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This article was originally published in Global Pipeline Monthly (GPM).

In 2010, GPM was incorporated into the Pipelines International Digest.

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February 2010

by Wayne Duncan Altus Engineering, Nisku, Alberta, Canada

PPLICATION OF PLURAL component coatings for field rehabilitation projects is normally done manually using fixed ratio or variable ratio metering units. Even the most experienced coating applicators have a great deal of difficulty maintaining a uniform coating thickness over the entire surface to be coated. Subsequent inspection may find high and low thickness readings resulting in rework to obtain the desire result. Traditional fixed ratio metering units frequently have no metering ratio control for automatic shutdown if the system goes off ratio. Even the newer variable ratio metering equipment only verifies ratio by counting pump strokes which does not monitor the deterioration of pump packings or valve seats. Automation of the application process by using a line travel applicator has greatly improved the accuracy of the coating operation. Continuous monitoring of the flow rates of both components provides immediate feedback on metering ratio of the pump unit. Flow rate is also used to determine application speed insuring consistent coating application thicknesses. A patented dual pressure purge system uses Argon to purge the mixed coating material from the coatings lines, eliminating the need for solvent cleaning of the lines every time the unit stops. This also permits the unit to stop and restart at any point on the line without affecting the quality of coating application. This paper goes into the details of how the systems works and the data than can be accumulated to document all the aspects of the coating operation.

LURAL COMPONENT COATING systems such as Polyurethane and Epoxy coatings consist of two components that are mixed together at a specific ratio and applied using airless hot-spray equipment. Often these coatings are solvent free, consisting of 100 percent solids. The two-components, referred to as component A and component B are stored in separate containers and have an extended shelf life. Once component A and component B are mixed together in the prescribed ratio, a chemical reaction begins that will ultimately cause the material to adhere to the substrate, harden and become the desired corrosion barrier. This is a curing process as opposed to a drying process brought

about by the evaporation of solvents or water contained in the coating. This curing is not instantaneous but occurs over time and passes through several stages. The curing of the coating material creates problems for airless hot-spray application.

Airless hot-spray application system

An airless hot-spray application system is shown in Fig.1. There are many manufacturers of this equipment and numerous variations but the principals of operation are all the same.

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Automation of field application of plural component coatings to improve accuracy, productivity, and provide documentation of the coating operation

Global Pipeline Monthly

Feed pumps and supply system

A drum of Component A, which is typically pasty at ambient temperature, is heated by an electric heater (bottom plate or drum belt) to about 50C. At this temperature the viscosity of component A significantly decreases and becomes similar to that of component B. Component B, typically liquid at ambient temperature, usually requires no extra heating prior to pumping into the device. Both components are transported from the drum to the high pressure dosing pumps by individual material feed pumps and material hoses. In general the feed pumps are pneumatically operated piston pumps.

(electrically, by hot water, etc.). In the mixing block, the two components are mixed by a static mixer. The chemically reacting two component blend then passes through a high pressure hose. Various types of manually or mechanically controlled spray guns can be connected to the dispensing hose. The mixing block also has a flushing system to pump out the mixed material when spraying has to be temporarily interrupted or stopped. A powerful solvent flushing or purging pump is activated when the system is set to flushing mode and the spray gun trigger is pressed. The mixed material is forced out by the solvent, which also flushes and rinses all system components, which were in contact with the processed material, like the static mixer, the high-pressure hose and the spray gun. This flushing process is intended to prevent blocking of the device by cured material.

Preparation of components
The high pressure dosing pumps are the core element of the spraying device. There are different systems which are mainly based on combinations of pumps with different volumes or pumps with different stroke length and/or stroke speed. The dosing pumps pressurize the material to the operational spraying pressure of at least 3000 psi. In separate lines and in exact proportions of mixing ratio, the two components are pushed through the high pressure fluid heaters and gauge to the mixing block.

The line-travel coating applicator

The coating applicator, shown in Fig.2, provides rapid line travel coating application of these plural component coating systems. The applicator uses two oscillating airless spray guns that apply the coating at a fixed stand-off from the pipe. The applicator control system is a highly sophisticated, PC based, electronic control system that monitors and controls the operation of the unit. The program runs on a Siemens PC677 computer with a 12-inch touch screen. The program can also be run on a laptop computer connected to the system computer using an internal WIFI router.

Mixing and processing

The mixing block includes valves to open and close or to bypass the fluid lines. In case the mixing block is placed in a certain distance from the machine, the hose package is heated

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February 2010

Fig.1. Airless hot-spray system.

