s new Reactor2 Elite range but the amount of control they offer and information that can be retrieved from them is more limited than specifically designed heads, said GRACO. The firm said its new mix heads give information about, pressure and temperature.
All Graco’s electric Reactor 2 models feature a Resistance Temperature Detector sensor and Sacrificial Surge Protector (SSP). The RTD is designed so that if sensors become damaged they stop transmitting and send an error message.
According to Nash, operators can continue spraying in manual mode after the error message. He said the change tackled the problem of a degraded signals being sent by damaged sensors which would, in turn, cause temperature variations said Nash.
Spray foam is applied in real world situations and it is not always possible to guarantee the stability of power supply to the machines. Graco said it has added a new Sacrificial Surge Protector which can handle voltage spikes.
Previous versions of the machine suffered because spikes in its power feed could disrupt flow rates and, in a worst case-scenario, could stop the machine from working.
Traditionally, spray machines have required trailers or large vans to get to contract sites. Graco’s Reactor2 Elite machines need around 40% less space and are lighter in weight.
The more upright aspect has enabled Graco to move the machine’s electronic systems to head height. This helps to keep them freer from dust and dirt than previously, said Waterhouse.
The new models also feature a brushless motors which helps to reduce maintenance, he added.
The improved heating capabilities of Graco’s integrated systems range is that it allows spraying to start sooner said Nash.
Graco’s integrated system version, i-Reactor 2 creates its own heat energy by using its diesel engine’s waste heat. Waste heat is used to pre-heat the material to be sprayed. This level of heating is often sufficient for many materials. Other models come with 4kW heating systems for high density polyurethane and polyurea systems.
Additional heater energy is not required for some spray foams and even high density foams or polyurea can be heated to specification with a heat power source as little as 4kW.
Removing a high-power electric generator from the Reactor2 E-30i removed the need for a high voltage generator, Nash said.
The Reactor2 E-30i’s generator represents a near 50% reduction in the requirement for power, said Nash, consequently, the new model’s diesel engine is smaller than it was, he added.
The reduction in diesel consumption is typically 30% to 50% depending whether it is a foam or polyurea machine, Nash added.
The new machines are being produced and distributed from the US.