Companies in various industries, including the automotive industry, rely heavily upon the use of test panels. For example, before the first coat of new paint is sprayed onto a car body, manufacturers have carefully prepared and evaluated test panels to ensure that the paint formula will perform to exacting standards.
For decades, test panels (or coupons) have been coated using 2-axis spray machines. While this may be ideal for flat test coupons, to see a true paint finish like you would see on an automobile, the paint performance needs to be evaluated on a curved surface (or speed shape). For companies to analyze certain paint or coating factors like durability and chemical resistance for use on car bodies, truck frames, agricultural equipment or even smaller components, the use of robotic automation is best, but why?
The Benefits of Robotic Automation for Paint Performance Testing
High-performance industrial robots with six axes of freedom provide
manufacturers the flexibility to effectively spray paint and other coatings on both flat coupons and speed shapes of all sizes. Moreover, the ability to spray curved shapes helps to establish more realistic outcomes for the paint or coating being used.
Coating uniformity is very important to product quality, especially where high-gloss finishes are concerned. Robots excel at consistency and have few overspray issues, making them ideal for use on test coupons and speed shapes.
The utilization of robotic automation for paint performance testing paint coupons and speed shapes is on the rise. Not only can manufacturers gain the flexibility needed to test unique shapes, but also, all of the equipment needed can be contained in a relatively small footprint and controlled from an easy-to-use interface. Typically, these workcells include:
- High-speed painting / dispensing robot
- Optional paint gun bracket
- Intrinsically safe trigger valve
- Magnetic panel holder
- Hose containment device
- Pressure pot holder
- Safety fence with switch
- Air panel
While the thought of using a robotic system for this task may seem daunting to some, it is quite user-friendly. In fact, it is not even necessary to be a robot programmer to run this system – as the interface panel (I/F panel) tab on the teach pendant provides fields for everyday users (i.e., paint lab chemists) to specify parameters such as panel size, tip speed, paint distance and spray overlap. Once these specifications are entered, the robotic system will quickly write the program and execute the application. Savvy systems will also include a built-in timer for flash time for second-coat applications.
As with any painting or coating application, it is important to use the proper equipment and take certain precautions
. Likewise, partnering with a robot vendor or integrator that has a wide range of experience in dispensing and painting is ideal, as a robotic automation partner can tailor support programs to help avoid unplanned downtime while taking steps to accelerate ROI.
Peter Goike is a Associate Chief Application Specialist