First things first — before diving in, it's important to assess how a robot will fit into your current painting process and any adjustments you’ll need to make before the robot arrives.
Examine your existing workflow and note each step of the process, from surface preparation to final coating applications. Look for potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies a robot could improve. Things like repetitive tasks, hazardous areas, or processes requiring extreme precision are all good candidates for automation.
Also, consider your paint booth layout. Do you have adequate space for the robot, paint supply, and parts? Painting robots require a solid foundation and may need special ventilation or even explosion-proofing. Consider how you’ll hold a workpiece in place for the robot. Will this be a mechanical clamp, or another robot equipped with a gripper?
If your part surfaces require polishing or buffing before or after applying a surface finish, you’ll want to consider automating that too.
In addition to getting parts within range of your robot, you’ll also need to consider how the end-effector on the robot is supplied. You’ll need basic electrical wiring to power your robot, but the paint gun may need a hose to supply paint, compressed air to power a spray painting gun, and a separate electric power supply cable. In crowded factories or multi-robot applications, the layout required to supply this should be well thought out.
For best results, integrate the robot into a collaborative process with human painters. Let the robot focus on repetitive tasks while human painters handle detailed work and touch-ups. With the right planning and safeguards in place, a Painting robot can be a valuable partner on your production line.
If you're bringing a Painting robot into your production line, safety should be priority number one. Before you even order the robot, you'll need to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify any hazards and possible mitigations. Walk through your entire painting process and pinpoint risks for both employees and the equipment. Consider things like:
Proper risk assessment and safety measures are the foundation for successfully and responsibly integrating a Painting robot into your production. When done right, they help ensure many years of safe, productive, and profitable operation of your new robotic system. A few hours spent planning up front is a small investment to make for long-term success and risk mitigation.
One concern many manufacturers have when automating their painting process is programming their new Painting robot. While some robots require experts to program them, line-by-line, many modern robots come with no-code programming interfaces. Here are some tips to think about.
Focus on one part of the painting process at a time. Don't try to program the entire painting job in one go. Break it down into smaller steps like applying the primer, the base coat, and then the topcoat. This will make the programming much more manageable and help you avoid missing any details.
Do dry runs first. Run through the program without any paint to ensure the robot moves properly and covers the right areas. Check that your safety measures are appropriate. It's much easier to make changes to the program before you start painting.
Use visual guides. Some robots come equipped with vision systems or projection laser guides to provide a visual cue for the robot to follow. While this is an extra cost, this can save a lot of time programming and gives your robot the ability to react to situations in real time.
Start with basic shapes. Program the robot to paint basic shapes like squares, circles, and rectangles before moving on to more complex contours. This allows you to focus on mastering control, technique, and precise joint movements without the added difficulty of an intricate shape.
Check for drips or uneven coverage. Closely monitor the robot as its painting to check for any drips, splatters or uneven coverage. Make notes of any areas that need improvement so you can refine the program. It may take a few attempts to achieve an even, professional-looking coat.
As you start to get your robot up and running, you’ll want to add a few key items to your maintenance checklist. Robots require upkeep like any other machine, the forces involved and little human supervision required can lead to small problems compounding into serious issues.
Conduct routine inspections of your robot, checking for any signs of damage or wear and tear. Look for frayed cables, dents in the arm, or issues with joints. It's best to schedule inspections during planned downtime to avoid disrupting production. Spot checks during production can catch issues early.
A buildup of paint residue can impair the robot's motion and accuracy. Wipe down the robot arm and end-effector regularly using solvents compatible with your paint materials. Pay extra attention to joints and crevices where overspray may accumulate. Your robot’s manufacturer will be able to recommend appropriate cleaning chemicals for your robot.
The end-effector, or the tool at the end of the robot arm that holds and controls the spray gun, requires frequent service. Inspect spray tips and air caps for clogs or damage and replace them as needed. Check that hoses and gaskets are intact with no leaks or tears. Re-calibrate the end-effector to ensure proper positioning and motion. We always recommend maintaining an independent maintenance schedule for the robot’s end-effector, as the lifespan tends to be much lower than the robot arm.
The last major hurdle to implementing robotic Painting — and often the most challenging — is introducing the robot to your existing workforce. There are a few steps we recommend for a smooth and collaborative integration.
While bringing a Painting robot into your production line may seem intimidating at first, with careful planning and guidance, you can quickly accelerate your business output and achieve better results for your clients.
Interested in bringing robotic Painting to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for factories large and small:
Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.