Revolutionary art car painting robots hint at a future where no two vehicles are alike

The world’s first robot capable of painting intricate art cars has been unveiled, and its introduction could have profound implications for the future of automotive design.

To demonstrate the capabilities of its latest PixelPaint robot, Swiss-Swedish automation company ABB has commissioned two artworks to be applied to a vehicle using the machine – the first by eight-year-old Indian artist Advait Kolarkar and the another of the digital design company Illusorr.

Kolarkar’s creation, a monochrome abstract piece titled Zebra Utopia, inspired by a zebra-striped Pegasus flying through a dreamland, was scanned and then perfectly recreated by the robot on the hood and roof of what appears to be a Volkswagen Tiguan – used for demonstration.

The artist, whose works have fetched up to £100,000 and who is currently having his first solo exhibition at the Gagliardi Gallery in Chelsea, was very impressed with the process.

“I couldn’t believe a robot was painting an artwork for the first time,” he said.

“And it wasn’t just any work of art: it was my work of art. I think art and robots have a similarity. They both interact with the world and they have the power to change the world for the better.

ABB PixelPaint in action

The second piece from the Illusorr collective (who design figures and illustrations for the Metaverse) was created digitally and unlike Kolarkar’s piece, it included three colors in a futuristic design inspired by nature, wind, speed and airflow around the car.

“You can paint on a car with traditional techniques, but some artwork requires robotic execution because a human eye or human hands cannot execute this kind of complexity level drawing,” said one. of the founders of Illusorr, Begüm Aydinoglu.

Unprecedented precision

This level of complexity is falling in the design of the new robotic paint heads, which ABB says will be in use in a year or two.

“Each PixelPaint has 1,000 individually controlled nozzles, similar to an inkjet printer,” explained Sami Atiya, president of robotics and discrete automation at ABB.

“The paint is carefully controlled and because our PixelPaint is so precise, the paint heads follow within millimeters of the body. This means that 100% of the paint is applied to the car. PixelPaint is the future of custom automotive painting .

ABB PixelPaint in action

As Atiya suggests, the development of paint robots capable of highly complex individual designs raises big questions for the future of car design, including the possibility that car buyers could upload their own paint designs, perhaps via an online configurator and reproduce them. on the production line.

The future of automotive customization

It’s something that particularly excites Ian Callum, head of the Callum design firm and creator of, among other things, the Aston Martin Vanquish and the Jaguar F-Type.

“It’s unbelievable. It will get to the point where two cars that you don’t buy – although they may be from the same range of cars, from the same brand – will no longer be the same.

“Whether by choice of features or if it’s a very individual paint job. I believe, looking at the way it works, it’s going to – it could become – you know, beyond something elite and very specialized. I think you can go for semi-mass market cars.

“It’s obviously a special order of some kind. It will likely end up on a special paint line as part of a mass production process. But I think I can see that applying to cars you and I might buy. I think it’s extremely exciting.

Rather than such high levels of customization being just a fantasy, Callum thinks there’s a strong business case to be made for automakers using robots such as ABB’s PixelPaint system.

Advait Kolarkar

“I think the big automakers are now realizing that customization is also a source of revenue. Because people are happy to pay for it.

“When most people buy a car, they want to add their personal touch. And very often they are very, very happy to pay for it. It’s all the customization, all the features, all the accessories that people could add to the car, that’s where a lot of their margins come from.

“It’s just another opportunity to add some margin to the product. And I’m sure if the price is right – and I’m not talking about a cheap alternative – I’m talking about something that people are ready to pay maybe, you know, a few thousand pounds or even more for it. It will be worth it as a business case.

The success of individual factory customization may depend on the segment of the automotive market in which it debuts. Buyers of expensive ultra-luxury cars such as Rolls-Royces and Bentleys may be willing to pay significantly more to stand out from the crowd, although the same may not be true at the other end of the market.

In 2017, MINI launched its Yours Customized service through which buyers could specify 3D-printed polymer parts such as dashboard inlays, door sill projectors and side windows bearing the individual designs or lettering of the vehicle. owner.

The parts were produced in Germany within weeks of ordering and could be fitted either by the owner or by a dealer and at the time were hailed as an exciting development in both 3D printing technology and in car customization. By 2021, however, the project had been quietly abandoned.

Related Articles

last articles