The history of the spray booth dates back to the late 1800s, following the invention of the atomizer, which evolved into the first spray gun. Below is an in-depth history of spray guns and paint booths.
The History of Spray Guns & Paint Booths
1887 – Joseph Binks, a maintenance supervisor for Marshall Fields, invents a cold-water paint spraying machine to apply whitewash to walls.
1888 – Seeking a more effective and pleasant method for treating throat infections, Civil War veteran Dr. Allen DeVilbiss invents the medical atomizer. This unique device features a metal jar, hollow rubber ball, small tube and adjustable spray tip.
1890 – As doctors become aware of Dr. DeVilbiss’ invention, the demand for the atomizer grows. The DeVilbiss Company is created and opens its first factory in Toledo, Ohio, for the manufacturing of these medical devices.
1892 – Joseph Binks designs the first cold water, airless paint spraying machine. With the invention of this new equipment, Binks discovers a method for spraying paint onto walls instead of brushing them.
1905 – Tom DeVilbiss, Dr. DeVilbiss’ son, joins the company and starts looking for other applications for the atomizer. He finds that these medical devices are also perfect for spraying women’s perfume. Despite his father’s grumbling that the application was frivolous, Tom adapts his father’s invention for this new use. This product is a great success for the company, and these vintage perfume atomizers and bottles are collector pieces today.
1907 – Tom DeVilbiss invents the first practical compressed air paint spray gun. The spray gun technology finds wide application in the rapidly expanding industrial marketplace, where a high-quality finish is needed for automobiles, appliances and furniture.
1919 – Joseph Binks introduces his first hand spray gun using compressed air, and sells it to a manufacturer to apply carpet dye.
1924 – The 1924 Oakland automobile is the first car to use DuPont’s Duco paint, applied with DeVilbiss spray guns. Prior to this, all cars were painted by hand with a brush, using shellacs and varnishes. The paint spraying process is a major breakthrough in the automobile industry, decreasing cycle time from a week to two or three days.
1930s – The earliest prefabricated paint booths — three-wall enclosures with a fan on the back wall — appear sometime in the 1930s. Early paint filters includes cotton, wool, burlap and other fabrics — none of which is fire retardant.
1940s – Following numerous fire and explosion catastrophes, companies start building spray enclosures with metal or cement block. Light fixtures are placed in houses, rather than directly in the path of paint overspray. Automotive paint booths are completely enclosed with product doors on the front of the booth. Common paint filters includes treated paper leafed together and spun fiberglass, which does a better job trapping paint particles and are less flammable.
1950s – Painter health and safety becomes an issue. The invention of downdraft technology is a healthier choice, as harmful paint fumes and vapors are pulled away from the painter and into the floor trench. Although lacquer is the refinish material of choice, many body shops have no real booth. A “paint room” with a fan on one wall suffices for many painters across the country.
1956 – Giovanni Peghin founds Blowtherm S.p.a. in Padua, Italy. The company’s initial focus is burners and air make-up units for residential and commercial heating.