By Diane M. Calabrese / Published September 2019
Sundial. Cistern. Anvil. We can all generate lists of items that do not seem to have changed much since their invention.
Thinking about our industry, we may even consider citing guns and wands as little-changed. Yet refinement is change, and the fine-tuning that has led to improvements in guns and wands merits attention. Not all change is on a scale as grand as a shift from a propeller to a jet engine—or a sundial to a digital clock.
Changes in materials improve performance and longevity. Subtle and clever changes in design improve outcomes. It’s easy to appreciate the result without giving the underlying change and change-makers their due.
Let’s put some of that right here.
From telescoping wands that allow end users to spend less time off the ground to digital displays on guns that enable a contractor to verify pressure, wands and guns have changed. With the development of surface cleaners, guns have even been rendered unnecessary for some cleaning jobs.
Where guns are necessary, the stainless steel and brass used in components make them durable and dependable. At the same time, where a trigger must be pulled or alternately pulled and released for hours on end, the weight of the gun can become burdensome.
Attachments to enhance the capability of guns, such as those for adding chemicals or adding abrasiveness at the target site (i.e., brushes) or filters, are well known. Many have been supplanted by redesigns of pressure washers so that chemicals, for instance, can be injected before water leaves the gun.
Back to subtlety, however, and our understanding of its role in changes in guns and wands; let’s turn to two experts on the subject. They give us some insight into how ergonomic considerations and a focus on the end user have driven many changes.
Repetitive motion can cause problems for the body. Carpal tunnel syndrome and many shoulder and back issues arise because muscles have been contracting or joints have been moving without sufficient periods of relaxation. (For example, the intervals of relaxation allow electrolyte balance to be restored in tissues.)
Reducing or eliminating repetitive motion provides a great boost to health, and it’s become common for designers and engineers to include ergonomics among their goals. Adjusting working conditions (including design of tools) to individuals doing the work is the science of ergonomics.
“Our main focus on spray guns is making the spray gun more ergonomic,” says Jim Sheperd, general manager at Suttner America Company in Dubuque, IA. “We have had many requests from industrial engineers regarding reducing the potential for carpal tunnel for their employees using pressure washers.”
The possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome among end users of pressure washers is not surprising. Therefore, a focus on changing the spray gun to make it friendlier to the user makes sense.
“If you consider that when you pressure wash, the item that is always in your hand during use is the spray gun, it only makes sense to have the one that is the most comfortable and easy to use,” explains Sheperd. “To that end and after significant financial investment, we created an inline gun—ST 3240 and ST 3225—that allows you six degrees of freedom in its use.”
The effort an operator must make to move a gun through three dimensions—back and forth, up and down, and left and right (i.e., with six degrees of freedom, 6DoF) is considerable. An inline gun capable of the six movements takes the stress off an operator.
“In our more traditional spray guns, we have implemented a patented system we call ‘LTF’ or Low Trigger Force, which drastically reduces not only the force needed to pull the trigger but also the force to hold the trigger open,” says Sheperd. “This system has become standard on most of our spray guns.”
Comfort is a goal of ergonomic design, and innovations such as the reduction of force needed to pull and hold a trigger gun make the entire experience of operating a pressure washer better for the end user. The reduction in force required can be dramatic.
“Our ST 2605 spray gun is ideal for the user who needs to hold open the trigger for an extended period of time,” says Sheperd. “The holding force—or the force needed to hold the trigger open—is reduced by 90 percent.”
Attention is also given to end users who have to keep pulling the trigger. “Another gun of interest is our ST 2300 ‘Easy Pull’ spray gun, which is designed for the user who is constantly opening and closing the spray gun,” says Sheperd. “This gun is designed to reduce the force needed to open the trigger by 60 percent over standard spray guns.”
For companies trying to retain employees, the ability to give end users tools that couple ease of use with quality outcomes is a good
way to improve retention. As for whether trigger guns might affect recruitment, it’s possible. In any case, they may be used as a way to promote the company.
“We also have the capability to produce spray guns private labeled for the customer,” says Sheperd. “We work with the customer to design a gun label with their name and/or company’s logo.”
Tools are made to accomplish tasks, but the intermediary between task-specific tool and completion of task is a person. (We will not quibble about people being completely out of some settings because of AI-monitored robotics; at this juncture, people still enter the scene to monitor the AI-monitored systems.)
The point is, why not start with the person who is intimately tied to the task? Consider what makes the task easier as well as what ensures an excellent result.
“The end user is who we have in mind when creating our products,” says Aaron Lindholm, president of Veloci Performance Products in Savage, MN. “They are the ones who tell the dealers if they want to buy more or not, and when the end users are extremely happy, that makes the dealer’s job and ours much easier.”
An industry filled with happy individuals is one that is surely thriving. So, we all endorse the busi-ness philosophy Lindholm shares.
“In our SG series spray guns, we have modified the valve system to create the lowest holding force for a spray gun on the market, verified by independent comparison testing,” says Lindholm. “This spray gun greatly reduces the fatigue of someone using the spray gun for extended periods of time. Combined with the highest quality fiberglass inlaid plastics, we have created one of the most durable and easiest to use spray guns on the market.”
Lindholm’s description reminds us of the importance of balancing weight and durability in any tool. Weight reduction in a spray gun—just a little weight reduction, thanks to fiberglass inlaid plastics, for instance—makes a big difference to the operator at the end of a long day.
“The SG series spray gun was inspired by feedback from the end users,” says Lindholm. “We took their feedback over two years and developed this gun to their specifications and liking.”
Ease of movement is something the actual users of a tool welcome. Even readers who have never operated a spray gun hour after hour have done something where weight made all the difference. Perhaps it was rowing a small fiberglass boat instead of a boat made of wood. For gardeners it may have been pushing a fiberglass cart instead of a metal wheelbarrow.
Force, weight, and ease of movement are three among many factors considered by designers looking to make the best tool for the job. So as feedback reaches manufacturers, they respond. New choices and options keep coming. Lindholm gives us an example of a versatile gun on his company’s product roster.
“The SGS spray gun is a 4000 psi, 12 gpm, 320-degree F rated spray gun that has a built-in stainless-steel swivel, which is ideal for anyone who dislikes fighting the twisting action of the hose when moving around objects,” says Lindholm. “This is a gun that is highly resistant to chemicals and is built for anyone who appreciates quality and doing something right the first time.”
There’s not a reader of this sentence who has not fought or contended with a twisted hose. Whether it’s more time consuming or annoying depends on one’s frame of mind. In any case, it’s a reminder of how much of a difference small changes can make to an end user of a tool.
Pressure washer guns and wands might seem relatively unchanged across the years. But the incremental changes that have improved them by extending reach, reducing effort, or increasing comfort all matter to the end user.
In the largest sense, the end user is the foundation of our industry. Expect the end user to continue to be served by more improvements to guns and wands. The changes may not have the flash of a jump to 5G, but in day-to-day industry and commerce they are every bit as important.