According to Frost & Sullivan, the largest research firm in the United States, the U.S. market for sprayed-on bedliners is expected to grow by an average of more than 10 percent each year through 2004. Translation: There’s big potential for big profits, and its happening quickly.
But before offering sprayed-on bedliners at your shop, you need to make some important decisions on the technical aspects of the bedliner business.
Do you know what type of sprayed-on bedliner you’ll specialize in? Do you know what kind of gun to use? What type of delivery system is best for your shop? What about chemicals, colors and stability? How you answer these questions will play a significant part in the profitability of your bedliner business.
When it comes to bedliners, several systems are available. The main four are do-it-yourself paint types, do-it-yourself roll-ons, the hopper-gun style and polyurethane.
For most shops, the choice is really between the hopper-gun style and polyurethane: With the hopper-gun system, you get a pre-mixed solvented product. This mix goes into the gun, and the technician has about 45 minutes to spray it on the truck bed before the mixture becomes solid in the gun and is unmanageable.
The polyurethane system is the one most widely used. It’s also the most expensive but is relatively easy to apply. With polyurethane there are two basic systems: The heated, high-pressure system that’s sprayed at a 1-to-1 ratio of resin to isocyanate, and the warm, low-pressure system that’s sprayed at a 2-to-1 ratio.
Get the Gun
Though your technicians’ familiarity with spraying paint on cars allows them to easily learn the techniques for applying sprayed-on bedliners, the guns used aren’t related at all to the paint guns they utilize daily.
Which gun type you choose depends on how you wish to apply the sprayed-on coating.
- Low-pressure guns have a static mixing tube. This foot-long plastic tube at the end of the gun causes the isocyanate and resin to swirl vigorously and mix together as they’re ejected from the gun. The mix comes out of the gun almost like a controlled pour. Most low-pressure guns with a static mixing tube have a combination of electronic switches either on the machine or on a belt the operator wears – not on the gun itself. A couple of the low-pressure guns on the market do have an on/off trigger mechanism, which means the sprayer can be shut off at the gun.
- With high-pressure guns, the chemicals are mixed together right at the tip of the gun. All high-pressure guns have the on/off switch at the trigger, making it easier to quickly stop or start the flow. This is important because the mix is coming out very fast.
Because the 1-to-1 ratio of chemicals in the high-pressure gun yield a product that’s very rigid, you’re limited on the texture, which resembles the surface of 80-grit sandpaper. With low-pressure systems, the mixture flows before it sets, leaving a flat, glossy surface. Afterward, if your customer desires, you can add a specific texture.
All polyurethanes are a combination of two chemicals being pushed together, so whether you’re using a high- or low-pressure gun, two pumps are necessary. Each pump pushes its respective ingredient – resin or isocyanate – toward the other, causing them to mix.
Delivery systems vary in their technology. Some have two belt-driven pumps; others have microprocessors built in at many points along the hydraulic system route of the chemicals. These microprocessors allow the system to immediately shut itself down if it detects a problem in the delivery componentry.
There are a few things you may want to consider when it comes to the chemicals you’ll be spraying.
- Isocyanate – With all polyurethanes, isocyanate is one of the two main ingredients. There are various grades of isocyanate. The higher grades are clearer and more expensive, while the lower-grade isocyanates have a yellowish cast to them, which makes spraying colors more difficult.
- Resin – The base of resin is polyol. However, numerous additives go into polyol, and each company has its own blend of additives, which offer different benefits and characteristics to the bedliner.
- UV Stabilizer – All polyurethanes have a tendency to be degraded by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The stabilizer acts like a sunscreen but can be a pretty expensive additive. Adding a quart of UV stabilizer to a 55-gallon drum of chemicals adds 10 percent to the total cost of the drum.
If you want to offer customers color choices for their bedliners, be sure to investigate how easy it is to manufacture color with a company’s product, what colors are available and how stable and long-lasting those colors are.
Spraying on the Profits
With predictions for increased sprayed-on bedliner demand by research companies like Frost & Sullivan, it’s no wonder shop owners are looking into it as a profit center for their shops. There’s no insurer involvement, and the gross profit on each job can be as much as 50 percent.
But before you let figures like that go to your head, be sure to do your homework when it comes to the systems, equipment and chemicals available. Sprayed-on bedliners can certainly enhance your cash flow – but only if you investigate your options and choose wisely.
Writer Mike Lawrence is associate editor of BodyShop Business. Looking for more information on sprayed-on bedliners? Visit www.bodyshopbusiness.com for the article “Technological Innovations in the Bedliner Market.”