Automating liquid paint application using mass flow

Automatic paint sprayers, like those used in the automotive industry, require a constant flow of gas to evenly apply a coat of paint to a surface. While atomizing the paint, the amount of gas and paint supplied to the electric field can be adjusted to shape the stream of paint. This creates a consistent, quality finish.

Full automation of paint application systems using mass flow control

One customer was using a semi-automatic paint spraying machine, where a regulator was manually adjusted to change N2 flow and paint distribution. Before they could move on to mass producing OEM equipment, they needed to upgrade their system to be fully automated.

They used Alicat mass flow controllers to fully automate their robotic paint system for mass-produced OEM equipment. This completely eliminated potential operator error and ensured precise control of N2 for maximum efficiency of paint drawn through the nebulizer.

Verifying system flow rate for repeatable, consistent coating

Consistency between runs of the robotic painting system is vital. Since different paint colors have differing properties (like weight), different pressures and flow rates are needed to achieve the same shape. Repeatability and consistency of the flow rate are critical to ensure an even coat in all colors.

Alicat mass flow meters provide numerous benefits to automated liquid paint applications, including:

  • Repeatability of ±(0.1% of reading + 0.02% of full scale)
  • NIST-traceable accuracy as good as ± 0.5% of reading
  • Easy system integration due to a wide variety of communication protocols
  • Multiple parameter outputs of mass flow, volumetric flow, gas pressure, and gas temperature


Alicat has products both for use in automated paint applications and as field tools when installing or troubleshooting an existing system.

  • Monitoring line pressure can be critical to the proper operation of the robots and for an early indication of a failure in the delivery system.
  • The mass flow meter’s pressure signal eliminates the cost and maintenance of a separate pressure gauge.
  • These units may also be configured to provide a secondary parameter via an independent, digital, or analog output signal.

Discuss your process with an applications engineer

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