The world of automotive art can be a strange place. Now, it might be an automated place thanks to an impressive piece of technology from ABB Robotics. Robots painting cars is nothing new, but one that can paint extremely complex patterns in a matter of minutes? That's worthy of some attention.
The robot in question is called PixelPaint, and in short, it works something like an inkjet printer. In this case, the print head has no less than 1,000 nozzles pumping out colour. It works with fine precision, operating just millimetres above the car's surface. It can create small patterns using multiple colours at once, and because it's so close to the surface, there's no overspray. That means there's no need for masking, and anyone familiar with automotive paintwork can attest that masking is a significant time suck in the process.
Gallery: ABB Robotics Art Car
To showcase PixelPaint's capabilities, ABB Robotics picked up a white VW Tiguan that had been flood-damaged. The company then sought out the conceptual minds of artists for inspirational designs, ultimately turning to Dubai-based art collective company Illusorr and eight-year-old art prodigy Advait Kolarkar. Illusorr created an impossibly intricate pattern of multi-coloured lines inspired by nature and the natural flow of air around the car. Kolarkar offered up a wholly abstract black-and-white painting he called Zebra Utopia.
Each creation was plugged into PixelPaint's software, and the machine went to work. Without any human intervention during the painting process, the robot recreated the pieces of art in precise detail on the roof and bonnet of the VW. Moreover, each project took just 30 minutes to complete. It's not uncommon for an automotive painter to spend more than 30 minutes just in the masking process, never mind painting.
"ABB's PixelPaint technology is more than an evolution – it is a revolution," said Sami Atiya, president of ABB's Robotics & Discrete Automation business area. "It's a shining example of how robotic automation and our RobotStudio software can not only pave the way for more sustainable manufacturing but can also perfectly replicate delicate pieces of art that celebrate the originality and beauty of the human spirit."
While most people aren't interested in replicating delicate art on their SUV, PixelPaint does open the door for faster, more efficient custom paint jobs. It will be interesting to see how this tech spiders through the automotive industry in the years to come.