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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. 

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