Rise of the Machines: Coating Evaluation Technology in Paint Robotics Reply

We’ve discussed the rapid development of robotics and machine technology in the paint sector in the past. However, most of those discussions have centered on technology that impacts actual painting. From paint spray technology to factory paint robots, the impact of mechanized technology on actual paint work is undeniable. But what about technology that doesn’t actually perform any paint work, but rather directly contributes to the efficiency of the paint profession as a whole?

While previous installments of Rise of the Machines have addressed the challenges facing paint professionals as automation technology develops, there is actually quite a bit of good news on the horizon for paint professionals. A great deal of technological advancement – in fact, the vast majority – serves to enhance and amplify the efforts of people, not replace them entirely. And while paint professionals must certainly be aware of the paint work being transitioned from painters to machines equipped with advanced paint robotics, it is equally important to understand the new tools and techniques that will help with the work they continue to perform.

Automotive paint work by Ford

Ford Motor Company is using new technology to increase the quality of its painting process.
Image courtesy of Canadian Manufacturing

One example of this new type of complementary machinery in use is with Ford Motor Company. Last year, Ford developed and integrated surface detection technology into factory assembly lines in an effort to detect any imperfect surfaces or coating abnormalities on the automobiles being produced at the Ford factories. This “dirt detection technology” uses light reflection and high resolution cameras to also detect any stray dust particles or texture imperfection on body panels at final assembly.   These detection methods significantly increase the likelihood of finding coating imperfections before the vehicle moves to the showroom floor.

How did this new technology perform? Amazingly. The results have been staggering: complaints about customer finishes and paintwork declined by 82% in the first year of utilizing this technology.  In fact, it can even detect dirt particles that are smaller than a single grain of salt! Keeping paint rooms clean from dust particles and debris is a never-ending challenge. Rather than focus solely on keeping the rooms clean, however, Ford has leveraged technology in a way that detects the dirt at the last possible moment before the paintwork begins and shortly after it is completed. As Tom Dougan, the project manager for global paint at applications at Ford, said, “This is one of the most exciting integrations of optical science and digital technology in the automotive industry.”

A red painted ford car

Keeping paint rooms clear of all dirt and debris is an ongoing challenge.
Image courtesy of AutoBlog.

As with any profession, tools and machines emerge that help improve processes that human beings simply aren’t very good at. In professional paint work, evaluation and testing of paints and substrates is best left to science, rather than human subjectivity. From gloss meters to spectrophotometers, a number of tools exist that help chemists, engineers, and others in the paint sector do a better job every day. Not all robotic developments are a threat to painters; most of them actually serve to help improve the work being done by professionals today and in to the future. Click here to learn about all the amazing new technologies coming to market for paint and coatings professionals!

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