One of the most valuable, and perhaps under-estimated, applications on the market is robotic painting or coating. More accessible and capable than ever, paint robots fine-tune a paint or adhesive spraying process, delivering undeniable benefits. From creating a safer working environment to providing consistent finish quality, long-term use of robotic automation helps manufacturers save on materials and costs while building a strong competitive advantage.
But, What Makes a Paint Robot Really Tick?
While a small footprint, slim arm robot design with fast speed and six axes is ideal for a successful painting application, there are four paint robot “must haves” that facilitate ease of use, increase product quality and boost production output for optimized finishing operations.
Hollow Wrist Design
While there are a variety of robot wrist models to choose from, the innovation of the hollow wrist has greatly contributed to motion flexibility. A hollow wrist provides ample placement for integrated cabling, pneumatic lines and paint hoses, preventing entanglement with the robot arm or parts/fixtures. Well-suited for painting applications, the use of a hollow wrist design maintains a cleaner operation and ensures robot reach close to workpieces or in tight spaces, simplifying programming.
Paint Parameter Control and Applicator Control Software
An adept paint robot should be able to make modifications to the paint spray by adjusting the spray parameters through application-specific software. Changes of this nature should be easy for a robot operator to do within the refined Yaskawa INFORM II robot programming language, which fully supports on the fly adjustment of paint parameters through “Paint Condition Files.”
Just as Yaskawa’s arc welding robots utilize the same software control in the form of “Arc Condition Files,” Yaskawa’s MPX-series paint robots come ready to paint with Paint Application Software. This straightforward way of parameter control is critical for optimum transfer efficiency, and it allows robot operators to confidently adjust items such as Flow Rate, Fan Pattern, Atomization and Electrostatics. In addition to applicator control, pneumatic calibration and valve timing charts are also standard features.
Conveyor Tracking Capability
Used in a variety of robotic applications, conveyor tracking technology enables robots to accurately monitor and follow objects on moving conveyors in a coordinated fashion with the assistance of the conveyor encoder. While not all applications require the use of conveyor tracking, a common practice for painting and coating applications is to implement the use of a moving conveyor to continuously move parts through the paint booth and ovens.
Easily integrated with other capital equipment to accommodate production growth, conveyor tracking comes as a standard option on Yaskawa paint robots. While continuous moving lines may not be suitable for every painting operation, the Yaskawa paint robot comes equipped to meet all production concepts.
Consistent Air Pressure – “Purged and Pressurized”
Robots that are Factory Mutual (FM) approved for Class I, Div. 1 hazardous environments need substantial electrical component protection to prevent fire or explosion. This is especially true for paint robots where flammable vapors or particles could come into contact with exposed electrical components and motors. For this reason, Yaskawa robots used in painting and coating environments are constantly pressurized with air through a method called, “Purged and Pressurized”.
Unique over other robot designs, paint robots are equipped with an air purge box that uses compressed air or inert gas to help manage the air purge cycle, evacuating the internal chamber of the robot arm from potentially harmful substances that could harm electronic equipment or create a volatile situation.
While the previously mentioned features are critical to the successful operation of a paint robot, trending technology has driven experts to make recent improvements in other key areas:
Robot Payload Capacity – Increasing payload capacities for small paint robots allows a greater variety of guns and small bells to now be equipped on smaller robot designs.
Streamlined Robot Design – Small footprint, slim arm robot designs permit robots to work in tight spaces, enabling high-density robot layouts.
Reduced Interference Envelope – Improved arm designs and configurations allow the painting of workpieces closer to the robot, increasing space efficiency and robot density.
Multiple Robot Mounting Configurations – Paint robots can be mounted in a variety of configurations to maximize efficiency, cleanliness and overall performance. Significant improvements have been made in the range of motion for wall-mounted robots to allow optimal flexibility in mounting configuration.
Easy-to-use and Intuitive Touchscreen Pendants – More ergonomic and lightweight teach pendants prevent operator fatigue and offer intuitive features for efficient robot command.
Together, these components and features contribute to the successful operation of paint robots, which help to fulfill the “dirty” jobs that would otherwise remain undone. Furthermore, robot manufacturers are working hard to help companies fill the skills gap and meet challenging customer demands, while building a strong competitive advantage.
Anthony Steward is a Senior Application Engineer, Paint