Line marking used to be a messy, slow and tedious job, requiring a basic understanding of triangulation and frequently wasteful of paint. Not anymore. Gone are the days of mixing compound and water, sloshing it into the tank, pegging out strings and then plodding around and across the pitch to carefully produce the white lines that are so vital to the sport.
Moving on from wheel-to-wheel transfer markers to spraying brought many advantages and enabled the industry to move into ride-on and multi-pitch capabilities, then to laser-guided systems and now to GPS. Paints, too, have had their transformation, resulting in ready-to-use, clean, plug-and-go systems.
One company that continues to invest heavily in research and development is Fleet (Line Markers) of Malvern. Fleet pioneered spray markers and ride-on equipment, such as the Fastliner and eROK, and was first to bring laser pitch marking to the UK. Its latest innovation is the COG Aline Marker, which brings “an entirely new approach to the world of line marking”, according to sales director Iain Courage.
The COG Aline Marker has been designed to be environmentally-friendly and eliminate paint wastage. The system uses bespoke drums that can be reused repeatedly, saving money and preventing waste. When the drums do reach the end of their life, Fleet will recycle them. Their shape and design provides stability during shipping and requires just one strap, banishing the need for single-use plastic wrapping as well as cardboard packing and covers. Fleet estimates that this will do away with 40-50 tonnes of packaging per year.
Once fitted onto the COG Aline Marker, a single COG drum is enough to mark up to six soccer pitches, depending on pressure setting, nozzle size, walking space and line specification. Attaching the drum to the marker is simple and should make spillage a thing of the past. Due to the angle of the drum on the machine, every last drop of COG Icing Paint is used. If the drum is left connected, there is no need to flush the system through with water, again saving paint and cost.
Fleet’s new Flozle drip control valve (see below) allows a teaspoon of water to be pushed through just the nozzle, thereby ensuring the machine is ready for use when the operator returns the next day. Empty drums are collected, at no further cost, and the reuse cycle continues.
Managing director Iain McGuffie says: “At Fleet, we strive to reduce our carbon footprint. The COG system eliminates single-use plastic drums, each of which could contribute up to 6kg of carbon dioxide. In keeping with our commitment to the environment, our target is to eliminate more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next five years.”
Not only does the COG drum fit the COG Aline Marker, it also fits the COG BeamRider for laser-straight lines on any surface while bringing the user and environmental benefits of the new drum. COG drums can also be fitted to the latest MAQA marking System. This, the COG MAQA GNSS system, utilises multiple satellites for the user to initial mark any sport — soccer, rugby or more complicated pitches such as American football or lacrosse — in a fraction of the time compared with string and triangle marking. Indeed, a senior football pitch can be marked in under 25 minutes and an eight-lane 400m track with 100m straight in under two hours.
“We’ve done a track in 25 minutes using two staff, one MAQA GNSS system and one Kombi equipped with our three-lane athletics boom,” says Courage. “The time and labour savings are immense. The COG MAQA means that anybody can initial mark any sports marking with minimal training necessary.” MAQA GNSS is supplied with free software and hardware updates and has a lifetime warranty.
The use of GPS has certainly speeded up the process of marking out pictures. But perhaps now the need for an operator to walk behind or drive the marking machine is confined to the history book. In 2016, at Saltex in the NEC at Birmingham, Rigby Taylor showed off the Intelligent One — the first robotic line marker. Two years later, RT introduced the TinyLineMarker (TLM) Pro. Contractor John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance invested in the machine in 2019. Managing director Matt O’Conner believes it generates rewards in every aspect of line marking.
For starters, TLM takes 30 minutes instead of 90 to initial mark a full-sized pitch and 1.5 hours instead of three-quarters of a day for an athletics track. TLM saves paint and water. Impact paint is ready mixed and uses just 1.1 litres per pitch. “In addition,” O’Conner points out, “because everything with TLM is ‘computerised’, with the operator ‘programming’ TLM via a tablet to produce precisely-positioned lines, the software allows clients to make subtle but sometimes important changes to the positioning of certain lines — for instance, inserting training grids alongside running tracks. This means we can tweak the line marking to satisfy clients’ every need in terms of additional line marking, and that can only further improve customer satisfaction levels.”
Once stored, there is no need to keep overmarking simply to maintain the position of the lines, and that, says O’Conner, saves the customer money. He adds that it is a similar argument for the use of RT’s Impact paint. “Impact may cost more per tub but we get brighter and longer-lasting lines, so the cost is lower on a line-for-line basis.”
This year we see a faster, lighter, cost effective version, the TLM Sport. This is the latest line-marking robot introduction for the autonomous, initial marking and overmarking of sports pitches. Designed for clubs and organisations that have single-site use, or for sites with just a few pitches, such as training grounds, sports clubs and schools, this robot has an inbuilt GPS-RTK receiver and antenna. It moves easily over grass surfaces, leaving a precision marking with millimetre-level accuracy.
TLM Sport offers millimetre-level accuracy and stores 50 pitch templates on tablet - credit: Rigby Taylor
“The TLM Sport is super efficient,” says RT marketing director Richard Fry. “Once the robot is positioned on the pitch surface to be marked, it can be left to get on with its work, freeing up the operator to carry out additional tasks such as mowing, aerating, spraying or spreading.” It wastes no paint and does not dawdle, he adds. “Using just three litres of Impact paint, the complete initial marking — no stringing required — of a standard-sized football pitch can be undertaken in just 20 minutes, including pitches with fixed posts.”
TLM Sport has 50 sports pitch-marking templates that can be stored on the supplied Samsung tablet and stored for future use, making them retrievable and replicable at any time. Fry jokes that quidditch is included. The robot can continuously mark for three-to-four hours on a single battery charge — no fuel, no emissions — and using Impact paint means there is no added water.
Credit: Fleet (Line Markers)
Flozle nozzle system
All Fleet spray markers are now fitted with the new Flozle nozzle system (pictured above), a drip control valve that cleans the nozzle after each line and keeps the nozzle clear at all times. The procedure is automated, but is also available to the operator on demand.
“With the hot weather this year, paint drying on the nozzle can happen over a very short period of time and result in blockages — even a short phone call could be long enough to cause problems,” says sales director Iain Courage. “The Flozle eliminates any need for concern. It will save time and make the whole process of spraying trouble-free.”
While the Flozle has been designed as a solution to end blockages, Courage points out that there are cost savings too. “Up to half a litre of paint can be wasted when flushing a standard nozzle tip through a spray marker,” he notes. “Flozle uses the equivalent of a teaspoon.”
Turf Tank One: renamed GPS robot - credit: Turf Tank
In other news
- The e-ROK ride-on line marker from Fleet now offers longer battery life, the option to mark in the middle, at the front or from the side, a fully adjustable comfort seat and “inching mode” to help safely load and unload the machine from transport vehicles or trailers. The eROK can be used with any of Fleet’s Kombi variants, such as the BeamRider, MAQA GNSS, Kombi Orange and Kombi Classic.
- Robotic line marker company Intelligent One has changed its name to US brand title Turf Tank. Its GPS line marker has been renamed Turf Tank One. Software updates can be done from the tablet — when a newly updated tablet connects to a robot with older software, it will update the robot with the push of a button. Other features include setting flags/points right from the tip of the nozzle, being able to rotate a field around its centre or in steps and a new “select shape” dialogue that makes browsing through route plans more intuitive.