Robot Caught Tagging a Production Part

Robot Caught Tagging a Production Part

Would you want your robot going after your Fighter Jet with a Sharpie?!

For certain applications, customers of Aerobotix (ABX) must apply masking paper before the robotic spray application of performance coatings. One such example of this is with Hill Air Force Base (HAFB) in Ogden, UT. 


During some robotic spray operations, paint masking must be applied to ensure material is sprayed in certain areas of the part and not others. For the application at HAFB, the area to be covered in masking is a complex geometry, basically a long, curved tunnel. This required multiple operators to enter the confined space of the part to try to measure and apply mylar templates to the correct areas.


Due to the complex nature of the geometry, the measurement and application of the masking required multiple personnel and several hours to complete. It was also essentially unrepeatable due to human error, differences between personnel in measuring, the difficulties of accurately using a tape measure to measure complex surfaces, constant changes in personnel, etc.   


Aerobotix designed and engineered a low-cost end of arm tool (EOAT) attachment for the existing robot to hold an off-the-shelf (OTS) Sharpie marker. The marker is inserted into the EOAT which features a roller bearing in conjunction with a spring to allow it to flex and respond to side forces while it is automatically marking the part. The marking tool quickly and accurately connects to the HVLP spray gun already on the robot, enabling the robot to trace accurate masking lines for the operators to follow. Offline robotic programming software (RoboGuide by FANUC Robotics) was used to create the tracing path. 


This new solution requires only one operator, takes about ten minutes, and greatly increases repeatability due to its automated nature. This ensures that the masking and paper is applied to the correct areas for each production run. “This tool is so simple, but solves such a complex problem. I sure don’t miss climbing in that hole,” says Jacob Fields, Field Engineer for ABX. 

Estimated Cost Savings for 187 Aircraft
 Without ToolWith Tool
Fully Burdened Labor Rate $100/hour $100/hour
Approximate Personnel Required 3 1
Approximate Labor Hours Required Per Aircraft 6 hours 0.5 hours
Estimated Cost Per Aircraft $1,800 $50
Estimated Cost for 187 Aircraft $136,600 $9,350
Estimated Savings


This project illustrates Aerobotix’s ability to provide cost-effective solutions for its customers. “We’re always looking to get more savings for the customer by having the robots do more and more,” says Bret Benvenuti, the Project Manager for the six-robot system. This simple solution provides cost savings, improves quality, and provides ergonomic improvement by requiring less man hours in a confined space. This technology could be used for many other potential applications, including cruise missiles, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), bombers, other fighter jets, helicopters, commercial aircraft, etc.