Frank Herre, Hans-Georg Fritz, Timo Beyl, Marcus Kleiner and Benjamin Wöhr

Revolutionary no-waste car body paint system

Technical field
Dürr Systems AG
Engineers Frank Herre and Hans-Georg Fritz lead a team which has developed an automated car-painting system that applies paint without wasting a single drop, cutting waste and enabling new levels of customisation.

Finalist for the European Inventor Award 2022

Customised paint jobs, such as stripes on a car hood, are usually spray-painted on a car body after covering surrounding parts in masking materials such as tape or foil. However, 20% of paint is wasted due to "overspray" – the portion of paint that lands outside the target area. Current custom-paint techniques also require energy-intensive heating to dry paint between coats. Inspired by inkjet printers, Herre, Fritz and their colleagues have developed EcoPaintJet, a revolutionary automated system that paints customised designs on cars in one or two colours. The system includes a paint applicator, a robotic arm, control software, a nozzle cleaner and additional tools.

Before painting, a camera scans a car body and compares the image to stored data to check for minor discrepancies in each model, enabling the control software to make corrections if needed. The system then applies parallel paint lines in continuous jets through 48 tiny holes that open and close simultaneously. According to the inventors, a standard car painting line (painting two-tone vehicles) could save approximately 50 000 kg of paint per year with EcoPaintJet. Furthermore, it could reduce energy usage by up to 30% and cut back on masking materials.

Next-generation paint techniques

Herre and Fritz work for engineering firm Dürr Systems AG, where they are part of a team that develops paint application technologies and processes. While the system is currently aimed at the luxury vehicle market where customisation is a trend, it could be adapted for painting entire car exteriors and capture a greater share of the painting robots market, which is expected to reach EUR 2.77 billion in 2023.