Robot Helps Keep Road Painters Safe


Researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth have teamed up with its state’s Department of Transportation to build a robot that helps keep workers safe.

Designed by mechanical and industrial engineering professor Ryan Rosandich and sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the MnDOT Robot can paint markings and words on roads while keeping crew members out of traffic.

“The current way of doing things is to use templates and have multiple people out there painting out in the traffic zone,” Rosandich said in a video demonstration of the prototype. “So, the idea was to try to make it a lot safer so that it could be done from inside the cab of a pickup by an individual person.

“The truck can drive up and then paint a marking, and then the robot deploys and stores itself.” Rosandich continued. “So, you don’t have to actually be out in the workspace while the robot is painting.”

Faster, Safer Work

During a test run of the prototype in October, the MnDOT said the robot painted a right-turn arrow and the word “ahead” on the pavement at the agency’s Pike Lake station in Duluth.

“Right now, we have the right turn arrow, the left turn arrow, the straight arrow and we have four words: ahead, stop, slow and yield,” said Rosandich. “But we can easily add to that just by adding additional programs.”

Joe Gilk, a transportation generalist for MnDOT, said the robot actually eliminates the need for one of the two workers the painting jobs require now.


Designer Ryan Rosandich said the painting robot could be used to for runways, football fields and other projects.

“It took two of us to carry the stencils and put them down in front of the truck, spray, put the beads on, and wait for it to dry,” said Gilk in the video. “An operation like this, you eliminate one person, you’re not outside the vehicle in the traffic getting.”

Future Uses

Rosandich said he and the agency are testing the prototype to prove that it’s functional and practical. Once it is fully tested, he said he hopes other industries will be interested in using it for jobs beyond painting roads.

“People who have seen this technology work have had a lot of ideas of other things we could do with it,” said Rosandich. “Airport runways, painting football fields, that kind of thing.

“I think a technology like this could go a long way.”


Tagged categories: Coating Application; Coatings; Department of Transportation (DOT); Government contracts; North America; Research; Roads/Highways; Robotics; Technology

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