FRANKFURT, Germany—A new technology that promises to make robotic painting of cars faster, more flexible and less wasteful has earned an international award for innovation.

ABB’s PixelPaint technology was given the 2021 Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics and Automation (IERA), which is sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and the International Federation of Robotics.

“The jury is pleased to honor ABB’s PixelPaint technology with the 17th IERA award,” says Robert Ambrose, head of the software, robotics and simulation division at NASA and chairman of the IERA selection jury. “The innovative solution for automated car painting [enables] more flexibility and customization [and reduces] wasted paint.”

ABB’s PixelPaint technology equips a pair of high-precision six-axis robots with ink-jet-style painting heads rather than traditional spray valves. The technology enables engineers to create two-tone and customized designs in one pass. Previously, applying a two-tone or customized design was a labor-intensive process. The vehicle had to be put through the painting line twice. With the new technology, custom paint jobs can be applied in half the time. PixelPaint also eliminates the process of masking and de-masking each car.

The technology also eliminates overspray. In the past, 20 to 30 percent of paint was wasted due to overspray. By contrast, the ink-jet head applies 100 percent of the paint to the vehicle’s surface.