Automobiles and motorcycles feature some of the most complex paint work anywhere. Not only do the coatings have to look great from bumper to bumper, the paint must also hold up well against sun damage, wind, and rain, while also preventing rust and corrosion of the substrate for years on end. Properly painting a car, truck, or motorcycle requires some of the most complex layering of paint and protective coating of any product or structure. But long before the first sprayer starts painting, the surface must be properly prepared. One of the world’s most popular motorcycle manufacturers, Harley Davidson, has a unique approach to surface preparation that blends robotic precision with human craftwork.
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?
When we think of paint robotics, we most often think of cavernous paint factories and intimidating robots. These large machines work quickly, with appendages swirling around at breakneck speed applying paint at a dizzying pace. But not all paint robotics are so robust. In fact, one of the most widely used paint robots is much smaller and much simpler in function: the air brush. Air brushes work by connecting a regulated nozzle with a source of high pressure air. The air atomizes the paint and forces it through the nozzle under pressure, wherein it is applied to a substrate. While this may not be what you think of when you imagine paint robotics, air brushes incredibly handy mechanical devices devices that help facilitate paintwork for professionals everyday on everything from toy trains to taxidermy tigers!
The three primary ways paint is applied to a surface are with rollers, brushes, or spray technology. While each form of application brings its own benefits – as well as it’s own disadvantages – many professional painters do not yet fully realize the variety of options available to them for painting. Some remain stuck in old habits that are inefficient while others simply haven’t been exposed to new products and technologies that have greatly expanded the paint professional’s repertoire.
As we’ve discussed before, paint automation is becoming more and more present in professional paint work. As new developments in robotics and programming emerge, more and more paint work is being performed by sophisticated robots and machines instead of individual painters. And as with most technology, the cost of utilizing robots for these processes is declining at an accelerating rate. That said, not all types of commercial painting can be handled by a machine and not all clients are prepared to embrace automation for work.
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.
Art is always among the most popular class with elementary school students. What child doesn’t love to draw or paint? Getting the chance to use one’s imagination while playing with vibrant colors and textures in the art room is about as much fun as can be had in school apart from recess. For many students, this enjoyment of painting develops over the yearsand by the time these students reach high school, they have not only developed as artists, but also as technicians expert in using both paint materials and paint tools. In some cases, this education continues as the student becomes a professional painter, making a living from the skills and knowledge acquired during years of art class at school.
By now it should be obvious that machines and robots are rapidly integrating into many facets of daily life. From robots working on distribution systems in warehouses for online retailers like Amazon.com to robotic painters like we’ve detailed here at Rise of the Machines, it seems that more and more services and tasks are being done 100% by machines.
Many professionals don’t think much of airbrushing when it comes to industrial painting. Sure, some professional painters use sprayers to apply paint quickly to large areas, but most impressions of air brushing revolve around delicate and detailed artwork. Airbrushing is utilized to paint art pieces on motorcycle gas tanks and at tanning salons, and is typically perceived to be as much art as science. In fact, the word “airbrushing” has become synonymous in many cases with digitally retouched photographs, where software and not an actual airbrush is responsible for making a person’s skin appear smoother or teeth appear whiter. But the robotics integrated with some new airbrushing machines are beginning to blur the line between what is reliant on human skill and what can be replicated by a machine.
Can a robot paint a car? Absolutely.
Can a robot replicate painting a masterpiece? You bet.
Would you trust a robot to give you a manicure on your wedding day?
You had to stop and think about it, didn’t you? Despite knowing that robots are masters of precision and capable of levels of detail that evade even the most delicate human touch, it is hard to imagine trusting a robot to perform a task like painting a person’s nails.