Flow rate considerations

Obtaining accurate flow rates of components A and B is fundamental to monitoring and controlling any hot spray operation. If you know the flow rate of component A and Component B you can obtain the actual metering ration of the two components. When you sum the two flow rates, you have the combined flow rate of the coating material. All of the commonly used hot spray systems on the market today (Graco, Wiwa, etc.) simply count piston strokes to obtain the flow rates. This method ignores the possibility of damaged or worn out packing and the condition of valves and seats. At best, these methods only give you an indication of the total amount of material sprayed. The only accurate way to measure actual flow is by using flow meters on both the component A and B sides. Each flow meter totalizes the flow for a period of time. The time interval can be adjusted in the software. We use the time interval of 1/10 second. This raw data is then smoothed out through an averaging routine. All commonly used hot spray
Fig.2. Line travel coating applicator unit.

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Global Pipeline Monthly

Fig.3. Control panel screen shot.

systems use positive displacement pumps to meter the material. When the pump reaches the end of the stroke, called the crossover, all flow stops momentarily as the pump reverses direction. To avoid erratic readings the software provides a running average of 50 readings. Knowing the actual f low rate of both the A and B components allows you to calculate the metering ratio. This is then compared against the coating manufactures specified ratio and tolerance. For example Protegol UR 32-45R has a metering ration of 3.0:1 +/- 5% . If the calculated ratio is between 2.85: 1 and 3.15:1 the coating ratio is acceptable. Our software allows us to raise an alarm when the actual ratio varies by more than 3%. In addition, we can tell the operator which components pump is going bad. Knowing the flow rate, along with some entered parameters allows us to automatically control the coating application. The technician enters the following information on the settings screen shown in Fig.3: Spray pattern width Spray loss (overspray) Pipe diameter Coating thickness Number of passes to be used to apply the coating

The Oscillating Speed is determined by: Os = KoRdFP (1 - L ) SwTD (1)

The line travel speed can then be determined by this equation

Ts = Kt

F (1 - L ) TD


The computer then converts these values into current frequencies that become input to the variable frequency drives controlling oscillation and line travel drive motors. The oscillation drive assembly is shown in Fig.4 and the line travel drive assembly is shown in Fig.5.

The flip mechanism

The spray guns are designed to rotate away from the pipe at about a 45 degree from the perpendicular spraying position. The rotation of each gun is created by two air cylinders. One cylinder causes the gun to rotate in a clockwise direction, the other cylinder causes the gun to rotate in a counterclockwise direction.

Symbol F Sw L D T P Os Ko Ts Kt Rd

Description Source flow rate flow meter spray pattern width operator input spray loss operator input pipe diameter operator input coating thickness operator input number of passes required operator input oscillation speed (chain speed) calculated constant oscillation speed travel speed calculated constant travel speed rotating degrees (actual rotating degrees) operator input

Units (Metric) l/min m % m mm none m/min 9.549 m/min 0.318 degrees

Units (US) gal/min ft % ft mils none ft/min 50.546 ft/min 510.57 degrees

February 2010

There are two purposes for the flip motion. The first is to direct the gun away from the pipe while the oscillation drive is ramping down and then ramping up when changing directions. This will prevent excess material from building up at these points and is intended to mimic the hand motion of an applicator when he reaches the end of a stroke. The unit has two spray guns. Gun 1 coats the side of the pipe closest to metering equipment. Gun 2 coats the side of the pipe farthest from the metering equipment. When Gun 1 approaches the 12:00 position a signal causes the solenoid to operate the cylinder causing the gun to rotate clockwise. The signal coincides with the signal to ramp down the oscillating motor prior to changing direction. The signal is broken once the motor direction is reversed and the motor starts to ramp back up. Once the signal is broken, the double acting cylinder reverses and the spray tip returns to the perpendicular spraying position. Similarly when gun 1 reaches the 6:00 reversal, the second solenoid operated cylinder causes Gun 1 to rotate counter-clockwise in the same manner as described above. See Fig.6. The flip mechanism is also employed at the start of the spraying operation and at the stopping of the spraying. Prior to the start of the spraying operation, Gun 1 is at the 3:00 position and is rotated counter-clockwise. Gun 2 is at the 9:00 position and is rotated counter-clockwise. This results in both guns pointing in a downward direction. When the spraying operation starts (component A and B open), an electric timer is started. The duration of the time delay is an operator input to the system. The purpose of this delay is to

allow the material to reach the spray gun tip and would essentially be the volume of the hoses divided by the flow rate of the metering pump. Once the delay is over, the guns are rotated to the spraying position (i.e. the signal to the solenoid controlling the rotation is broken). At the same time, oscillation begins at the rate indicated by the pump flow rate. See Fig.7. The guns are shown in their flipped position in Fig.8.

