Transport yourself back to the 1960s for a moment: NASA’s Apollo Space Program was at its zenith, everything from cars to toasters were being modeled after the sleekness of jets and rockets, and all eyes were turned to the moon. Technology was skyrocketing, too, in the world of spray finishing systems.
“The year of the Apollo spacecraft was 1966, and, in fact, our first sprayer looked like the Apollo spacecraft,” says Bill Boxer, vice president of sales for Apollo Sprayers, International. “That’s how our company got its name.”
Apollo’s founder, John B. Darroch Sr., had previous affiliation with a company that began manufacturing turbospray systems in Birmingham, England. When the Englishman immigrated his family to California in the late 1970s and set up shop, John Sr. established Apollo Sprayers in Vista, California, where the company is still headquartered today. Now, 50 years later, Apollo makes some 15 different models of award-winning HVLP spray systems for hobbyists and pro woodworking shops, plus custom and private label systems for OEM.
Up until 1999, John Sr. ran the company, then his son John A. Darroch Jr. took over the day-to-day operations of Apollo, as company president and CEO. He’s headed it ever since.
Boxer says John Jr. has never been a stranger to the family business. “He’s worked every aspect around the factory since he was 13, and he still does!”
Among those many responsibilities, John leads Apollo Sprayer’s in-house research and development, with the assistance of additional independent engineering consultants — some of whom have been associated with Apollo for 35 years. Apollo also maintains close ties with various paint and coating manufacturers and other industries that are involved with turbospray technology.
While the 60s space race is the stuff of history now, HVLP technology continues to be a competitive business, and Apollo is a leader in the 21st-century “sprayer race.” Apollo’s current product line is the pedigree of numerous industry firsts. Among them:
• Apollo designed and manufactured the first turbospray system for professional and industrial use.
• Apollo was the first to seek independent laboratory testing to validate transfer efficiency of its spray systems for paint savings.
• The company introduced turbospray technology to California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, which lead to the acronym “HVLP” and the establishment of spray finishing codes for environmental protection.
Other Apollo milestones on the HVLP front have included larger turbine motors to handle higher viscosity coatings; a patented dual-turbine motor unit that produces maximum atomizing pressure for high viscosity coatings and small production capability; and the first dual-capable HVLP spray gun that works either on a turbospray system or an air compressor as HVLP.
“We introduced the first HVLP spray gun with high-grade stainless steel fluid passages to accommodate water base coatings,” Boxer adds. “And, with our Atomizer 7500 model, we were the first to provide an HVLP gun with multiple cup configurations — bottom cup, gravity cup or production with no cup and fluid hose to pressure pot.”
If you’ve shopped for an HVLP system for your shop, you’re probably familiar with Apollo’s ECO series, which includes three-, four- and five-stage models. Boxer says the ECO line is ideal for small-shop finishers and hobbyists. In terms of quality, ECO spray systems use the same professional turbospray motors as the company’s professional POWER and PRECISION series units do.
“Our ECO options are designed to provide the serious amateur finisher as well as the occasional or semi-professional finisher with an affordable option without sacrificing performance.”
But maybe you’ve only considered HVLP spray finishing at this point. Many woodworkers are reluctant to take the plunge because spraying seems too complex. Boxer says, it’s not as hard as we newbies might think.
“It’s like using a brush, except you have a spray gun in hand. You’re brushing with a spray gun.”
The easiest way to learn the knack, Boxer suggests, is to start by just spraying water on a large piece of cardboard. With no actual project, there’s no risk of mistakes. Then, try spraying a horizontal surface with actual finish in the gun, and work your way to more complex angles and surfaces from there. If you fear the mess and overspray even more than drips and sags, low-pressure turbospraying resolves those shortcomings, too.
“A little practice will wipe away longstanding apprehension and fear,” Boxer reassures.
If you’re ready to invest in one of Apollo’s HVLP spray systems, this year could be the ideal time to do it. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the company is offering a 50-themed special each month of 2016. For example, one month Apollo offered $50 off the advertised price of a spray system or spray gun, or a $50 package of accessories valued at substantially higher price. There are more surprise deals planned for the remaining months of this year, through December.
“Starting around July 1, we’re offering a limited edition gold spray gun to commemorate 50 years in business,” Boxer adds.
And, as Apollo sets its sights on the next half century, Boxer says the horizon is always changing in the spray finishing business. It might be a new motor technology to explore, product development for an industry not yet served, a new spray gun or some new equipment design. Whatever it might be, Apollo Sprayers is passionate about fulfilling its customers’ needs.
“With Apollo, you can always be certain that there will be something new, interesting and exciting! We’re always thinking ahead.”
Learn more about the ECO line of HVLP spray systems, and other Apollo products, by clicking here.