Greensburg, Indiana
March 1996


The American Lifts company initiated a joint project with the Indiana Pollution Prevention and Safe Materials Institute to investigate methods to reduce the company's air emissions and minimize its risk of non-compliance and regulatory demands. The project focuses on the company's use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in its painting operation.


American Lifts is located in Greensburg, Indiana, and employs approximately 110 people. The company manufacturers steel mechanical lift equipment for general industry and the airline freight industry. The lift equipment is designed and fabricated solely by American Lifts. The fabrication process entails cutting and welding of steel as well as the machining of high-quality lift cylinders. The company paints all of its lift equipment to the specifications of their customers.


The lifts are manufactured to a customer's specifications and are fully assembled before leaving the plant. Once the lift fabrication is complete, it is moved to a large paint booth where a traditional VOC-based paint is applied. The company also has a second, smaller paint booth which is used to paint small and special parts. The second paint booth, which is used occasionally, has electrostatic paint application equipment.


The company currently faces a strong possibility of being required to become a full Title V, major air emission source because of its potential-to-emit hazardous air pollutant (HAP) compounds. The actual emissions from painting operations of VOCs and HAPs (combined) are approximately 8,500 pounds.

Hazardous waste is generated from the cleaning solvents and waste paint produced from purging the paint lines and cleaning the spray equipment.


The project's goal is to select a water-based coating product which will meet the performance of the current VOC-based coating products, reduce emissions, reduce regulatory burdens and non-compliance risks, reduce production bottlenecks (due to dry time) and, yet, not increase the current cost of painting the company's products.

The joint American Lifts/IPPI team has tested several water-based products. Small scrap parts are coated and, subsequently, exposed to the elements for extended periods of time (simulating conditions the lifts actually encounter).

The test includes samples with various degrees of cleanliness (wipe clean with a dry rag, wipe clean with solvent, and little-to-no cleaning preparation). Coated test parts are then inspected for paint coverage and uniform thickness. Some parts are cross-hatched and abraded and are also exposed to the elements.

The most recent test involved a low-VOC, water-based epoxy paint. The cost of the material is expected to be only slightly higher than a comparable VOC-based product. A major advantage of the new water-based epoxy paints currently being tested is that they appear to be performing well even on surfaces that have undergone little-to-no cleaning. Exposure testing was initiated in early January and results will be analyzed in late March and April.


Currently, hazardous waste cleaning solvent and paint generation is about 5% of all paint and solvent used.

5% x 8,500 pounds = 425 pounds

The current cost, per pound, for high-BTU value hazardous paint sludge is approximately $0.55/lb. Thus, the hazardous waste disposal cost (from paint) to operations averages $230.00 per year. Other cost savings may occur from reduced regulatory fees and regulatory burdens as well as potential insurance savings stemming from reducing the use of flammable material. American Lifts may also realize a savings in the raw material cost of the water-based paint versus the VOC-based paint due to potential increased coverage rates per gallon of water-based paint. It is currently estimated that water-based coatings could reduce the company's air emissions by over 90% (7600 lbs.), depending on the degree of VOC co-solvent the candidate water-based coating may contain.


Once the candidate coating meets the exposure requirements (matching the VOC-based product), a field study will be performed using an actual lift. The American Lifts/IPPI team will coat the lift with the water-based product and perform actual field tests, in cooperation with one of American Lifts' key accounts. This test will be used to qualify the acceptable water-based product(s) for standard use by the company. If the latest candidate proves acceptable in exposure tests, then field qualification may begin in late April or May of 1996. 3 (c) Purdue University Research Foundation, 1996