|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Paints and coatings are an important part of most products. In manufacturing, everything from cars to candy is covered by either paint, plastic, varnish, chocolate, or some special coating solution. Often the paints and coatings are merely intended to enhance the products' appeal to consumers, as with the chocolate coating on candy. More often, however, the protection provided by the paint or coating is essential to the product, as with the coating of insulating material covering wires and other electrical and electronic components. Many paints and coatings have dual purposes, such as the paint finish on an automobile, which heightens the visual appearance of the vehicle while providing protection from corrosion.
Painting and coating machine operators control the machinery and equipment that applies these paints and coatings to a wide range of manufactured products. These workers use several basic methods to apply paints and coatings to manufactured articles. For example, dippers immerse racks or baskets of articles in vats of paint, liquid plastic, or other solutions using a power hoist. Tumbling barrel painters deposit articles of porous materials in a barrel of paint, varnish, or other coating, which is then rotated to insure thorough coverage.
Commonly, paints and coatings are applied by spraying the article with a solution. Spray-machine operators use spray guns to coat metal, wood, ceramic, fabric, paper, and food products with paint and other coating solutions. Following a formula, operators fill the equipment's tanks with a mixture of paints or chemicals, adding prescribed amounts or proportions. They screw nozzles onto the spray guns and adjust them to obtain the proper dispersion of the spray, and hold or position the guns to direct the spray onto the article. The pressure of the spray is regulated by adjusting valves. Operators check the flow and viscosity of the paint or solution and visually inspect the quality of the coating. They may also regulate the temperature and air circulation in drying ovens.
In response to concerns about air pollution and worker safety, manufacturers are increasingly using new types of paints and coatings on their products instead of high-solvent paints. Water-based paints and powder coatings are two of the most common. These compounds do not emit as many volatile organic compounds into the air and can be applied to a wide variety of products. Powder coatings are sprayed much like liquid paints and heated to melt and cure the coating.
The switch to new types of paints is often accompanied by a conversion to newer, more automated painting equipment that the operator sets and monitors. Operators position the automatic spray guns, set the nozzles, and synchronize the action of the guns with the speed of the conveyor carrying articles through the machine and drying ovens. The operator may also add solvents or water to the paint vessel that prepares the paint for application. During operation, the operator attends the painting machine, observes gauges on the control panel and randomly checks articles for evidence of any variation of the coating from specifications. The operator then "touches up" spots where necessary, using a spray gun.
Painting and coating machine operators use various types of spray machines to coat a wide range of products. Often their job title reflects the specialized nature of the machine or the coating being applied. For example, paper coating machine operators spray "size" on rolls of paper to give it its gloss or finish. Silvering applicators spray silver, tin, and copper solutions on glass in the manufacture of mirrors. Enrobing machine operators coat, or "enrobe," confectionery, bakery, and other food products with melted chocolate, cheese, oils, sugar, or other substances.
Although the majority of painting and coating machine operators are employed in manufacturing, the best known group of them work in automotive body repair and paint shops refinishing old and damaged cars, trucks, and buses. Automotive painters are among the most highly skilled manual spray operators because they often have to mix paint to match the original color, which can be very difficult, particularly if the color has faded.
To prepare a vehicle for painting, automotive painters or their helpers use power sanders and sandpaper to remove the original paint or rust, and then fill small dents and scratches with body filler. They also remove or mask parts they do not want painted, such as chrome trim, headlights, windows, and mirrors. Automotive painters use a spray gun to apply several coats of paint. They apply lacquer, enamel, or water-based primers to vehicles with metal bodies, and flexible primers to newer vehicles with plastic body parts. Controlling the spray gun by hand, they apply successive coats until the finish of the repaired sections of the vehicle matches that of the original undamaged portions. To speed drying between coats, they may place the freshly painted vehicle under heat lamps or in a special infrared oven. After each coat of primer dries, they sand the surface to remove any irregularities and to improve the adhesion of the next coat. Final sanding of the primers may be done by hand with a fine grade of sandpaper. A sealer is then applied and allowed to dry, followed by the final topcoat. When lacquer is used, painters or their helpers usually polish the finished surface after the final coat has dried; enamel dries to a high gloss and usually is not polished.
Painting and coating machine operators work indoors and may be exposed to dangerous fumes from paint and coating solutions. Many operators wear masks or respirators that cover their nose and mouth, and painting is usually done in special ventilated booths that protect the operators from these hazards. The Clean Air Act of 1990 has led to a decrease in workers' exposure to hazardous chemicals by regulating emissions of volatile organic compounds from paints and other chemicals.
Operators have to stand for long periods of time and, when using a spray gun, they may have to bend, stoop, or crouch in uncomfortable positions to reach all parts of the article. Most operators work a normal 40-hour week, but self-employed automotive painters sometimes work more than 50 hours a week, depending on the number of vehicles customers bring in to be repainted.
