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  • History of the Spray Booth

1.1.1 The History of the Spray Booth


The genesis of the spray booth came about through the effects of several inventions during the late 1800's. In 1887 maintenance supervisor Joseph Binks invented a cold-water paint spraying machine to apply whitewash to the subbasement walls of his employer, Chicago's Marshall Field & Co department store. The next year Civil War veteran Dr. Allen DeVilbiss invented the atomizer for medical use. The road from these inventions more than a century ago to today's sophisticated finishing systems is a dramatic one.




The spray gun developed from those concepts as early as 1907. It was a timely idea since Henry Ford introduces his Model T the next year and mass production was just starting to evolve. The spraying of paint was first used in the furniture industry.




When spray guns were first used on the assembly line, finishing times were slashed to just eight days. Then, DuPont introduced nitrocellulose lacquer, derived from a plentiful supply of World War I surplus gun cotton. The advantage of this unique new lacquer was its fast drying time that cut the finishing times down even more.

The new material proved virtually impossible to apply with a brush, but it was discovered that spray guns could transfer the lacquer smoothly and quickly. Finishing operations could now be completed in just 3 days, and the spraying of paint replaced hand brushing, a revolutionary automotive achievement. Detroit rapidly emerged as the largest single consumer of paint spray equipment.




Natural products filling the expanding needs of the finishing industry came after that first spray gun, including exhaust canopies, like that shown on the right, which we now know as spray booths. In order for the companies making spray application systems to sell their products, they found it to their advantage to design and build overspray collection systems integrated with their spray equipment, usually for very specific industrial and automotive manufacturing applications. That in turn spawned technologies we now take for granted in spray booth design, such as water wash,downdraft airflow and many others.





"Air wash" used to be the phrase that described what we know today as dry filter technology. How many other changes have there been? In these images one can see the awareness developing for finish quality improvement and other improvements as well. For example, only a few of the old pictures show painters or applications specialists using respirators or other protection. Today, manufacturers and other employers must comply with strict regulations concerning worker safety and health. Moreover, there have been vast changes to what finishers can exhaust into the planet's air or other ecological systems.

Spray booths and their systems have been critical to our hemisphere's development and defense for nearly a century. They appear in every type of industry imaginable, not only here, but all over the world, and their enhancement of the products produced has meant a higher quality of life for everyone


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