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Painting Small Masked Parts Using Robots and Chain-On-Edge Machines

Painting in a chain-on-edge environment allows for parts to move in front of a stationary robot such as FANUC Robotics' PaintMate 200iA. The parts are painted efficiently, allowed to move along to other parts of the system, and are painted with little overspray.

In the following photos for example, the PaintMate 200iA is painting automotive interior parts. The system has two slides that move parts in and out of the painting zone. Also, each slide has a mask system that fits on the part blocking out where paint is not desired. The system is loaded with parts then the mask table is raised putting the parts into the mask. The table is then moved into the paint booth, and is ready for paint.

While the robot is spraying one side, the other slide is moved out and parts are unloaded and reloaded. This method allows a high level of efficiency of the robot keeping it painting at all times. The operator must tend to the machine to keep up with production. This type of painting is targeted for products that are masked or require fine edges of paint. The mask is a formed cover over the part and can be used over multiple times before cleaning is required. This is an improvement over the use of expensive fixtures or multiple spray guns.

Automotive Interior Parts Painting

Automotive Interior Parts Painting

Automotive Interior Masked Parts Painting

Automotive Interior Masked Parts Painting

Painting small parts in a paint process is traditionally done using a variety of coating application types and technologies (LVHP, HVLP, Powder Coating, Electrostatic Paint Systems, etc.). Some general industrial painting applications require extensive conveyors and multi-robot systems to paint large parts. Traditional painting systems utilize rigid and costly custom multi-axis reciprocators and banks of fixed guns.

Stationary Guns

Stationary Guns

However, if your application is to paint a small part, such as a pen for example using any paint processing method, you can utilize chain-on-edge coating methods to transport the part instead to one robot for paint application.

Benefits of Chain-On-Edge Coating

Chain-on-edge coating or chain-on-edge painting is utilized in environments where traditionally a part was brought in on a fixture, and several stationary guns painted each surface of the part. Chain-on-edge allows a part, secured to a shaft attached to the chain, to travel smoothly through different painting cycles in the painting process. The part can then continue on the chain and travel to other areas in the paint booth. This eliminates the use of potentially costly fixtures, and allows for a smooth to accommodate a product changeover if necessary.

High performance motion control enables direct spraying on the part and is easily adapted into existing systems. This high performance motion control allows for six degrees of freedom for direct spraying over the part. Precise gun triggering accurately controls the spray pattern timing to paint only the part. This reduces material usage over fixed spray systems that douse the area with paint. A single spray gun approach also reduces multiple spray gun setup and maintenance operations.

Benefits of Chain–On–Edge Coating over Fixed Paint Guns

Fixed Paint Guns Flexible Paint Guns
Many paint guns needed Multi location – Reducing number of guns
  Variable Gun Control
Reciprocators can limit paint surface area Precise Gun to Part Location to minimize overspray and waste; maximize transfer efficiency
Expensive fixturing limits part changeover Ease of adaptability to different parts
Hard to maintain different guns if painting multiple parts of different sizes Easy to maintain one gun
High paint waste with multiple guns Less Paint Waste
More parts required Fewer spare parts needed

Using the Paint Mate 200iA to Perform Chain-On-Edge Coating

The Paint Mate 200iA is FANUC Robotics’ latest and smallest six-axis coating robot designed to meet the automation needs of a variety of industries including aerospace, alternative energy, automotive component, appliance, agricultural equipment, consumer goods, plastics and many others. The Paint Mate 200iA has a payload capacity of 5kg and a reach of 704mm; a longer reach version, the Paint Mate 200iA/5L, is available with a reach of 892mm. Ideal for small part applications, the Paint Mate 200iA is a cost-effective replacement for fixed automation. In addition, it is approved for FM and ATEX Hazardous locations, Class I, II, III and Div. 1 environments.

The Paint Mate 200iA robot provides a level of affordability and simplicity previously not available in general industry painting. Rigid and costly custom multi-axis reciprocators and banks of fixes guns are eliminated with a single robot designed and approved for the hazardous paint environment.

The Paint Mate 200iA uses a programmable fixed gun sprayer. The robot positions the spray gun over multiple locations for direct spraying. The Paint Mate 200iA’s compact design is effective in chain-on-edge systems because of its low cost, and small footprint. It is flexible and reliable and is perfectly suited for all Class 1, Div. 1 painting environments.

Using Vision to Improve a Paint Process

In some cases, FANUC Robotics can use iRVision® for part location in paint applications. iRVision® is Integrated Robot Vision which is the integration of a camera interface built into the robot controller. One or more cameras can be in a remote location. In traditional processes, if you want the robot to manipulate every workpiece in the same way, you need to place every workpiece at exactly the same position. iRVision® is a visual sensor system designed to eliminate such restrictions. In painting environments, the camera is placed upstream in a safe environment.

iRVision® measures the position of each workpiece by using cameras, and it adjusts the robot motion so that the robot can paint the workpiece in the same way as programmed even if the position of the workpiece is different from the workpiece position set when the robot program was taught. All of the application-specific tools developed to simplify the use of the camera as a guidance, identification, or inspection tool are integrated with the robot.


