Changing the Way Machines and Humans Work Together – Three Innovations in Paint Technology 3

Last week in Rise of the Machines we discussed the ever-changing landscape of the professional paint sector as it related to innovations and advances in robotics.   This week we will be looking at three recent innovations in industrial paint robotics and technology, and how those innovations affect the professional commercial painter.

The influx of new technology into the commercial paint sector is hard to deny.  From assembly line sprayers capable of custom paint jobs without a wasted drop of paint to precision applicators that can paint micron-thin lines, new technology is changing the face of professional painting.  As detailed earlier, there are ample and growing opportunities for quality professional painters to not only survive but thrive in the face of these emerging technological advancements.  It is easy to presume that every advancement is meant to replace human painters.  The truth is much different: new technological advancements are being made every day that will help individual painters now and in the future.  Here are three recent developments in paint robotics and the ways in which those developments effect professional painters.

Advanced Robotic Laser Coating Removal System (ARLCRS) : Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a laser in conjunction with the United States Air Force that helps remove paint and coatings from aircraft of all shapes and sizes.  From Fighter jets to fuel tankers, the ARLCRS uses a high-powered laser to completely strip the coating off of an aircraft while simultaneously recording data about the condition of the substrate. At the moment, the Air Force uses chemical strippers for paint removal which can be costly, time consuming, and harmful to the environment.

Laser Coating Removal System

Image Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

What this new paint technology means to the Paint Professional:  The ARLCRS system is a significantly faster, cleaner, and more efficient way to remove paint and coatings from aircraft.  It is easy to hypothesize that this technology will be useful in the commercial sector as well, with prices eventually declining in such a way that the commercial paint professional will have access to a laser-powered paint-stripping tool in the not-too-distant future.

Dupont Intellimist System : In early 2013, Dupont announced the Intellimist system and began demonstrating this amazing new technology at trade shows in recent weeks.   As a process improvement tool, the Intellimist system helps regulate humidity in paint booths. For booths located in typically dry conditions, the system allows painters to more efficiently use waterborne and solvent paint.

What this new paint technology means to the Paint Professional:  With the Intellimist system, painters in dry climates can use humidity to regulate paint application instead of having to purchase and mix in costly additives.  Furthermore, painters that previously worked in the middle of the night to avoid oppressive heat in the paint booth may be able to work conventional hours and find some relief in a more comfortable, cooler environment created by the Intellimist system.

A Paint Booth

Image Courtesy of PMP Spray Booths

Boeing Automated Spray Method :  Painting large aircraft has never been an efficient process.  In the past, different parts of the plane might be painted prior to assembly or dozens of painters would be called in to efficiently paint a single airplane.  With the Boeing Automated Spray Method (or ASM), the airplane manufacturer has created a factory that can paint wings fast enough to up Boeing’s production to one hundred 777 aircraft each year.

What this new paint technology means to the Professional Painter:  This is indeed an example of new paint technology replacing  human painters.  Both time and cost have been greatly reduced by the introduction of the ASM factory.  Boeing is able to produce more aircraft, faster, and at lower cost per unit.   This is an excellent example of emerging technology that threatens the modern professional painter; an innovation that takes non-custom, repeatable work and transfers it from the human workforce to robotic paint systems.

Boeing Airplane factory

Image Courtesy of

The balance between technology that helps and harms the professional painter must be evaluated regularly.  As often as new paint technology emerges that helps professional painters work more efficiently and more safely, technology also emerges that threatens to transfer paint work from man to machine.  The challenge facing the modern paint professional is knowing the difference between the two and identifying opportunities where humans – not machines – can deliver the best results for clients and customers.  Be sure to check back regularly to the BYK blog to learn more about advancements in paint robotics, technology, and chemistry!


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