Automation in the Paint Shop: Robots with a Human Touch

Derek DeGeest, President, DeGeest Steel Works, and Lesta USA, went on a search for ways to automate business processes, utilize software and technology, and help his employees accomplish more. What came next is an answer many general industry manufacturers are looking for too.

As DeGeest Steel Works’ automation processes grew, a bottleneck formed at the final stage of production: the paint shop.

“We were looking for ways to add automation to our paint process,” DeGeest said.

The variety and number of parts moving through the paint line proved a difficult challenge to automate.

How did DeGeest solve this problem? Enter Emanuele Mazza, Co-Founder, Lesta Srl, in Italy. Mazza’s company manufactures robots that learn from the actions of human painters and quickly and simply duplicate the process without the need for complicated programming.. DeGeest watched online videos of Lesta’s robots but could not believe what he saw. Before long, and after a phone call to Mazza, DeGeest was off to Italy to see these self-learning robots for himself.

It didn’t take long for DeGeest to realize Lesta had the solution he needed, and he purchased two robots on that trip. These robots enhance the skills of the trained painters, who now can do more, and add customization to their workflow.

DeGeest Steel Works began to design their paint systems around these new self-learning robots and came to the quick realization that a partnership with Lesta made perfect sense. Mazza agreed, and LestaUSA formed. The collaboration and robots made their North American debut at FABTECH in November 2019.

Mazza said the focus of the creation of these robots was to make life easier in the workplace and add flexibility for the people who work in the production areas.

“Together, working in partnership with DeGeest Steel Works, and now as LestaUSA, we are developing new products and solutions to solve many different problems manufacturers face with automation,” he said.

In an article appearing in International Paint & Coating Magazine, the benefits of the partnership and DeGeest Steel Works’ capabilities were explored even further.

The company recently opened a robotic liquid paint system in North America touted as one of the largest and most flexible in general industry.

DeGeest also took the opportunity to further highlight how Lesta’s solutions have eased the bottlenecks DeGeest Steel Works used to struggle with.

“The most interesting aspect of Lesta’s self-learning robots is their ease of programming,” he said. “DeGeest Steel Works coats complex steel weldments, (and) creating a painting program off-line means investing a lot of time and resources. However, the use of these robots does not require any advanced programming skills. Upon completion of the installation, a manufacturer of any size can literally be making their own programs and finishing robotically on day one.”

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