So what exactly are Painting robots and how do they work? Painting robots are automated machines designed to apply paint in a manufacturing setting. They generally consist of a robotic arm, an end-effector which in this case would be a paint applicator like a spray gun or roller and programming that controls their movement.
The robotic arm moves the paint applicator along the surfaces of parts as directed by the programming. Many painting robots operate on a pre-programmed path to coat parts, while others use sensors and vision systems to dynamically apply paint. The key steps in how they work are:
Introducing robotic painting to your factory comes with some major benefits.
Making the switch to automated painting does require an initial investment, but the long-term benefits to your bottom line and work environment can make it well worth the cost. For manufacturers looking to improve productivity, quality and safety, robotic spray painting is the obvious choice.
The most common type of Painting robots are spray painting robots. These robots are equipped with spray guns to apply paint, primer, sealant or clear coat. They provide consistent, high-quality finishes without fatigue.
For small parts that require total, even coatings, dipping robots may be ideal. These robots repeatedly dip parts into paint, coating or other chemicals. They then remove and hang the parts to dry. Dipping robots are excellent for applying protective or decorative coatings to complex parts.
Powder coating robots apply powder coatings using electrostatic spray guns. They provide an evenly coated, durable finish. Powder coating robots are useful for coating parts where liquid coatings may be difficult to apply or cure. They produce little hazardous waste since overspray can be recovered and reused.
Some robots are designed specifically for removing existing coatings from parts in an automated paint-stripping system. These robots manipulate the parts through multi-stage processes involving chemical stripping, abrasive blasting and rinsing. Robotic paint stripping helps minimize health and safety risks to workers while still efficiently removing coatings.
Once you’ve decided to implement robotic painting in your factory, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. The transition will impact your operations, so thoughtful planning and preparation are important.
How will introducing Painting robots affect your current painting processes and workflow? They may replace human painters entirely or work alongside them. Review your existing methods and determine how robots can improve efficiency, quality, and workplace safety. You’ll need to reconfigure the paint line and stations to accommodate the robots.
Painting robots and their equipment require adequate floor space for movement, manipulation, and task completion. They also need access to power sources and compressed air. Ensure you have enough space for the robots to operate (we generally advise a minimum of 4x6), for loading and unloading parts, and for technicians to program and maintain the equipment. Remember, the robot arm will be powered separately from the paint applicator.
Robotic painting systems must be extensively programmed and tested before going into production. Some robots require a robotics specialist to create a painting routine, while others come with a no-code programming interface allowing your untrained technicians to easily create new automations for the robot. Programming and testing require time and resources, so plan for longer lead times when first implementing a robotic painting system.
While robotic painting will likely reduce costs long-term, the equipment requires ongoing maintenance to function properly. Plan for regular service of the robots, conveyance equipment, paint applicators, and other components. Technicians will need to inspect for signs of wear and perform preventative maintenance to minimize downtime. Be prepared to invest in ongoing maintenance, service contracts, replacement parts, and occasional repairs.
With some adjustments, robotic painting can greatly benefit your operations. Keeping these key considerations in mind will help ensure a smooth transition and maximize the value these advanced systems can provide. By understanding how they will integrate with your existing processes, providing adequate space and resources, allowing time for proper programming and testing, and planning for ongoing maintenance, you'll be well on your way to leveraging robotic painting in your facility.
While a six-axis robot arm is a go-to for spray painting applications, you should make sure to spend time comparing the right end-effector for your robot. Look for features like automatic gun cleaners, and built-in, pre-programmed spray patterns. Compare specifications like paint capacity, spray gun types, and optional features across different brands and models. Make sure the end-effector can be directly controlled via your robot’s programming interface.
Set up containment areas for overspray, proper ventilation, and any utility hookups the robots will require. You’ll need ample space for the robots to maneuver. Remove any obstructions or tripping hazards in the robot’s path. Provide eyewash stations and personal protective equipment for workers in the vicinity of the robotic painting cell.
Work with the robot manufacturers or a third-party integrator to program your new robots. They can program precise spray patterns, arm movements, and conveyor tracking tailored to your specific products. If your production line is high-mix, you may want to invest in a full-time robot specialist or find a robot with no-code programming abilities. Thoroughly test the robots using a simulation mode or with water instead of paint at first. Check that all functions are operating properly and make any necessary adjustments before putting them into production.
Provide comprehensive training for all personnel who will operate, program or maintain the painting robots. Covering safety procedures, how to start up and shut down the robots, troubleshooting common errors, and basic programming. Schedule refresher training periodically and additional training when introducing new robot models or software upgrades. With the proper implementation and training, robotic painting can be a highly efficient and safe manufacturing process. But as with any industrial equipment, education and oversight are keys to success.
And there you have it—everything you need to know to get started with robotic painting in your factory. While the initial investment may seem high, many manufacturers find that robotic painting systems pay for themselves within just a couple of years. The transition may require some adjustments, but robotic painting is poised to revolutionize manufacturing. Why not let it revolutionize your factory? The possibilities are as unlimited as a painter's palette!
Interested in bringing robotic painting to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is the best 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.