A bulletin produced by Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality's
Air Quality Division
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
March 2007
VirtualPaint System - A Beneficial Training System for Spray Technicians

The VirtualPaint training system is an extremely innovative training system for spray technicians. It utilizes state-of-the-art virtual reality technologies, precise software modeling, and a high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray gun. The spray techniques of the user are tracked and projected onto an interactive display. This system allows the user to simulate the application of coatings on a virtual substrate eliminating the need for a paint booth, safety equipment, operational hazards, and hazardous waste and emissions generation. The VirtualPaint training system can be used to evaluate and improve coating techniques for individuals at all skill levels.

System Benefits
The VirtualPaint system has been found to increase the efficiency of transferring coating products to prepared surfaces by 19%. As efficiency increases, the amount of material consumed decreases by 13%. The average car door generally requires 9 coats of various materials, and depending on the paint gun used, may use 25-63 ounces of product and cost between $73-124 for materials alone. Larger commercial projects can easily average $3500-8000 for materials so decreasing material consumption by 13% would provide a potential $450-1050 cost savings.

The VirtualPaint technology has the potential to reduce air emissions and hazardous waste. Most paints used in the automobile and manufacturing industries contain volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants and are classified as hazardous waste. Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ozone, which aggravates chronic heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Hazardous air pollutants are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects such as reproductive effects or birth defects.

The savings from the training can also be seen in reduced hazardous waste generation, which currently costs $240 for the removal of a 55-gallon drum of waste products. Through training with the VirtualPaint system, the amount of volatile organic compounds released decreases by 12.6%. As an example, a large surface coating facility that releases 166 tons of volatile organic compounds per year could see a 21 ton decrease in emissions through use of the VirtualPaint system. Facilities of medium size that may release 31 tons of volatile organic compounds could potentially realize a 4 ton per year decrease. A smaller facility releasing only 12 tons per year could see a 1.5 ton emissions decrease after training with the VirtualPaint system.

Project Team
A committee was formed to evaluate the virtual paint system available from the Iowa Waste Reduction Center and analyze the potential uses of the system in Nebraska. The committee included members from WasteCap Nebraska, Southeast Community College, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, Stephenson Truck Repair, General Dynamics and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ).

The committee found the technology was something that could benefit the industrial and commercial operations in the state by minimizing waste, reducing air emissions, and providing products that satisfied their customers from a surface coating and finish perspective. The regulatory members of the committee recognized the potential of the equipment to ensure that the painters were trained and could complete a certification requirement that proved they knew how to paint and reduce emissions and waste. Community college members of the committee were aware of the potential to reach future painters and body shop owners by helping them learn the latest and most advanced techniques and principles available in this business in 2007.

This unique partnership of public, private, non-profit, and governmental committee members will develop training and certification, market the training to private businesses and train using the technology. This allows us to reach the "seasoned" painter already in private industry, and train students before they enter industrial painting positions. Because it will be a mobile training unit, businesses from throughout the state can participate, as extensive traveling by the business to receive training is not required.

Proposed Equipment Use
The project is modeled on the Iowa Waste Reduction Center’s technology and training program. Currently, they are utilizing the software to train military installations, but will soon be adding it to their Mobile Pollution Prevention program. Working with Southeast Community College allows us to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology training that could be utilized in other college training programs.

The intended outcome is to develop a 3-5 year certification program and offer training to private businesses throughout the state. The VirtualPaint certification will be used as an option to satisfy the state hazardous air pollutant (HAP) best available control technology (BACT) requirement.

The NDEQ air quality regulations require sources with a potential net emissions increase above 2.5 tons per year of a single hazardous air pollutant (HAP) or 10 tons per year of combined HAPs to install best available control technology (BACT). Individuals in NDEQ’s Air Quality Division have evaluated the components of the VirtualPaint training system and have determined it to be a BACT option for surface coating facilities in Nebraska. Currently, to meet BACT, many of the painting facilities must request a change in product from their paint supplier. Oftentimes, the paints cannot be changed due to customer specifications, thus making it hard for the companies to comply with the regulations.

Potential scheduling of the equipment
The VirtualPaint training system will be a mobile unit that can service businesses and community colleges throughout Nebraska. It is anticipated that the system will be utilized for a minimum of 26 weeks per year, with Southeast Community College offering training to their painting technician students during the weeks the system is not in use elsewhere.

The system will initially target students learning spray application at the community college level as well as surface coating facilities in the business sector. Nebraska has six community colleges with programs to train spray technicians. It is estimated that this training at Southeast Community College and the other members of the community college network in Nebraska would impact 80 students each year. The training will also be offered at air quality workshops hosted by NDEQ across the state and should educate 40 people per year. An additional 400 people per year can be educated in an estimated 26 weeks of training.

Potential Sponsors
WasteCap Nebraska has submitted a grant application requesting funding to purchase and set up the equipment, and demonstrate its use. The grant funding is being requested for the initial two years. WasteCap will know if the project is funded by June 2007 and expects to begin the planning process at that time.

The grant requires the contribution of financial resources to assist in the implementation of the project. The funds can come from in-kind contributions for equipment or modification of or setting up the equipment, financial contributions, and fees. The project has secured commitments from the partners for in-kind contributions and is working to determine a fee structure for participation in the training programs.

If you are interested in sponsoring the Virtual PaintTM project to help offset costs or would like more information about the project, contact Carrie Hakenkamp or Sue Ellen Pegg of WasteCap Nebraska at (402) 436-2383.

For more information, contact

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 "N" Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
(402) 471-2186 FAX (402) 471-2909