While it may be worthwhile programming assembly-line robots to paint many identical objects, the painting of smaller-run items is generally still done manually. That could be about to change, however. German and Swedish scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute are developing a system known as SelfPaint, which will allow robots to figure out how to paint individual objects. It could reportedly reduce paint use by 20 percent, energy consumption by 15 percent and production time by five percent.
SelfPaint incorporates a five-step process.
First of all, a 3D scan of the item is performed. This is used in a computer simulation of the painting process, in which software simulates the trajectory of the paint particles and subsequently determines the optimum volume of paint and air needed to achieve the required coating thickness.
Next, the path that the robot will travel while painting is mapped out. The painting process itself then takes place, followed by an inspection to check that the coating of paint is thick enough.
"For the quality control checks we apply terahertz technology, in other words a beam of light at a wavelength that lies between microwave and infrared," says Fraunhofer's Joachim Jonuscheit. "This enables us to measure wet, colored paint without actually touching it."
The individual components of the system have already been developed, and they are now being combined into one cohesive process. It is hoped that a prototype will be up and running by late 2018.