Why Autonomous Paint Robots Are Your Most Versatile Choice for Paint Automation

Paint automation is a fickle beast — too much spray and you get drip, too little spray or too slow and you can get dry spray, inconsistencies, and rejections that require you to execute the whole process over again.

While powder coating and other spray media can be more forgiving in actual application, the capacity to automate today is almost as difficult. Automated powder coating booths with reciprocating arms and varied production lots offer a variety of creative approaches to successful coating automation, but they have clear limits around the shape, size, position, and detail required on each and every part.

In place of what’s most commonly available today, autonomous paint robots allow you to adapt to the varied needs of your production environment — whether in aerospace, heavy equipment, metal fabrication, or more — and instead of bumping up on the limits of automation, empower their workforce to do more. 

Autonomous Paint Robots Let You Work in a High-Mix Environment

Autonomous paint robots aren’t like traditional robots – they don’t require precision fixturing, jigging, or elaborate programming.

How is this possible? Autonomous robots can either use live 3D Perception technology or a CAD file injected into a Digital Twin to locate and understand the shape and position of parts. From there, their intelligence can help automate the robot programming in real-time, which means the robot paints what it sees — and it can do it according to your actual instructions!

This intelligence doesn’t come easy, however. Omnirobotic’s AutonomyOS™ is the only integration method that allows autonomous robots to function in real-time for value-added spray processes. 

This technology is, at its heart, powered by Omnirobotic’s autonomous robotics platform. This platform allows manufacturers, integrators, and almost anybody to build and deploy autonomous robotic systems no matter what they want to throw at it, meaning that when you start working with autonomous paint robots, you can take the lessons you learn (and the benefits!) to other parts of your factory floor!

Autonomous Paint Robots Enable Significant Quality Improvements

With autonomous paint robots, you finally have access to robots without the pains of programming, jigging, and more. Robots can function almost exactly like skilled laborers would, except while retaining the improved quality, consistency, and productivity that robots are already known for. 

Why is this the case? Robots programmed algorithmically will always follow the same principles, while manual programming introduces its own form of human error. While artfulness is the benefit of human ingenuity, you shouldn’t expect everybody to be comfortable working 8-hour shifts on a paint line day-in and day-out — especially if you expect every piece to be perfect. 

In place of dull, tedious, and tiresome jobs, your skilled workers — already in short supply — can be moved to different parts of your facility where they have more capacity to design, create and validate the work that autonomous robots are doing. The quality comes with the territory, but the quality of life is what you’ll notice most!

Autonomy Can Reduce Rework, Waste, and Overspray

While the benefits of autonomous robots over a thinning skilled workforce are multiple, the add-ons truly allow the overall payback of the systems and cost savings to become comprehensive. 

First, the quality and consistency improvements that come with autonomous robots enable one benefit above all: reduced rework, waste, and rejections of parts.

This is often the most costly aspect of any production line because of the amount of coordination, energy, and attention to detail it requires. While rework can compose 5 or 10% of a production’s volume, the need to touch up or completely redo parts can make up to 20 or 30% of your regular operating expenses.

At the same time, overspray is another quality issue that comes with a “hidden waste” of coatings. Each coating — whether paint or powder — has very specific requirements that mean any coating over the necessary thickness is effectively waste.

For instance, in traditional powder coating, an operation can often leave up to 30 to 50% excess coating on targeted parts. This excess thickness is effectively waste. For a medium-sized powder coating shop (2 lines with 2 shifts), reducing this coating excess by half can save $1 million per year or more. 

With these side benefits, operational expenses don’t just go down, but the rate of payback for robotic deployment accelerates rapidly.

Paint Shop Automation Has Never Been More Accessible

Robotics has dominated automotive and consumer electronics manufacturing for decades, but that is only about 20% of manufacturing in North America. While other manufacturing sectors struggle with reliable, flexible automation systems, autonomous robots for value-added processes represent a game-changer for any manufacturer looking to automate efficiently.

