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Thermoplastic Pavement Marking Basics

2022 Notice: While supply chain problems are better than last year, we anticipate them to continue for 2022. Please expect some delays. view details

Marking symbols and lines on asphalt and concrete pavement can be performed using several techniques including rolling, spraying, and heated Thermoplastic Pavement Marking. Using Thermoplastic Marking Machines have become the choice of larger contractors and municipality’s because federal specs need to be satisfied in many cases, and the overall durability of the material will be superior to conventional water-based and oil-based striping paints. Material adhesion is also superior because the thermoplastic material is applied at high temperatures which melts it into the pavement surface.

The application thickness can be controlled using special dies that can be adjusted for the actual thickness desired when using the HandLiner and self-propelled models. Thermoplastic Line Striping was introduced on a large scale back in the 1960s, and Preformed Thermoplastic Markings became available later in the 1970s and reduced the cost for contractors not needing the larger application equipment. Preformed thermoplastic is available on rolls and can be cut to length, heated with a portable hand torch, and is very durable but sometimes will not meet engineered and federal specs. But it continues to be a popular application method and very affordable. This method is also a popular method for applying roadway symbols where a thermoplastic striping machine may not be practical.

Thermoplastic paint is made up of several components including hydrocarbon, alkyd, and acrylic modified alkyd. Many times, the contract spec sheet will determine the type of material needed. Glass beads are usually broadcasted on top of the fresh marking using the machine's built-in bead dispenser system. The pigment will create the color and glass beads create added retro-reflectivity. Binders are used to make the material tough and somewhat flexible. The material is available in solid blocks or granular material and rolled pre-formed. Many times, the bag that the material comes in will be melted with the material which minimizes clean-up and waste.

One of the most important considerations for equipment purchase is the addition of a separate Thermoplastic Melting Kettle. Kettles are extremely important because they can quickly melt the thermoplastic material to 400 degrees which is the optimal temperature it needs to be for transfer into the striping machine. The actual application temperature will be between 180-200 degrees. Most HandLiners and self-propelled machines have a built-in heating system to keep the material warm during application but usually cannot melt raw material fast enough to keep up. They also make the job much more efficient as the kettle is usually portable allowing it to follow the line striping machine for easy and fast refills.

Application thickness can be adjusted using special dyes made for the machine. The most common die size is .090 mil, but .125 and .060 mil dies are also used. We also offer an adjustable die that can achieve these mil thicknesses within one die. This is a big advantage over using a standard airless line striper. A thermoplastic Even with all the benefits that using thermoplastic pavement marking offers, you should keep a few things in mind before purchasing this equipment.

1. Start-up cost will be more because of the complexity of the equipment, and you should purchase a pre-melting kettle along with the striping machine.

2. Thermoplastic markings are much more popular in warmer climates because the marking material can be damaged and even stripped off by snowplows. Benefits will almost always outweigh the disadvantages including lasting durability, retro-reflectivity, and the material is thicker than paint (90 mils vs Paint: 10-15 mils