No more strings to slow you down

November 2, 2016  - By

No strings. The future is now! #combibeamrider #mvturf

A video posted by GR Davisson (@grdturf) on

“No strings. The future is now!”

That’s what Grant Davisson, turf manager for the Minnesota Vikings, said in an Instragram post when he saw a demonstration of the Beamrider from Fleet.

The Beamrider is a walk-behind laser guided line marker system designed to create straight lines without driving in a stake and setting up strings. It was introduced in 2007 and has taken off in the European market. It is being used by turf managers of high-profile soccer teams like Spain’s Real Madrid F.C. and England’s Manchester City F.C.

The unit comes with a Kombi sprayer and the Beamrider laser-guided sprayer attached, a laser transmitter and telescope, and target reflector plate.

beamrider_3

Users set the reflector plate at one end slightly off the field and then set the laser at the other side where they want the line to start. Then they use the naked eye to make sure the reflector plate and laser are level. By using micrometers on the head of the laser, the user can then adjust the emitted red beam until they see it reflect back at them. Finally the user directs the Beamrider receiver into the laser and it goes into ‘seek mode.’ Once the receiver locks onto the laser beam, the user cannot fail to produce a straight line because the spray head will move left to right with the operator.

In an attempt to get the word out about the Beamrider on this side of the pond, Fleet U.S.’s General Manager Liam Philpotts recently spent 70 days traveling around the country providing demonstrations to individual facilities and at conferences.

“We’re a small company and we struggle to get any real exposure for our products. In Europe the higher profile clubs are all using it but here it has been a challenge,” said Philpotts.

beamrider_2Fleet U.S. is making a push now to promote the machine to U.S. field managers, but some facilities have already been using it for years.

At the University of Florida, Gainesville, Wayne Zurburg, maintenance superintendent, and his staff have been using the Beamrider on the 40 acres of natural grass and field turf on the school’s various sports club and recreation fields for four years.

“We were probably the first one in the university systems to try to use it. We kind of worked out a lot of the little issues the machine had,” said Zurburg. “We have intramural fields and club fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, cricket, you name it. We put down anywhere from 20 to 25 fields of paint every week.”

To speed up the process Zurburg had his mechanic on staff attach the Beamrider spraying device to a Toro Workman.

“We used to pull lines and strings all over the fields and we don’t have to deal with them anymore. The biggest thing is the operator has to learn to drive a little slower but the accuracy is phenomenal,” said Zurburg. “It has saved us a ridiculous amount of man-hours.”

The Petoskey (Mich.) Youth Soccer Association has invested in a Beamrider but Volunteer Groundskeeper Gary Hunter will admit after two year of using the machine that they don’t save any time compared to stringing fields. Though he doesn’t save time like he had hoped, he does appreciate the money it’s saving him.

“We were looking for something to speed up the system and give us better results,” said Hunter. “I started talking about it with Liam (Philpotts) and he brought up putting a Beamrider with the riding equipment.”

fastlinerHunter added that they had a John Deere Gator that was not being used much and they purchased the Fastrider, a device offered from Beamrider that attaches to a utility vehicle with a 40 gallon tank mounted in the back (see photo to the left).

Hunter works with a staff of fellow volunteers to maintain the 28 acres of turf that make up the 11 soccer fields for the Petoskey Youth Soccer Association. The Beamrider has made it managable for Hunter to go paint lines by himself and do a quality job.

Hunter says that it took him a couple of weeks of trial and error before he was painting high quality lines. He adds that one of the selling points pitched to him by Philpotts was the amount of money users can save on paint.

“I like really bright lines. I put more paint down than what they say I need to but it makes them really, super white. With 40 gallons of paint I’m knocking out five to six fields pretty easily,” says Hunter. “It would not be hard to pay off a Beamrider in just paint savings.”

There has been some push back on this technology in favor of more traditional methods but Philpotts is trying to fight that mentality.

New leadership recently took over at a facility in the UK where one of the first systems sold. The recently hired turf manager said he didn’t want the Beamrider because he felt it took away from the skill of the groundsman.

“It’s a good honest point, but painting lines is not the most significant thing they do,” says Philpotts. “Anytime you’ve got something that makes that job easier and produces better results I don’t care what level you are operating at that’s the way to do it.”

Grant Gannon

About the Author:

Grant Gannon is the Associate Editor for Golfdom and Athletic Turf. Gannon earned his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University, where he majored in journalism and was a reporter and copy editor at the college’s newspaper, The Lantern. He has also interned for CoachFickell.com, the official website for OSU’s then-head football coach Luke Fickell, and worked at The Columbus Dispatch. He creates content for Golfdom’s print, digital and social media platforms.

4 Comments on "No more strings to slow you down"

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  1. Good read but i struggle to see how the system doesn’t save some users time over stringing out. We have just finished our annual trade show where professional grounds staff offered testimonials for our banner wall. I will attempt to post a picture so you can read some of the amazing comments.

    Carl – Sports Signage Dept

  2. nathan gage says:

    we are a college in the UK,We have had the beam rider for 2 years now,it would have to be the best investment that we have purchased..

    No more string lines,but on the plus side we can mark a (soccer)football pitch in 30 minutes..

    Also we find the machine very simple to use..

  3. Mike Lewis says:

    This is an interesting article that brings back memories of our own. We look after a number of sports pitches in Wales and the West Midlands in the UK, which during the 12 months of the year would have a variety of different sports taking place on them. Obviously, each sport required different markings, so we are faced with several “change overs” a year. This requires a large input of man hours and like the system being used here, we slaved for years using string lines, pegs, measuring tapes and wheels, as well as numerous drip lines when the string was lifted off the grass!, the quality of the lines using string was always questionable.
    About 9 years ago we were one of the first users in the UK of the Beamrider. At first when our staff were trialing it, it was like walking on a tight rope, you were very conscious of not to walk off range, but as the users got used to it the walking speed increased dramatically to the point where now you push it as fast as you can walk, as you’ve developed a “6th sense” where the arm of it is. Our overall speed to initially mark out pitches increased over the string method by about 25%, the operators were much happier, but importantly for us as well the quality of line was in a different class. Mike Lewis MD Highground Maintenance

  4. david blacknall says:

    At Colchester United we purchased a beamrider approx. 4 years ago.
    It is used at two sites,our training ground where it marks out at least 5 pitches weekly,and at our stadium up to 2/3 times a week depending on fixtures.
    Prior to this we had always used strings,and at the stadium,mainly a transfer wheel.
    The main advantage I noticed straight away was the precision,clarity and quality of the line.I had used strings for the best part of 30 years and considered myself pretty good,but the beamrider topped all that experience.Also the rest of the pitch was cleaner,no string marks or leaving pegs out either.
    secondly,especially when working as part of a team of 2,I noticed that you could knock a fair percentage of time allocated for marking pitches,at the training ground more so.
    Another couple of pluses,we use pitch marker c and instantly noticed a reduction in our paint costs,also the back up support we receive from olly and everyone else at fleet is excellent.