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Frustration with tripod stands leads to development of flexible arm that can be affixed to booth walls via magnets.
The last straw was when Tim Wall accidentally knocked over one of the “Christmas tree stands” or tripods in his booth set up to facilitate the drying of waterborne paint. The stand mounted with air amplifiers fell onto the car Wall was painting, denting the door he was blending. And that’s when he knew there had to be a better way.
This was three years ago. Wall had been forced into painter duty after his regular painter quit due to problems the shop was having adjusting to the transition to waterborne. And that’s when he realized the shortcomings of the tripod stands.
“They were always in my way,” says Wall. “Especially if I was moving down the side of a car, you would have to stop, shut the air valves off and slide it out of the way. Plus, I had to contend with the air hose from my air-supplied respirator I was dragging around with me.”
So Wall started getting quotes from companies to retrofit the booth with an alternative drying system. Wall says one system cost $34,000, and the other was $24,000 to $27,000.
“That just wasn’t an option for us at the time, especially since the recession was in its prime,” he says.
The tripod stands worked well as far as drying the basecoat, but Wall thought they would be even better if he could just swing them out of the way. That’s when he came up with the “Wall Dryer,” a flexible arm with an air amplifier attached to the end that could be affixed to spraybooth walls via magnets.
Wall’s original design had the Wall Dryer bolted to the spraybooth wall, but he soon discovered magnets worked better. The development process, which consisted of three different designs, took two years, and most of the work was geared toward making it more user friendly. Once he enlisted the help of one of his body technicians to build a prototype, he started using them in his booth and found that they worked great.
“I brought in a few people from the industry to come by and check them out and they said I would be crazy not to patent this and that I could make millions,” says Wall.
Wall took their advice, got a patent and took on the production of the Wall Dryer in his own shop, dedicating an entire bay to it.
“If it really takes off, we’ll have to add on to the current facility or set up production in a different facility,” says Wall.
And that just might happen. Wall has already received an order from a distributor for 1,000 units, and he is currently looking for more distributors, jobbers and warehouses to carry the product.
Wall estimates he has invested almost $20,000 into turning the Wall Dryer from an idea to reality, and feels the sky is the limit as far as future sales.
“Was my idea to get rich off this? I would love to retire off this, but I don’t foresee that,” Wall says. “I probably wouldn’t retire but keep on investing in it. It has done wonders for my crew here at the shop. A couple guys have actually come up with other ideas here that we may end up doing once [the Wall Dryer] gets going. This could turn into a whole other business because there are some other simple little tools we’ve made for years that some of the guys are now saying, ‘Hey, why don’t we put some patents on these things and see if we can sell them, too?’”
Wall wouldn’t exactly call himself Thomas Edison, but he, like other shop owners, has come up with unique tools in the past to help his shop run more efficiently. For example, he created racks for storing parts that hang from the ceiling, which saves floor space and keeps his 7,000-square-foot shop organized and clean. But the Wall Dryer is the first thing he dreamed up that he actually thought was patentable.
How many Wall Dryers would a typical shop need? Wall recommends 10, which is the number he has in his 15 by 28-foot booth: two in the front, two in the rear and three down each side. With each unit costing less than $200 (not including the air amplifiers), the total cost would be under $2,000.
When Wall initially transitioned to waterborne, dry time was 10 to 12 minutes in the humid environment of Virginia. But now he claims that, in the middle of July and August, the most humid months of the year, dry time has been reduced to three minutes.
“The reason is because you have air flow right at the panel forcing the water out versus having a system where you just have turbulent air that moves around the booth softly,” he says.
The color of the Wall Dryer? Green, of course. “We thought it was perfect because of the whole waterborne concept: earth-friendly and going green."