As noted in this project’s write-up, “Canvas painting is intimidating.” After participating in a 2017 Robot Art competition, John Opsahl realized that there are a number of software and mechanical advances that need to be made before automated painting could be accessible to the masses. To address this, as well as to simply stretch his software and mechanical design skills, he decided to take on this challenge, resulting in his “If Then Paint” device.
The build encompasses a wide range of mechanical and programming challenges. The brush system works as a gantry-based CNC machine, capable of not only X/Y/Z movement, but also of movement in three rotational axes for full six-axis control. It even has an automatic tool change system, and a rotary paint dispensing system that can handle up to 10 paint colors. Initially the machine ran on the Mach3 computer CNC controller, but he wanted a cheap open source option, so he developed a new version of Grbl to deal with six axes that can run on an Arduino Mega.
With all of this implemented, plus a routine to design paint procedures, and quite a bit of work on how to clean the brush, Opsahl now has a machine that can paint a pretty picture. It’s a truly epic project so far, a testament to just how much skill painting actually takes. The project’s five/six-axis Grbl version is available on GitHub, along with the 3D design files if you’d like to examine this amazing work further!