QualiLack – Automation of manual painting processes taking into account particularly high quality requirements

Logo QualiLack
© Projekt QualiLack

Automation solutions available on the market for painting of natural materials neither meet the high quality standards characteristic of handcrafted items nor the necessary flexibility requirements for manufacturing products in very small batches. Colouring of wood in particular poses special challenges for painting systems, since the surfaces exhibit significant variations in their ability to absorb paint from part to part as well as within the same workpiece, and as a consequence the colouring and appearance of the final product can therefore vary.

The development goal of QualiLack is to develop an efficiently automated painting process including component handling and inline quality control for natural materials, such as wood, for production of very small batches. The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU, specialized in production technology and automation, the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD, specialized in visual computing, company Rülke GmbH, specialized in manufacturing of technical components made of wood, as well as company Julius Blüthner Pianoforte GmbH, specialized in manufacturing of musical instruments with high-gloss surfaces, have joined forces for this purpose.

In order to adequately reflect the many years of experience of a master craftsperson in painting and quality assessment within an automated solution, machine-learning methods are used for real-time analysis of fused sensor data. For instance, predictions regarding the appearance of a dried surface shall already be facilitated in the wet condition, allowing relevant processing parameters to be adjusted timely. A special painting end effector with integrated sensor technology shall be developed for this purpose. Obviously, the overall approach for efficient production control for very low batch sizes and the corresponding flexible part handling are also included in the systematic and holistic process development.

In this way, QualiLack is intended to lay the foundations to ease the entry of handicraft businesses into the Industry 4.0 era. By automating painting tasks even for very small batches, master craftspeople gain time to be dedicated to more creative tasks and thus can increase market impact and further differentiate from industrial mass production.

• Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik (IWU)
• Fraunhofer-Institut für graphische Datenverarbeitung (IGD)
• Julius Blüthner Piano Forte Fabrik GmbH
• Rülke GmbH

Project coordinator:
Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkzeugmaschinen und Umformtechnik IWU

Project duration: April 2021 - December 2023

Total volume: 1.9 million euros

Funding volume: 1.5 million euros