Local inventors create prototype that can make painting roads safer, less expensive

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW)-- A pair of local inventors have developed robotic technology they say can make painting roads safer, faster and less expensive.

Former Cleveland Heights auto shop owner Sam Bell and Case Western Reserve University professor Wyatt Newman formed RoadPrintz, Inc. and invented the system. They equipped a proof-of-concept truck with a computer-controlled robotic arm to paint symbols on roads, including transverse markings, bike symbols, school zone markings and turn arrows.

“It is a remarkable assortment of technologies,” Newman said.

Traditionally, road-painting is done by hand with workers using a stencil, and annual upkeep can be costly.

“We can reduce the number of people needed to do the job by at least 50 percent,” Bell said. “Secondly, we can be at least as fast and actually, think we can be a bit faster.”

Bell said the system can also help keep workers safe and reduce deadly crashes, like one on Interstate 71 in October when a driver hit two construction workers on a painting project, killing one of them.

“Most of the work can be done from inside the cab, so you don't have to have a crew of guys standing in the road essentially waiting to get hit,” Bell said.

To date, RoadPrintz, Inc. has received two grants totaling $200,000. It recently signed a licensing agreement with Case Western Reserve’s Technology Transfer Office, through which the university handles the patent and RoadPrintz maintains exclusive rights to make, use and sell the technology or products using the technology.

Bell and Newman said they are planning to develop a more advanced prototype in the coming months, and expect to have a product available commercially to contractors and larger cities this spring.

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