While many can often think of robots as far off, futuristic, unrealistic or attainable technology, robots have in fact existed as an industry for more than 50 years. And yes, while autonomous robots that fight crime and solve mysteries may be far off, we’re actually approaching an age where these robots we’ve conventionally ignored can conduct tasks autonomously as well.
In all the time that the robotics market has taken to develop, they have evolved from general to many specific and purpose-built uses and designs. Specific robot models are designed to lift many thousands of pounds, conduct precise operations in very low tolerance ranges, transfer materials at high speed, execute welding or other complex and caustic processes, and do it all within standardization and compliance ranges that ensure they can safely function for decades on end.
What Makes a Paint Robot Different
Paint robots have to have the appropriate performance, but also the right equipment. Range, reach, speed and degrees of freedom all make a difference – this means that a paint robot won’t support a large payload, just enough for the right tooling, paint or powder gun – but it will need to be fast and reliable in terms of position.
This is critical for two reasons: accuracy (or complete coverage) and avoiding dry spray. Dry spray can happen in many contexts where, if a paint or coating system is not fast and efficient enough, it will leave parts of the surface to dry while others are still wet. This is difficult when coatings are particularly thin, which is often the case in industrial manufacturing (no worse waste than excess).
While this is most common in humid environments, the reliability of paint robots to achieve an accurate spray with aggressive settings is essential because – in order to realize significant quality and efficiency improvements over human operators – being able to function at a high level in adverse conditions is essential.
Finally, whether there is a paint pump, a powder mixer or another mix and feed system, paint robots work best when they have a hollow wrist to allow for easy tube management and feeding through the end-effector position of the robot. These robots further require explosion proofing for caustic, flammable or highly volatile coatings (which includes most industrial paints in liquid form).
What is explosion-proofing?
Explosion-proofing works by effectively forming a pressurized jacket within the casing of the robot. A safety mechanism manages this pressure to ensure that it is constant. If there is a collision or other instance of depressurization, the power source to the entire robot is cut off.
This may seem drastic, but why is this the case? Robots have active motors that can, in certain conditions, produce a short circuit which could ignite atomized coatings in the air. If said coatings would infiltrate a non-explosion-proofed robot, this would cause an explosion that would destroy the robot and most materials in the paint booth while also posing risks to the health and safety of everyone in the facility.
Finally, software that can allow you to program (or even automate robot programming in real-time) is essential to driving the output of your paint robot. Depending on the number of parts and variations in your process, traditional programming approaches may not be cost-effective. This is where AutonomyOS™ and AutonomyStudio™ can help.
What Brands have a Paint Robot
Almost every major industrial brand has its own paint robots, but ABB and FANUC have more than 90% of the market in North America. These robots have unparalleled reach and nimble designs which make them flexible and versatile for a variety of spraying applications, including the ability to flip over and use balanced-arm applications that provide more work volume and more versatility for skilled workers.
Kawasaki, Yaskawa, Staubli and others of course have their own fine models of paint robots, but in order to best select your paint robot, considering whether your existing robot vendor meets your needs is the best approach as the complexity of going through multiple vendors, drivers, or programming methodologies is more trouble than its worth.
How to Get Started
In order to get started, the best choices are as follows:
- Speak to your integrator
- Speak to your OEM provider
- Speak to a distributor or other expert who can ensure that the mechanical function of a particular robot model will meet your needs
Give and excess envelopes are always essential, even if a slightly higher price is called for. If your application is high-mix (e.g. more than 100 parts per year or batches under 1000) then traditional programming methods will likely create significant inefficiencies. In this context, self-programming or autonomous robotics technology is the most effective way to meet your spray needs – no matter what you want to throw at it!
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.