Purging problems
Automated airless hot-spray systems usually require frequent starting and stopping of the coating application. Each time the application must be stopped, the system is flushed with solvent as described above to prevent the coating material from curing up in the lines containing the mixed materials. During the flushing operation you now have a combination of mixed material and solvent coming out of the spray tip. This combination of coating material and solvent cannot be allowed to go on to the properly coated surface. If this were to happen all contaminated coating would have to be removed from the surface. The lines are full of solvent after flushing. When the spray is restarted, the first material out of the lines is a mixture of solvent and coating material. This must not be allowed to come in contact with the substrate to be coated as it would cause a defect in the coating.

Fig.5. Coating applicator line travel drive.

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Fig.4. Coating applicator oscillation drive.

Global Pipeline Monthly

Fig.6 (left). Gun flip mechanism during coating. Fig.7 (above). Gun flip mechanism at start and stop.

Finally, the use of solvents in field spraying operations can be very difficult for environmental reasons. Proper precautions must be taken to contain any solvent used in the flushing operation. Any solvent that escapes into the environment must be cleaned up.

The solvent does not contact the pipe and can be collected to prevent environmental contamination.

Data collection
The real benefit of this automation is in the collection and evaluation of data. We are able to record all of the operating parameters such as actual metering ratio, flow rate, oscillation speed, line travel speed, operating pressures and GPS coordinates that establish location. The data can be analyzed to find areas that should be checked by QC. For example, if the data collected indicated an area where the coating ratio was close to the maximum tolerance, an inspector can target that area for a more thorough examination to insure the coating cured properly. From the contractors standpoint, the data establishes that the coating was properly applied. From the pipeline owners standpoint, the data becomes a permanent part of the pipeline record and can be used to enforce coating performance warranty provisions.

Patented device
The patented device is a system for using compressed gas for flushing mixed plural component coatings from hoses, and other system components in contact with the mixed material. It is intended for use in automated plural component coating application systems. The patented device replaces the mixing block, flush pump, spray gun and associated hoses shown in Fig.1. The patented device is shown schematically in Fig.9. A description of the items shown iin the table (right). Any inert compressed gas can be used. We selected Argon as it is used in automated welding and is normally readily available on the right of way. A cylinder of Argon normally costs around $14.00. We will use about of the bottle each day (from 4000 psi down to 2000 psi). The contractor can use the heel in the automated welding process. A solvent flush system is available to clean out the system during extended down times such as coffee and lunch breaks.

Automating the coating application process has provided many advantages:

Fig.8. Gun flip mechanism - guns in flipped position.

February 2010

Compressed Gas Cylinder Regulator 1 Pressure Transducer 1 Regulator 2 Pressure Transducer 2 Valve 1 Operator 1 Valve 2 Operator 2

Pressure when full should be at least 4000 psi Reduces pressure to desired high pressure flush (as much as 2000 psi) Pressure Transducer records pressure of gas. Reading monitored by Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Error condition when pressure drops below desired level. Reduces pressure of gas to desired low pressure flush (as little as 150 psi) Pressure Transducer records pressure of low pressure flush gas. Reading monitored by Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Error condition when pressure exceeds desired level. 2 position ball valve for high pressure flush Operator, 90 degrees, operates V1 (open-closed) 2 position ball valve for low pressure flush Operator, 90 degrees, operates V2 (open-closed)

Fig.9. Control system flow diagram.

Monitoring the flow rate of the two components allows real time determination of the metering ratio and an automatic shutdown when out of tolerance. Using the flow rate we can precisely apply the coating at the desired thickness minimizing rework for out of tolerance thicknesses and reducing coating material costs. Flip mechanism prevents build-up at the 6:00 and 12:00 position and allows precise stopping and starting of the coating operation.

Patented purge system greatly reduces the need for solvents and clean-up of discharged solvents. Data collection aids inspection and provides confirmation that the coating was applied according to specification. Reduces the number of people required. Dumbs-down the application process, allowing less skilled people to perform the work.

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