Painting and coating machine operators held about 155,000 jobs in 1994. Eighty percent worked in manufacturing establishmentsin the production of fabricated metal products, motor vehicles and related equipment, industrial machines, household and office furniture, and plastics, wood, and paper products, for example. Other workers included automotive painters employed by independent automotive repair shops and body repair and paint shops operated by retail automotive dealers. Five percent of painting and coating machine operators were self-employed; most of these were automotive painters.
Most painting and coating machine operators acquire their skills on the job, usually by watching and helping experienced operators. For most operators, training lasts from a few days to several months. However, becoming skilled in all aspects of automotive painting usually requires 1 to 2 years of on-the-job training.
Most automotive painters start as helpers and gain their skills informally by working with experienced painters. Beginning helpers usually remove trim, clean and sand surfaces to be painted, mask surfaces that they do not want painted, and polish finished work. As helpers gain experience, they progress to more complicated tasks, such as mixing paint to achieve a good match and using spray guns to apply primer coats or final coats to small areas.
Painters should have keen eyesight and a good color sense. Completion of high school is generally not required but is advan-tageous. Additional instruction is offered at many community colleges and vocational or technical schools. Such programs enhance one's employment prospects and can speed promotion to the next level.
Some employers sponsor training programs to help their workers become more productive. This training is available from manufacturers of chemicals, paints, or equipment or from other private sources. It may include safety and quality tips and knowledge of products, equipment, and general business practices. Some automotive painters are sent to technical schools to learn the intricacies of mixing and applying different types of paint.
Voluntary certification by ASE (the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) is recognized as the standard of achievement for automotive painters. For certification, painters must pass a written examination and have at least 2 years of experience in the field. High school, trade or vocational school, or community or junior college training in automotive painting and refinishing may substitute for up to 1 year of experience. To retain certification, painters must retake the examination at least every 5 years.
Experienced painting and coating machine operators with leadership ability may advance to supervisory jobs. Those who acquire practical experience or college or other formal training may become sales or technical representatives to large customers or for chemical or paint companies. Some automotive painters open their own shops.
Little change is expected in the employment of painting and coating machine operators through the year 2005, as technological improvements enable these operators to work more productively. Nevertheless, several thousand jobs will become available each year as employers replace experienced operators who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
In manufacturing, employment of painting and coating machine operators is expected to decline, reflecting the increasing automation of paint and coating application. Improvements in the capabilities of industrial robots allow them to move and aim spray guns more like humans. As the cost of these machines continues to fall, they will be more widely used. The Clean Air Act of 1990, which sets limits on the emissions of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds, also is reducing the demand for operators in manufacturing. As firms switch to water-based and powder coatings to comply with the law, many are upgrading their equipment to increase the efficiency of the painting process. In fact, the powder coating process alone is much more efficient for work on assembly lines than liquid sprays because no drying time is required between coats and fewer operators are needed for touch-up painting. The expected employment decline resulting from these trends will be moderated, however, as painting and coating machine operators assume emissions monitoring and recording responsibilities.
Employment of these workers in the auto repair industry will grow slowly, as the improved quality of car finishes and the increasing use of nonrusting alloys slow the growth in demand for refinishing services. The employment outlook for skilled automotive painters, however, should remain bright.
The number of job openings for painting and coating machine operators may fluctuate from year to year due to cyclical changes in economic conditions. When demand for manufactured goods slackens, production may be suspended or reduced, and workers may be laid off or face a shortened workweek. Automotive painters, on the other hand, can expect relatively steady work because automobiles damaged in accidents require repair and refinishing regardless of the state of the economy.
Painting and coating machine operators who usually worked full time had median weekly earnings of $370 in 1994. The middle 50 percent had usual weekly earnings between $280 and $560, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $750 weekly. Beginning automotive painter apprentices usually start at about half the hourly rate of fully qualified painters. As they progress, their wages gradually approach those of experienced automotive painters. Helpers start at lower wage rates than beginning apprentices.
Many automotive painters employed by automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission based on the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this method, earnings depend largely on the amount of work a painter does and how fast it is completed. Employers frequently guarantee commissioned painters a minimum weekly salary. Helpers and apprentices usually receive an hourly rate until they become sufficiently skilled to work on a commission basis. Trucking companies, bus lines, and other organizations that repair their own vehicles usually pay by the hour.
Many painting and coating machine operators belong to unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades; the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Most union operators work for manufacturers and the larger automobile dealers.
Other occupations in which workers apply paints and coatings include construction and maintenance painters, electrolytic metal platers, and hand painting, coating, and decorating occupations.
For more details about work opportunities, contact local manufacturers, automotive-body repair shops, automotive dealers, and vocational schools; locals of the unions previously mentioned; or the local office of the State employment service. The State employment service also may be a source of information about training programs.
For general information about a career as an automotive painter, write to:
Automotive Service Industry Association, 25 Northwest Point, Suite 425, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1035.
Automotive Service Association, Inc., P.O. Box 929, Bedford, TX 76021-0929.
Information on how to become a certified automotive painter is available from:
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), 13505 Dulles Technology Dr., Herndon, VA 22071-3415.
|Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|