We call this the “Autonomous Manufacturing Future”, but there’s no reason you can’t start with it today. Contact us with your spray process, its requirements, or with ideas on what project you want to build using our autonomous robotics engine and we can help you get started!

With AutonomyOS™ and AutonomyStudio™, it’s never been easier to deploy an autonomous robotic system. Using 3D Perception with AI-based Task Planning and Motion Planning, manufacturing engineers and integrators can configure autonomous robotic systems for value-added processes that allow manufacturers to achieve more consistency and flexibility in production than ever before.

Spray Process Automation Buyer’s Guide

There are a variety of different spray process automation needs, focused primarily on what approach you need to take. In order to determine your needs, you must consider the following:

  • How much volume or how many shifts are required
  • Is there a high detail or high throughput workflow that is called for
  • Is automation necessary due to local conditions, safety, or lack of skills
  • Do you have a large variation in parts or significant variation over 10-20 years

Most systems are purchased with at least a 10+ year timeline in mind. This is because of the extensive construction and equipment required for startup. In order for any spray system to pay off, it must be rationalized on a multi-year approach, where operating expenses can be used to balance against the total capital expense cost of equipment.

As such, there are a handful of methods you can use to automate spray processes. If you already have your production needs in mind, keep an eye out for what system might work below.

Single-Arm Batch Booths

If your spray process involves abrasive media or other particular “dirty” and uncomfortable systems — or simply highly sticky media and hot temperatures — a single-robot arm batch booth (two robots will also do) can be the best way to address your automation needs. 

Typically, a robotic system will only address parts adequately if they are pre-programmed, whether manually, offline, with a teach pendant, hand guiding, or other simple means. In a batch booth situation with an abrasive, low-precision process, this can be entirely useful to a manufacturer.

In situations where high precision is needed and programming and jigging can’t be generated for each and every part, autonomous systems that automate robot programming and positioning may be a better choice in these circumstances. 

Automated Coating Booths

For parts that have simple convex shapes, limited variation, and must be sprayed or coated in high volume, automated coating booths with reciprocating arms can be used to essentially “blanket” the target part in coatings or media. 

Obviously, this can create some waste, but if a “reclaim” powder booth is used with limited color variation (to prevent contamination), then this waste is minimized. In these cases, most of the waste will actually come from the overcoat on the target part. Most parts will be accepted by a customer or final assembler with a minimal thickness applied, which means overcoat is rarely necessary unless it is specifically requested. 

The exception is that these systems can typically start at a cost of $1 million or more, which means high volume and low variation are absolutely essential to justify costs. 

Conveyor Belt and Dispensing Systems

Conveyor-based systems with various dispensing mechanisms can satisfy fine or high-precision spray and lubrication processes. These processes are typically found in mass production processes like consumer goods and electronics, but choosing the right system is essential given the volume of coatings that is ultimately applied.

Nordson, Graco and Sames Kremlin are among some of the best providers of these kinds of technologies and machines, and unless cleanroom manufacturing is required, costs can be fairly low. 

Continuous Robotic Automation

With an overhead conveyor, whether stop and go or continuous, but a high degree of part variation, an autonomous robotic system is the only choice. If you are choosing racks or jigs that are repeatable and predictable, programming robots may be possible (e.g. less than 10 new parts or SKUs per year).

A two robot setup will be cost-competitive with the cheapest automated coating booths, whereas conveyor construction can be expensive for a full facility but is obviously useful in a variety of applications as needed.

If you really want to think about spray process automation for the long term, contact us to learn more.

With AutonomyOS™ and AutonomyStudio™, it’s never been easier to deploy an autonomous robotic system. Using 3D Perception with AI-based Task Planning and Motion Planning, manufacturing engineers and integrators can configure autonomous robotic systems for value-added processes that allow manufacturers to achieve more consistency and flexibility in production than ever before.