Outobot spray painting a wall

Automated robot cleans and paints buildings in Singapore

An automated robotic system designed to clean and paint building exteriors using paint or water jets has been launched in Singapore.

Dubbed OutoBot, the robot cuts the manpower needed to carry out such tasks by half and can work for longer hours in comparison to manual methods.

For the washing or painting of a building façade, a team of five is usually required, two on the ground and roof top, with three cleaners or painters on the gondola (a device used to carry passengers in aerial lifts).

Instead, Outobot requires only two workers, one operator on the ground and one as a safety officer.

It has a robotic arm equipped with a camera and a spray nozzle that can shoot high-pressure water jets to clean surfaces or to spray paint. No painters or cleaners are required to be on the system’s specially built gondola.

Dennis Lim, managing director of ELID Technology which developed the device in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said it would tackle productivity issues for painting buildings in line with Singapore’s Smart Nation vision, a programme designed to boost living standards using technology.

“With Singapore’s rapidly ageing workforce, we need to find ways to enable our employees to continue contributing despite their advanced years,” Lim explained.

“Using our new robot, we have shown that a labour-intensive job can transformed into one that can be easily done by an older worker, and at the same time eliminating the risk of employees having to work at heights.”

Professor Chen I-Ming, Director of the NTU Robotic Research Centre said: “Our aim is to make the cleaning and painting of high-rise buildings easier, safer and more cost-effective. By using spray painting over conventional roller painting, our robot is also more precise and efficient, minimising waste and saving paint.

“To tackle Singapore’s manpower challenges, NTU has a strong research focus on robotics, which is set to fill an important gap in the productivity and automation needs of the industry. We can now do more with less manpower.”

OutoBot comprises of a robotic arm with six-degrees of freedom mounted on a specially designed automated gondola and weighs under 500 kilogrammes.

Powered by a conventional power outlet, the robot can scan the exterior surface of a building using a camera and automatically plot the areas to spray paint or clean while avoiding the windows. It also gives a more consistent coat of paint as compared to the manual methods.

Apart from saving up to 50 per cent manpower requirements, it can speed up both the cleaning and painting process by about 30 per cent since it does not need a break. The automated system also minimises wastage, saving up to 20 per cent of paint.

To speed up the process at the same building, multiple systems can be deployed.

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