Some years ago, I wrote several articles about possibly using robotic painting arms to wash cars. My research began with the companies that made such equipment. They were not interested in the notion and directed me to integration firms.

            Integration companies incorporate articulated robots, peripheral equipment, and machinery to function as a single unit and execute processes. In other words, an integration firm has folks capable of adapting a robotic arm to spray water and chemicals instead of automotive paint.

            After learning what is involved in such a process and its potential costs, I asked Paul Fazio Jr. for his opinion, given his experience with robotics in manufacturing car wash equipment. He was intrigued but explained the reality of the situation.

            His family has made conveyors for decades, and many loyal customers depend on his company for installation, parts, and service. Is he going to tell them, hey, we have a better mouse trap? So, get rid of what you have and buy this instead. Unlikely.

            Of course, Mr. Fazio was right. Like EVs, making a wholesale change requires considerable time and, more importantly, a well-thought-out strategy. Nevertheless, some folks are taking steps to bring robotic arms into the car wash industry.

            PREEN is an innovative scale-up technology company headquartered in Switzerland and is backed by AtmosClear Investments, a leader in supporting sustainable and high-impact companies. It has developed an AI-powered, high-precision robot for touch-less car washing.

            Another company jumping into the fray is Clinpify, a Spanish company developing a modular, self-contained, AI-powered robotic arm car wash. According to the company, it has completed proofs of concept that demonstrate the technology is viable.

            After constructing a final prototype, the company estimates the first units will be launched from Q4 2025 to Q1 2026 and to reach 116 units in 2027. Clinpify plans to distribute throughout Spain, other European markets, and the United States.

            Arguably, the attributes and benefits of using robotic painting arms to wash cars would be similar to those of auto manufacturers. This includes exceptional precision and accuracy, speed, waste minimization, greater capacity, less energy consumption, and technology such as collision avoidance.

            According to Apollo Research Reports, the global articulated robot market was valued at $6.86 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow to $16.97 billion by 2032 or a CAGR of 9.57 percent. The U.S. share of the market is $1.9 billion or 11 percent.

            According to Magna Intelligence, the cost of articulated robots has decreased over the past decade. If this trend continues, it would be considerably more affordable for industries to integrate these robots into their operations.

            Nevertheless, this brings up the notion opined by Mr. Fazio. Given the current technology, is there a need for this type of machine?

            For example, when belt conveyors first appeared, they were three to four times more expensive than over/under chain conveyors. Belts also wore out faster than chains and required more maintenance. Today, however, belts are more affordable, preferred by some operators, and even installed in mini-tunnels.

            Arguably, if the technology proves commercially viable and produces maximum return compared to alternatives, people in the car wash industry will probably adopt it.

Bob Roman is a car wash consultant and can be reached at bobr427@protonmail.com.