Fixtureless Welding with Material Handling Robots
Most material handling robots are used for what their name implies, handling and moving workpieces. However, a new trend in robotic arc welding has created another use for material handling robots.
Fixtureless robotic arc welding involves replacing rigid fixtures to hold workpieces with material handling robots. A traditional arc welding workcell would require parts to be placed in a welding fixture to hold them during welding. These fixtures are expensive and lack flexibility as they are typically designed for a specific application. In addition, an operator is needed to load and unload parts from the fixture. In a fixtureless weld cell, material handling robots take the place of fixtures and operators. The material handling robot loads parts into the weld cell, holds the parts while they are welded, and then unloads the newly welded parts from the cell. Implementing the FANUC R-2000ic/165F for fixtureless welding along with the Arcmate 120ic in a weld cell will completely optimize the welding application.
The development of the multi-robot controller has allowed for the concept of fixtureless welding to come to fruition. The ability to control multiple robots with a single controller allows articulated robots to be synchronized to one another for coordinated operation. While collision detection software allows six axis robots to operate in close proximity to one another, such as in a workcell, without hindering or interfering with each other.
Benefits of Fixtureless WeldingFixtureless welding is one of the biggest trends in welding automation. Combining the Motoman MH50 with the Motoman MA1440, or similar material handling and arc welding robots, in a workcell provides many benefits, including:
- • Reduces Equipment Costs - Welding fixtures are expensive and inflexible. When application or parts change a new fixture is needed. Material handling robots integrated with a simple robotic gripper can replace fixtures, reducing equipment costs.
- • Streamlines Workcells - Replacing fixtures with a ABB 2600-12 or another material handling robot reduces the peripheral equipment of the workcell, streamlining its design. Fixtures are eliminated along with some safety hardware as operators are no longer needed.
- • Lights-Out Welding - Since fixtureless welding eliminates the need for an operator to load and unload parts from a workcell, the welding process becomes fully automated. With a lights-out approach labor costs are reduced or eliminated entirely.
- • Increases Productivity - Productivity can be significantly increased through fixtureless robotic welding. Robots are able to operate twenty-four hours a day without breaks or delays. Longer operation times allows for more parts to be welded and moved through a manufacturing process.
- • Decreases Cycle Times - A material handling robot will be able to load and unload parts from a workcell much faster than an operator. Robots operate at faster speeds and immediately move from part to part, decreasing cycle times.
- • Better Workpiece Access - Welding fixtures may only allow access to only part of the workpiece’s surfaces. Material handling robots allow for access to the entire part by being able to rotate them and optimize torch angles for continuous welding.
- • Flexible - Fixtureless welding allows for a flexible robotic welding system that can easily adapt to part or application changes. Fixtures are application specific and cannot adjust to such changes.