French Startup Develops Painting Robot
Over the last several weeks, French startup Les Companions has been demonstrating a collaborative painting robot prototype to customers across the United Kingdom.
If the droid, known as “Paco,” gains enough interest from its pitch as an assistant for construction workers, Les Companions aims to launch it for commercial use within the next year.
Designed to spray paint up to 3.5 meters (just under 11.5 feet) and capable of moving around flat surfaces, Paco is the latest technology in a series of emerging robots capable of autonomous painting.
In terms of the technology’s hardware, the company shares that Paco is comprised of omnidirectional wheels, LiDAR laser optics, an elevator, a robotic arm, an airless sprayer and a 15-liter (roughly four-gallon) paint cartridge.
Paco’s LiDAR laser operates as a 3D scanner capable of creating a digital model of the space being painted with the help of a machine operator. Once the information is uploaded to Paco’s internal system, which the developer notes are easily programmable, it can then begin completing the paint job it’s been assigned.
While the robot cannot move around surfaces that have a rise or drop in elevation, such as a ramp, hill or stairs, Les Companions notes that the robot moves well alongside human painters, leaving the more complicated and intricate paint tasks to their expertise.
Antoine Rennuit, who runs Les Companions, told The Sun, “Paco’s mission is to perform the most tedious, or least challenging tasks. But you still need a human touch.”
The report also shared that the startup has spent millions of dollars to invent the hi-tech machine.
According to the Financial Times, Netherlands-based global coatings manufacturer and parent of Dulux, Akzo Nobel, has also shared that it is backing the French startup to help make robo-painters a reality. Several years ago, the company collaborated with U.S.-based startup Appelix on a computer-controlled spray-painting drone.
The coatings giant believes that the adoption of more robotic and autonomous painting technology could help to alleviate the labor shortages being experienced by the painting and decorating industry, and ultimately delaying construction projects across the board.
And, in addition to backing Les Companions on this project, AkzoNobel has also reportedly called on the U.K. Government to address the worker shortages. In a Dulux survey of 348 industry members in 2022, 61% of U.K. painting and decorating businesses said they were struggling to find workers with the required skills.
Recent Robotic Launches
Back in February 2022, Emirati multinational real estate development company Emaar Properties announced the award of all painting work for a luxury high-rise residential project to Singapore-based MYRO International, a mobile intelligent paint robot.
The company, which claims to have created the world’s first intelligent wall painting robot, notes that the technology is specifically designed for construction, painting and related coatings sectors.
On its website, MYRO adds that painting robot is accountable, fast—up to 10 times faster than manual painters—safe, precise and consistent, among other features. The smart robot can operate for up to 24 hours at a time, can be pre-programmed to create floor plans in less than an hour and is able to accurately configure non-paintable areas on walls as well.
According to Arabia Business, MYRO International has previously completed over 300,000 square feet of onsite painting work for several construction firms in India. In another, more recent project, MYRO was deployed on a trial basis for a luxury villa compound at Dubai Hills Estate, where its performance was carefully evaluated.
Compiled data from these projects revealed that the productivity of the MYRO robots accumulated to nearly 1,000 square feet of coated surfaces per hour. Typically, in a single apartment unit, it takes up to four days of manual painting. MYRO, however, can auto-paint the same area within just four hours.
In June, Pittsburgh-based Finish Robotics announced the release of its Finishbot Autonomous Coating System. The technology works by using artificial intelligence (AI) models to produce high-resolution 3D surface representations. From here, the technology can automate the application of coatings for commercial buildings.
According to Finish Robotics’ press release, the autonomous technology allows professional painters to complete jobs up to 75% faster than traditional methods.
Finishbot Autonomous Coating Systems have already completed over 125,000 square feet of painting with several early pilot customers in the Pittsburgh area. With the early success and potential of the technology on full display, Finish Robotics is planning to expand its pilot program and distribute Finishbots to additional construction sites in the upcoming quarter.
Most recently, in December, Italian creative consulting firm and design studio Valerio Cometti + V12 Design unveiled a new robotic technology capable of analyzing exterior facades and removing graffiti “tags.”
Known as T.R.S 001—short for “Tag Removal System”—the robotic project aims to contain the proliferation of “tags” through geometric and chromatic analysis of exterior walls. The autonomous machine runs on four omnidirectional wheels and is noted to be roughly the same size as a common humidifier.
To remove exterior graffiti accurately and effectively, the T.R.S 001 features a set of cameras, paint nozzles and an extendable arm capable of reaching heights 1-3 meters (3.3-9.8 feet) high. The robot's exterior is also noted to feature RGB LED strips, which both indicate the robot’s operating status and serve as proximity sensors.
According to reports, the cameras first detect the geometry of a façade, recording the size and position of doors, windows and gutters. The cameras also detect the paint’s color already on the wall.
Inside the robotic machine houses several canisters of paint of different colors, where it can then mix the color needed to cover the detected graffiti tag. Once created, T.R.S 001 then moves back and forth, applying one to two coats of paint until the tag is successfully overcoated.