  • Can reduce the need for a Manual Input Station (MIS)

  • Makes part changeovers a breeze.

  • Can identify parts in multiple orientations.

  • Can identify parts in 2D.

  • Can error proof the parts as they enter the booth.

  • Can increase throughput.

  • Reduces or eliminates fixturing costs.

Chain-On-Edge Coating Small Parts Example

Paint Mate 200iA Aerospace Painting Cell

Classic Metal Finishing’s team leaders have 25 years of experience in manufacturing and engineering. According to Phil Morrison, plant manager of Classic Metal Finishing, “Classic Metal Finishing and Classic Turning is a one-stop job shop, we machine from the raw material to the metal finish to deliver complete components to the customer.”

Classic Metal Finishing’s total machine process solution, provided by Thierica Equipment Corporation (Grand Rapids, Mich.) includes two FANUC Robotics Paint Mate 200iA robots in a table-top paint booth design. “It’s a great compact system that uses minimal floor space,” said Morrison.

Airplane Parts Painting Cell

Airplane Parts Painting Cell

Thierica Equipment Corporation’s spray system design used an AB PLC with a touch screen that is able to handle one thousand jobs, which is well suited for communication with FANUC Robotics’ R-30iA robot controller. The operator’s end of the two-position index table has a pair of safety light curtains for intrusion detection. Once the job is selected, the operator simply adjusts the gun spray to a predetermined setting, loads the part into the machine, and selects the finger sensor start button.

Thierica Equipment Corporation designed an end-of-arm-tool capable of spraying with two guns and a quick tool change capability. The two-position index table has twin spindles, rpm control for spindle speed, and adjustable fan air dials on each gun. The integrated two-position index table and Paint Mate 200iA robot system handles components sized from 3/16” to 5” diameter, and is capable of spraying two types of material and two different part configurations with any combination. For example, it can apply a type of dry film lubricant to the ID of the component, and a second type of dry film lubricant to a section of the component’s OD.

The robot system is required to apply dry film lubricant to a wide range of components with a consistent film thickness. The dry film lubricant is sprayed with an air brush gun due to the required minimal film thickness. This type of material has a short two-second flash time, making it difficult to apply without dry spots and runs which makes this a perfect application for the FANUC Robotics’ Paint Mate 200iA robot. The dry film lubricant supply system consists of Graco pressure pots, a fluid pressure regulator, and a back pressure regulator. The air brush gun has a “Y” fitting attached so the dry film lubricant continuously re-circulates and agitates to keep the dry film lubricant flowing past the gun needle. This fluid system design prevents plugged, dried out gun tips and also keep the dry film lubricant system ready to spray at a moments notice.

Classic Metal Finishing is able to spray parts in the same manner that an operator could spray by hand. System payback is in the production speed, repeatability, and labor. Hand spray of a dry film lubricant produced 65 parts per hour, a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine produced 125 parts per hour, the Paint Mate 200iA system with only one gun can produce 250 parts per hour with a single spindle, but with a duel spindle load it can produce 500 parts per hour. That is a 770% production increase over hand spraying, and 400% production increase over a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine. Due to the accuracy of the Paint Mate 200iA the system requires less masking fixtures versus a manual spray operation or servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine. Classic Metal Finishing expects a labor cost savings of 30-50% and a system ROI (Return on Investment) of three years. Classic Metal Finishing will be able to grow their business through the system flexibility, quality (consistence film thickness), and reduced labor cost provided by the robotic system.

“The small premium far exceeds the benefits of part run flexibility and increased production with the Paint Mate 200iA versus a servo controlled two-axis fixed gun spray machine,” said Classic Metal Finishing’s Morrison.

Classic Metal Finishing has learned that the Paint Mate 200iA would spray the dry film lubricant faster than a human can load the part, so the robot process speed was slowed down for the operator to keep up. To speed production, a FANUC LR Mate 200iC robot with vision is planned for the future to handle loading and unloading dry film lubricant applied components from the Paint Mate 200iA two-position turn table to a chain-on-edge conveyor system for final curing.

Other Chain-On-Edge Examples

The system capability with the Paint Mate 200iA can, in some cases, utilize a dual gun set up, allowing the robot arm to address each inside and outside surface With hard automation the customer would have to run the parts through twice for each surface, requiring two workcells. Small cylindrical parts, for example, require a precise application of coating to the inside and outside of the part which is not possible with fixed guns or reciprocators.

Chain-On-Edge Coating

Chain-On-Edge Coating

Small Plastic Parts Painting

This example uses a Paint Mate 200iA to paint clear coat on chromed plastic parts. This chain-on-edge system was an upgrade to an existing fixed reciprocator automation paint line.

Small Plastic Parts Painting

Small Plastic Parts Painting

This system utilized the Paint Mate to perform line-tracking painting which allowed for a moveable robot mount so that the booth could be cleaned easily at an economical system cost. It also resulted in improved quality with accurate robot triggering and gun placement. In this case the customer was able to increase production while meeting material build and appearance specifications. Programmability was maintained for multiple parts, and the compact design minimized the booth layout.

Paint Mate 200iA with Removable Booth

Paint Mate 200i A with RemovableBooth

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