How the APM® System works
MicroBlend’s Automated Paint Machine® - or APM® - is a stand-alone, point-of-sale dispensing system comprised of a touch screen command monitor; a sleek, contemporary housing unit; a dispensing unit with valves for dispensing components and colorants; and six 180 to 550 gallon permanent tanks. The system uses six liquid pre-paint components that never require recirculation. The liquids are pumped through a network of piping and dispensed to a computer-calibrated scale with a tolerance accurate to 2/1000 of a pound, assuring the highest degree of calibration accuracy for optimum paint and color consistency.
The liquid components are shipped in cardboard totes that hold 220 gallons of raw materials in plastic bladders. The components do not separate or spoil while waiting to be dispensed. The totes are then transferred to larger, space-saving, permanent tanks that can be placed above or beside the APM® dispenser. The technology has been continuously developed, tested, and proven over the past 15 years.
With a footprint of less than 200 square feet of selling space (90% less space required to support a traditional retail paint program). the APM® system employs three basic families of technologies: dispensing technologies, software technologies and paint technologies.
MicroBlend’s paint technologies combine pre-paint components at the point-of-sale to produce water-based architectural paints and primers. The paint technology consists of six proprietary pre-paint components which remain homogenous without agitation throughout the transportation and storage process. The paint’s ability to remain homogenous enables the dispensing technology to accurately dispense the proper amounts of consistent pre-paints to produce paint on demand. MicroBlend’s ability to dispense paint on demand leads to superior color matching and repeatability. Furthermore, MicroBlend “scales up” its paints from the quart size formula to ensure consumers receive the exact same paint regardless of the size selected (ranges from one quart to five gallons) or the sheen selected (six levels). The Company’s technology can produce a broad assortment of paint SKUs, which offers customers tremendous production flexibility and the ability to quickly and efficiently change their offering without the added SKU management costs and risks.
The Company’s proprietary software technology drives the paint production process and facilitates improved relationships with retailers and consumers. MicroBlend Enterprise System (“MES”) provides a simple and robust proprietary user interface connecting the installed customer APMs® to MicroBlend’s global APM® network. The system was developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard and is maintained internally. The MES acts as the “brains” of the APM®, initiating the production process and managing the process through completion. Integral to the APM® system, the software is linked to sensors throughout the system and within each tank to provide detailed inventory data and equipment metrics, including current inventory quantity indicators and component temperatures. MicroBlend’s innovative software also allows the Company to monitor and maintain APM® systems remotely. The MES software compiles process data and creates trend analysis which is useful for forecasting inventory requirements and tracking revenue and cost drivers. The Company’s remote access capabilities also allow MicroBlend to transmit product and software updates immediately to retailer systems. The MES is critical in facilitating relationships between retailers and consumers. MyProjects™ is a consumer database, allowing retailers to track consumer orders generating future re-orders and a positive consumer experience.
The Company’s proprietary dispensing technologies transfer the liquid pre-paint components from the tanks through the APM® system to produce the finished paint product. MicroBlend’s dispensing hardware is custom-engineered and includes reservoirs, tanks, plumbing, pumps, valves, scale, touch screen monitors, computers, printers and a barcode scanner. Upon dispensing, the pre-paint components are pumped from the tanks by six peristaltic pumps controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller (“PLC”) that receives feedback from pressure transducers in the lines. The pre-paint components are fed to the APM® dispense head, which contains the six valves that dispense the liquid pre-paint components. The six pre-paint components and sixteen colorant nozzles are at the bottom of the dispense head, where an empty paint bucket is manually positioned. The table on which the bucket is placed can be moved up and down to accommodate different sizes of buckets ranging from a quart up to five gallons. A barcode reader analyzes the unique barcode printed on each bucket preventing the user from attempting to dispense paint production order volumes that do not match the size of the bucket. The table also acts as a scale that measures the weight of each component as it is dispensed to within 7.5 grams tolerance. Once the pre-paint components are dispensed, the required colorants are then dispensed volumetrically to within 1/384th of an ounce tolerance. The colorants are contained in canisters located in an adjacent cabinet, along with the pumps that deliver the colorants through lines to the nozzles in the dispense head. Dispensing valves release the pre-paint components into a bucket at a rate of less than one minute for a gallon of paint, while the amount of each component dispensed is measured gravimetrically. The APM® system scales material inputs and colorant appropriately to produce superior paint and color consistency regardless of order size.