Climbing robot cleans and paints high-rise buildings

Engineers in Singapore have demonstrated a robot able to clean and paint the outside of high-rise buildings

Jointly developed by experts from Singapore-based control specialist ELID Technology International and Nanyang Technological University, the robotic system – dubbed OutoBot – is claimed to offer a safer and more efficient alternative to what is currently a highly manual process.

Outobot spray painting a wall

The main feature of the system – which weighs just under 500kg – is a robotic arm with six-degrees of freedom which is equipped with a camera and a spray nozzle that can shoot high-pressure water jets to clean surfaces or to spray paint. This is mounted on a specially designed automated gondola.

Powered by a conventional power outlet, the robot can scan the exterior surface of a building using a camera and automatically plot the areas to spray paint or clean while avoiding the windows. It also gives a more consistent coat of paint as compared to the manual methods.

The robot was developed in response to a call from Singapore’s Housing & Development Board (HDB) for proposals to automate the painting of external HDB building façades, in order to enhance worker safety and increase productivity.

Managing Director of ELID Technology International, Dennis Lim, said that with Singapore facing the challenge of a rapidly ageing workforce such systems will become increasingly important. “Using our new robot, we have shown that a labour-intensive job can transformed into one that can be easily done by an older worker, and at the same time eliminating the risk of employees having to work at heights,” he said.

The robot has already been put through its paces at an industrial site at Ubi, in the eastern part of Singapore and the group is now working with the HDB to identify further trial sites for the technology.