The concept of the Spray Pod was actually born out of a need to " scratch our own itch ". It was back in 2005 when we saw a need to have a small, portable spray foam equipment that would allow us to spray our new AireBarrier sealant into poultry houses. All of the existing spray equipment that was available was large, complicated and expensive and our goal was to be able to go into buildings, fix them and then get out. We were a maintenance company that was in need of a way go into buildings and fix things.
When we started our very first company, it was called Ag-tite and our major focus was to use spray foam to air seal poultry houses. Of course, we had no idea of what we were doing and we just jumped into the industry not really knowing what questions to ask. Well, that was a HUGE mistake. Our first piece of equipment was a long 30' trailer and a Dodge truck. Here was our first problem. The truck and trailer did not fit into the poultry house so we had to drag a 300' through the entire poultry house, so took tons of time and whole lot of physical effort. At the end of each day, we were beat!
In the photo above, you see our first attempt at building something that would work. We took a Spiider spray machine that was equipped with a Graco Reactor E-20 and was originally designed to spray wine cellars! It was really complicated, had a lot of valves and piping and it was very difficult to work on because it was enclosed in a metal case. Also, because it was all exposed to the elements it really left the entire system vulnerable to tons of down time.
There were many other challenges with this system. We needed a one ( 1 ) ton truck to carry everything on and the air compressor and generator also had to be exposed to the outside elements. We also had to load the 55 gal drums onto truck and at one point, we had one of the drums fall off the truck as we were driving around the farm. Finally, the cost. By the time we rigged the entire system together, we were well over $20,000 and we knew that this was not something that we could duplicate for others.
We realized that we really needed to create a very functional large poultry trailer that could serve as a platform for all of our work. It had to be designed in a way that it would allow our guys to work independently given that poultry farms are out in the middle of nowhere. So we designed and had customer built our own trailer that allowed us to grown our business significantly.
But we did not stop working on the portable spray foam machine idea. It just seemed like a very natural fit for all of the work we were doing, given that most of it was actually small maintenance projects that just required one set of chemical material to get the job done. This cart assembly still used the Graco Reactor E-20 which was the machine that we used all of the time in our trailers. We did like that spray machine because it was good for spraying a lot of AireBarrier Black spray sealants, but when it came to using the Graco E-20 for anything portable, it was really hard to work with.
This was a very interesting design that we played with for a short period of time. Our thought was that we could take a Graco Reactor E-20 and put it into a JobBox. We called it the Spray Cube. It kind of worked because we were able to move it around on wheels and because it was all metal, we could actually lock it up at night.
We also were able to mount it to our truck. Does this look familiar? We were actually able to go out and do some smaller projects with the Spray Cube but there were still some major restrictions to this idea. Because the entire reactor was enclosed in a box, it was very hard to access so repair was difficult. It also really wasn't mobile. Because of the weight, it was very difficult to move around and if we wanted to get it off the truck, we had to use a fork lift. Once again we hit a wall in our thinking as it just seemed like we could not make this work.
Even though we spent most of our time from 2005 - 2009 building the Ag-tite company and it's brand, the need continued to find a portable spray foam machine that would allow us to take our AireBarrier into other markets, not just agriculture. We searched high and low for proportioner that we could use to test the idea and decided on the Graco Reactor E-10. What we saw was that it was equipment that had some of the right features that we were looking for which included heaters, enough pump strength ( 10 lbs/min ) and a control system to operate the system.
The photos you see are of the actual test spray that we performed with the Graco E-10 and our White AireBarrier. We took an entire day to make sure that the system would be balanced if we used different nozzle sizes, changed the temperature setting and then apply the sealant onto many different substrates. At the end of the day, we realized that there was good news and bad news with using the E-10. The good news was that overall, the machine worked. The bad news is that it was clear that we needed to make improvements in order to make it work for us.
Once we had decided on the Graco E-10, we knew that we had to then start the hard work of taking that machine and upgrading it so that it would be more productive and functional. That took a lot of time and money because we basically had to take a brand new Graco E-10 and break it down to it's basic parts and then rebuild it again. The task was not easy.
Once we got the Graco E-10 broken down to it's raw parts, then we had to begin to build the Spray Pod 1.0 by starting with our new frame. Like anything else that you do when you are creating something new, we realized very quickly that this was going to take many different iterations because we saw opportunities to constantly improve the design once we started to add the new components to the system.
