Robots will soon wash and paint HDB blocks in Singapore

Nayela Deeba | March 17, 2017
The automated system, OutoBot, requires half the manpower to run, speeds up the cleaning and painting process, as well as reduces paint wastage

NTU's Outobot to wash and paint HDB blocks in Singapore
Outobot. Credit: NTU

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and tech firm, ELID Technology, have co-developed a robotic system, OutoBot, which will soon wash and paint Housing & Development Board (HDB) blocks in Singapore.

The robot was developed in response to HDB's proposals to automate processes so as to improve productivity and enhance workplace safety.

Previously, it took five workers to wash or paint a building façade -two on the ground and roof top, with three cleaners or painters on the gondola. With OutoBot, only one operator and one safety officer are required on the ground.

Weighing less than 500 kilogrammes, OutoBot is equipped with a robotic arm with six-degrees of freedom and a spray nozzle that shoots high-pressure water jets to clean surfaces or paint exteriors. It is mounted on a specially designed automated gondola.

Outobot uses a camera to scan the exterior surface of a building before automatically plotting the areas that require cleaning, with the exception of windows.

According to NTU and ELID, Outobot gives a more consistent coat of paint as compared to manual methods, speeds up the cleaning and painting process by 30 percent, and reduces paint wastage by 20 percent.

"By using spray painting over conventional roller painting, our robot is also more precise and efficient, minimising waste and saving paint," explained Professor Chen I-Ming, Director, NTU Robotic Research Centre.

Commenting on the robot, Dennis Lim, Managing Director, ELID Technology, said: "With Singapore's rapidly aging workforce, we need to find ways to enable our employees to continue contributing despite their advanced years. Using our new robot, we have shown that a labour-intensive job can be 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."

OutoBot is now patent pending, and will be trialled across selected public housing blocks soon. HDB and ELID will use findings from the trial to refine or customise the robot's design to better suit HDB's building designs and facades.

Besides that, ELID and NTU's innovation and enterprise arm NTUitive are exploring opportunities to deploy the OutoBot at other suitable commercial and residential properties.