‘Smart’ Technology Utilized for Powder Coatings
Powder coating system designer and manufacturer Gema recently introduced the second generation of its Dynamic Contour Detection system that uses “smart” scanning technology to improve the powder coating spray process. According to reports, the equipment can be used for complex fabrications in job shops and contract manufacturers.
Jeff Hale, Gema’s Director of Marketing, said in an interview that the new-generation powder coatings technology is “smart” because it integrates software algorithms precise spray gun positioning.
“There are several differences between our dynamic contouring technology and a robotic application, for instance,” Hale said. “Instead of creating individual, point-to-point movement programs for every part style or family, our technology uses a laser to scan the object surface as it enters the coating booth.
“If the part is hung at a different angle or is wider, longer, or has protruding or recessed surfaces than the part hung before it, the scanner identifies those differences and positions the powder spray gun or guns to the optimum distance. No programming is required.”
According to Gema, the Dynamic Contour Detection process is carried out in two steps—dynamic shape detection via scan and dynamic shape coating by spraying. The laser scanners operate in a two-dimensional area to measure distances to the object and calculate its outline.
One to three laser scanners, which are mounted on a frame at the opening of the powder coating booth, can be placed on one or both sides of the booth with a line speed of 16.5 feet per minute (5 meters/minute). The number and positioning of the scanners, Hale said, depends on the overall height of the parts entering the booth opening and the complexity of the surfaces to be powder coated.
The company’s MagicControl 4.0 control console uses software to take the scanned information to transmit commands to the axis-positioning unit for the powder spray gun’s movement. Gema’s ZA16 reciprocating gun mover can be used in applications which require multiple guns, reportedly accommodating up to eight position units.
Then, the powder coating is sprayed to meet required coating specifications for coverage and thickness. The laser scanners can “see” the parts a they enter the booth to place the guns at a correct distance for the right amount of coating to be applied to the part.
In addition to being more efficient than other powder coating systems, the technology also works to minimize powder waste. A human operate can potentially apply too much or too little powder, while automatic spray gun booths also might use the incorrect amount of powder or proper gun arrangement.
“Dynamic Contour Detection helps to improve coverage and uniformity, all while keeping the application efficiency as high as possible,” Hale said.
Recent Coatings Application Technology
Earlier this month, global adhesives and auto products manufacturer 3M announced that its Finesse-It Robotic Paint Repair System has been named a 2022 RBR50 Robotic Innovation Award Honoree by Robotics Business Review.
According to the press release, Finesse-It uses data from an advanced vision system to repair paint defects on automobiles coming off the assembly line. The paint repair system was awarded in the “Product Introduction” category, which recognizes new commercial solutions that have the potential to positively impact markets or the robotics sector.
After years of research and testing, 3M reports, the system was commercialized in 2021 in an effort to achieve a better method for perfecting car finishes. According to the company, it is centered on proprietary software that fixes defects, identified by a qualified vision system, by providing robots the right repair process to enable them to sand and polish the vehicles using 3M abrasive products.
Defect repairs can introduce challenges such as the need for a large shop floor or factor footprint, high energy consumption and reliance on multiple operators. 3M adds that this manual labor can provide a variance in inspection, repair techniques and data entry.
Using the automated paint repair system, the robot offers consistency in quality and long-term cost savings by reducing cycle times and increase part quality. The system itself is comprised of various tools, abrasives and process expertise that all work together with a range of robots.
Defects in the topcoat that can be repaired include paint flaws like dirt, fiber, pops and scratches. Cycle times for these repairs are dependent on the number of robots and tools, the type of defects and location of defects.