Published: 15th October 2019
How these Amrita students' robot, Wallpbot, can paint high-rise buildings in a jiffy
The students behind the first painting robot speak about their aims to make it easier for painters to do their job and decreasing toxicity
The main criteria for a James Dyson Award is for your design to be simple and it needs to solve a problem. For Harikrishnan J, a final year student of Amrita College of Engineering at the time, the award was his first and major inspiration to create the WallPbot. He wanted to solve a problem. In 2018, he remembers watching out of a car on his way home and seeing a man hanging from a rope tied to a high rise building. The man had a paint bucket in one hand and a roller in the other. Watching a man’s life literally in the balance, he decided that he wanted to try and come up with a solution.
According to a study by the World Health Organisation, painters exposed to toxic paint fumes can develop lung cancer and fertility issues. Harikrishnan approached three of his most trusted juniors from college, Aravind Sadashiv and Arya Sudarshan. Together, they began searching for a solution in the discipline closest to them, Robotics.
They found various prototypes of robots from across the industry, chief among them, a model of a robot hand with a sprayer attached to it. But the solution was too expensive for them to apply on such a large scale. When they enquired at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), they learnt that no one in the world had ever conjured up the idea of a painting robot, let alone create a version of their own.
ROBOT RULES: The robot is an exact replica of a man hanging from a tall building
The students approached the Vice Chairperson of their Electronics and Communication Department, Purushothaman A. The professor encouraged them to formulate ideas and that the department would back them with resources during the process. Their idea was incorporated into the Business Incubator at the University and they worked on their prototype. “All three of us worked together with the incubator to put our ideas into practice,” explains Harikrishnan.
What the team build was the exact replica of a man hanging from a tall building, the sight that had inspired Harikrishnan to create the robot in the first place. He explains, “The object that it hangs from is called a rack and it resembles a rope. It has a roller connected to a paint dispenser. Instead of a single painter going up and down from an extremely tall building, the paint is rolled down uniformly on its own. It cuts the amount of time taken from over 2 days to just 2 hours!”
Currently, the student team has built two prototypes within the incubator aiming to tackle two major issues: How to paint and how to climb. Now that the ideas are sorted, they are waiting for enough funding to get Wallpbot into the hands of the painters and take the load off them. True to his words, Harikrishnan and his classmates have created a truly simple design and it’s just a matter of time before it actually solves a problem.