BMW worked with German plant engineering firm Duerr on a new paint shop robot that can lay down two-tone finishes and intricate designs without masking the vehicle. It's called the EcoPaintJet Pro, which sounds like a new printer Staples just started stocking. The concept sounds simple: A jet of ink gets shot through an opening shaped by an orifice plate, the plate providing sharp edge definition, while the paint arm sweeps across the full width of the panel or vehicle, laying down a contrasting color only where the design dictates. Despite that simplicity, watching the arm in action in the video above makes the process look like magic, compared to what we know is usually required for such artwork. The EcoPaintJet Pro works with waterborne base coats and 2K clear coats.
The automaker says the process delivers numerous benefits, the most apparent being the ability to automate an effort that normally demands serious man-hours. This will eventually mean lower costs for custom jobs. On top of that, BMW says the EcoPaintJet Pro leaves no overspray, saving the time, money, water, and chemicals of cleanup. It's also more efficient, not requiring electrostatic paints, nor that the paints be physically separated as in a traditional paint shop, and it takes less energy to apply two paints at once. The automaker says using the process for 7,000 hours saves more than 6,000 megawatt hours of electricity, meaning 2,205 tons fewer carbon emissions. To put that into everyday terms, running EcoPaintJet Pro for 10.4 months nonstop saves enough energy to power the average U.S. house for seven months or propel the average EV for nearly 22,000 miles.
Every exterior component is on the menu for custom finishes. BMW will begin showing off the benefits for customers later this year with a run of 19 M4 coupes getting special two-tone paint jobs for service in the automaker's in-house fleet. The process is expected to be available for retail production models next year.