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What are the Differences Between TIG & FCAW Robotic Welding?

TIG and FCAW are two types of robotic welding applications. Even though they both fall under the robotic arc welding family they differ from one another quite a bit.

Welding Process

The main differences between TIG and FCAW robotic welding comes down to the type of electrode used and the shielding gas. TIG welding robots use a non-consumable tungsten electrode to create the weld arc that will then heat and melt the metal workpieces together. Like other robotic arc welding processes, automated TIG requires the use of a shielding gas to protect the weld pool and prevent contamination.

Flux core welding robots utilize a hollow consumable electrode that is filled with flux. This flux electrode is continuously fed to the robot’s welding torch in order to complete a weld. Unlike TIG welding, a shielding gas is not needed for FCAW. Instead, gas is produced from the flux within the electrode, shielding the weld pool from any dust or other particles that could compromise the weld.

Welding Equipment

The welding automation equipment needed for each process will be relatively similar. An articulated robot, robotic welding power supply, weld torch, wire feeder, and safety equipment such as arc glare shields will be needed. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and the Motoman MA1400 are two six axis robots that are capable of automating TIG applications. While the ABB 2600 and the FANUC Arcmate 100ic are perfect for FCAW processes.

As mentioned above, one of the main differences between these robotic welding methods is the type of electrode. TIG robots will need tungsten electrodes while FCAW robots will need flux electrodes. Another difference is that TIG robotic welders will need a gas tank to store and supply the shielding gas.

Metal Types

TIG robots can be used to weld both ferrous and non-ferrous metals including stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium. Metals that are electrically resistance are ideal for TIG welding since they heat and melt at faster rates. Robotic TIG welding operates at low amperages, making it best suited for thin metals.

FCAW robots can only weld non-ferrous metals. These include iron, stainless steel, and both high and low nickel alloys. One advantage of deploying FCAW robots is that they can weld dirty workpieces. Even if metals are dusty, rusty, or painted a FANUC M710ic/20L can still produce a reliable weld. Unlike TIG robots, FCAW robots cannot weld thin metals. Any metal that is under 20 gauge in thickness is not suitable for flux core. Thick metals are ideal since FCAW robots can infiltrate dense weld joints.

Weld Quality

TIG robots produce precise, clean, and even welds. Since these robots do not need a filler material there is relatively low spatter and no slag produced. This ensures high weld quality when automating with robots.

With robotic FCAW the flux used creates a large amount of slag over the weld pool and spatter. Both need to be cleaned up to finish the weld. The slag produced can be difficult to remove and often needs to be chipped away. Despite flux core welds being less aesthetically pleasing, they are still incredibly strong.

Weld Speed

FCAW robots can complete welds at faster speeds than TIG robots. The continuously fed electrode cuts down on welding time. TIG is the slowest robotic welding process as it has the longest metal deposition rate and uses a lower welding current. Even with robotic automation, TIG is slow as its main focus is on details not speed.

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