Robot-Applied Precision Patina

Precision Patina combines Zahner’s expertise in patination with the precise control of robotics.

Patinas are in a sense “living finishes” that respond to local environmental conditions and exposure, adding temporal richness to a building’s exterior. Zahner Surfaces include a wide array of custom patinated sheets (including Copper, Zinc, Steel, and Aluminum) used to fabricate many of our projects and are also provided as flat sheets for fabrication by others. Each of our patinas undergoes rigorous testing to prove performance and aesthetic quality under a wide array of environments.

Precision Patina leverages this expertise in patina performance as it relates to the integrity, durability, and aesthetic qualities of the materials, but adds precision robotic application.

Using our Fanuc robotic arm, we explored brushing various patina chemistries onto metal sheets, prescribing speed, pressure, and orientation of the application. The results are robotically-crafted patterns full of life and variation, celebrating inherent material variability and environmental response.

Upload a photo to the configurator below to explore different brush strokes and material finishes.

Precision Patina parametric configurator

Diagrams describing robot path generation and line quality variables

Robot applied patina processbrush strokes defined by configurator above


To a calligrapher, the spacing, direction, inclination, pressure, and orientation of a stroke defines the “spirit” or energy of a line. The distinction between illuminating letterforms vs. printing text is a fascinating and sometimes polarizing topic.

Angular and stiff, loose and free, detailed and delicate, can all be used to describe lettering independent of the content being written. The combination and variation of these variables creates the calligrapher’s style and voice beyond the letter’s meaning.

The Labs team maintains a rich discussion about the place of automation in our processes, looking for the best of both moments between handmade and machine-made. When script fonts are printed on a conventional roller printer, letters are divided into rows of pixels placed on the page. While efficient and flexible, this process can eliminate conversation about the quality of the line and in some ways the voice of the calligrapher/typographer. However, applying patina chemistry onto panels with a robotic arm gives the designer full control over the application.

For Precision Patina, the Labs team explored this overlap of automation and authorship, generating “handmade” images in selectively patinated panels. The conversation surrounding printed vs. hand-drawn vs. machine-drawn media is alive and well on #plottertwitter.

Precision Patina samples—iridescent finish on galvanized steel

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Precision Patina samples—weathering steel panels demonstrate patina aging over time

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“Handmade” brush strokes example gallery

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