3M’s new Robotic Paint Repair System is based on proprietary software that identifies defects and tells robots how to repair them.
According to 3M, vehicles often have correctable paint finish imperfections that are manually repaired. The process requires operators, often working in close quarters, to visually inspect vehicles and sand out imperfections – a labour-intensive job with too much variability. Consequently, the automotive industry has long pursued a perfect finish for cars, but that comes with a cost.
3M said that having been involved in the paint repair process since the invention of the automobile, it was in a unique position to develop a solution, with the company’s Abrasive Systems Division exploring ways for the process to be performed by robots. The robots sand and polish vehicles using 3M abrasives made for automated use.
According to 3M, material removal is a pressure driven process that is all about finding the right synergy between the product and the robot. The system gathers digital data using cameras and other devices to provide a full end-to-end system that ensures all process components are communicating effectively.
“Today, Abrasive Systems is the lead division when it comes to customers wanting to use robots instead of human operators,” said Carl Doeksen, Director Robotics & Automation. “More and more, it’s not a human operator using our product, but robots.”
The pandemic, in addition to the global shortage of production workers, is driving increased robotics and automation investments for 3M customers.
“It’s a huge deal for the industry and a game changer for us,” Doeksen said, adding that manufacturers around the world are changing to robotics in larger numbers.
3M said the Robotic Paint Repair System team recently won the 2020 3M Circle of Technical Excellence and Innovation (CTEI) corporate level award, which honours exceptional individuals and teams for their outstanding contributions to 3M and for setting the standard for 3M technical excellence and innovation worldwide.