As the twenty first century approached, many paint professionals recounted their careers and realized they had been exposed to harmful substances over years and years of simply going to work each day. From stripping lead paint to working in environments that contained asbestos insulation, professional painters had more interaction with dangerous household materials then perhaps any other profession. It wasn’t that paint safety was an afterthought, but rather that products and materials used on a daily basis hadn’t yet been fully examined with regard to individual health.
Thankfully, regulations and restrictions over the last few decades have combined with new tools like respirators to limit the work hazards that lead to headaches, nausea, and other painful symptoms for a large number of paint professionals. Younger painters are better educated about the dangers associated with their materials and can take precautions and be advised of the health and safety risks of the profession before committing a lifetime to quality paint work. Gloves, aprons, and respirators have helped minimize the chemical dangers associated with long term exposure to paint and paint products. And would you believe that robots and machines are helping improve paint safety even more?
We’ve discussed at length the amazing things paint robots are able to do. Watch the video above. The machine in the video, the IRB 580, can be trained by a painter to have the same touch and consistency as if a human were performing the job in real time. This type of thing is nothing new to many painters worried about automation technology replacing them in the workforce. Much as flight simulators provide pilots with a mock cockpit from which to work, there are now indoor paint systems that give the painter a paint gun to hold and a trigger to squeeze. What is interesting, however, is that this machine can also paint individual jobs by mimicking the hand movements and gestures of a professional painter. These machines track everything from trigger pressure to the movements of the painter’s arms. As a result, new robots are providing not just more efficient paint work but an added benefit as well: workplace safety.
By having control over a machine to perform precise, custom, and one-of-a-kind paintwork, a professional can remove themselves from previously dangerous environments that used to be part of the job. No more hot, poorly ventilated paint booths. No more uncomfortable jumpsuits or respirators. Instead, modern paint professionals can control a paint robot from a comfortable location in the next room over or half a world away. So in addition to safer work conditions, painters are more comfortable, which leads to greater productivity. In what might seem like a paradox, the introduction of machines like this result in greater amounts of work for the modern paint professional, not less.
Is it fair to wonder how many paint tasks machines and robots will assume in the future at the exclusion of their human counterparts? Absolutely. But part of that ongoing discussion should include the benefits machines are providing to individual painters as well. While many paint professionals may never be impacted by machines like the one above, that doesn’t minimize their importance in keeping painters safe and healthy. Perhaps professional painters should be looking at ways to embrace emerging technology instead of viewing it as an outright threat to the profession. Because who wouldn’t rather paint in safe, comfortable conditions?
If you are interested in paint robotics and how technology is affecting the profession, click here to read more Rise of the Machines from BYK.