So the work continued and so too the cost of our development of what we were officially calling the Spray Pod 1.0. The photos above and below shows our first attempt to upgrade the Graco E-10. You can see that these photos actually show the same original small wheels and an unheated hose. Because the basic Graco E-10 was not a fully heated system, then we had to figure out how to integrate a heated hose and then regulate the temperature.
The photo below shows the next series of upgrades including larger 15" wheels, a gravity fed recirculation system and the heated hose integration. The very encouraging part of this version was that it was simple, easy to move around and it would give us a fully balanced heated chemical throughout the entire system, much like the large spray foam equipment operated.
We then moved the entire Spray Pod 1.0 into our own trailer which we felt was a great way to move the machine and chemicals around, especially in a harsh environment like an agricultural or industrial job site. We immediately started to use the Spray Pod 1.0 in our own contracting company to prove out the ability of this machine to make money which is the ultimate test of any new idea.
This photo shows one of our first " road trips " which we took with both the Spray Pod 1.0 and our newly designed Spray Pod Trailer. We wanted both of these system to work as an integrated system so that if a company wanted a complete package then they could just get everything from one source. Remember, we were still basically involved in only the agriculture/poultry market so our complete focus was on how to make a spray platform that could function in that environment.
Like any other good idea, it's always a work in progress and so we decided to go to the next level and determine if there was a way to create a platform that we could scale. We were getting calls from other companies, asking us if we could build them a Spray Pod 1.0, so we began to work on how to manufacture this platform on a limited production run.
The ultimate goal back then was to use the K.I.S.S. concept and to Keep It Simple, Stupid. That was true for what we were trying to achieve as a manufacturer and as an operator. If the machine was not easy to operate, clean and maintain then we had not been successful. So we got to a point where we understood that we needed to now build our own frame and cart in order to make the production of the Spray Pod 1.0 more streamlined and operate in a more lean manufacturing process. The goal was to create a plug and play design that would allow us to bolt on the major components onto the frame so that we could build a Spray Pod 1.0 quickly.
We made a lot of progress in the summer of 2011 and once we had mapped out our progress, we came to a decision point. Was it time to bring this platform to the general market? While we knew that this would be a " slow launch ", we made the decision to give the project a green light so we began to build out the necessary marketing information to prepare for that launch.
With all of the time and money that has gone into the concept of a Spray Pod 1.0, it was also time to begin to protect the idea. Many of the concepts that we wanted to implement into the design of the Spray Pod 1.0 came out of a frustration in our own operation of a spray business and many of these lessons were expensive. The application for a Patent tells anyone who is looking at a Spray Pod that we are serious about what we do and where we are going and that we want to protect our investment.
In line with our philosophy of providing an entire integrated system, when we launched we offered a portfolio of other accessories in order to complete the spray platform. This is in fact where we first got the idea of creating a platform approach for our business model. In the end, we did sell the Spray Pod 1.0, both as a stand alone spray foam machine and also as a platform. All of those sales went into the agriculture/poultry industry and some and perhaps most are still in operation today.
The Spray Pod 1.0 was launched in October, 2012 for estimated price of around $18,000. Since that introduction, most of the machines that have been purchased have been in the agricultural market for spraying the current version of the AireBarrier. We see the Spray Pod 1.0 to first of a new generation of portable spray foam equipment which will bring an affordable solution to many of the building envelope issue that are faced today.
The proper use of an air barrier to seal cracks has proven to significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, improve building durability and create a healthier indoor environment. Currently, that spray technology has been offered only to large commercial building projects. Until now. Markets such as existing residential houses and even agricultural buildings can be air sealed at a very affordable price.
The Spray Foam Hybrid allows the operator to apply spray foams, air barriers and even air seal existing residential houses in a very affordable and seamless way. This spray foam hybrid system allows the business to focus on doing what they do best, which is to make money. Do you have a house or a building that is in need of retrofitting? Why not add energy efficiency to that project? The Spray Foam Hybrid is a low pressure spray foam system that uses high pressure formulations.
The Spray Sealants Gun for Canisters allows for application of spray sealants from a 10 lb or 16 lb Canister. This means that all of those larger projects that used to require a foam kit, can now be applied faster and more affordably. Also, because the Spray Sealants Gun volume can be controlled through the air compressor you can change the amount of material that you are spraying in a matter of seconds.