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Laser vs MIG Robotic Welding Applications

When it comes to robotic welding, manufacturers have many options to choose from for automation. Robotic MIG welding has been one of the go-to methods for manufacturers for years. However, advancements in robotic technology has allowed for robotic automation of non-traditional welding methods such as laser welding. Below is a comparison of how conventional laser welding robots stack up against the more traditional MIG welding robots.

Laser Welding

Robotic laser welding differentiates itself from MIG welding automation since it is a non-contact welding method. Laser welding robots can weld metals together without their tooling touching the surface of the workpieces. The FANUC Arc Mate 120ic is capable of welding parts over a foot away, making hard to reach parts more accessible.

Robotic laser welding involves integrating an articulated robot with a laser cutter and a laser generator. The laser welding robot will focus the laser cutter to the weld location and a narrow laser beam will be emitted onto the workpiece. Radiant heat from the beam will cause the metals to melt and fuse together. Shielding gas is used to protect the weld from contaminants.

Since arc welding robots are able to precisely focus the concentrated laser beam there is a small heat affected zone. This prevents parts from becoming damaged or distorted during welding. This is why laser welding robots are ideal for welding intricate or delicate workpieces. In addition, six axis robots have an excellent depth to width weld ratio with the capability to produce narrow, but high strength welds. Robotic laser welding can be used to weld a variety of metal types; however, thinner metals have the best results. A FANUC M-710ic/20L can weld dissimilar metals together such as titanium and aluminum using the laser welding method.

MIG Welding

MIG welding is a type of arc welding method that is common for robotic automation. Most arc welding robots can be used to automate a MIG application including the Motoman MA1400 and the FANUC Arcmate 100ic. Robotic MIG welding involves the use of more traditional welding equipment such as a welding torch, robotic welding supply, and wire feeder. Unlike laser welding that joins metals together through melting the metal workpieces, MIG robots create welds by melting a filler wire. During welding a wire electrode is continuously fed to the robot’s torch. The robot will apply the torch to the workpieces, creating an arc that will melt the wire electrode between the metals to join them together. factory robots like the ABB 1600 are a good fit for most MIG welding automation

While laser welding robots are ideal for joining thinner metals together, MIG welding robots are best for joining thick metals. The use of a filler wire allows for a more efficient method of thick metal welding since the filler is melted instead of the workpieces. Even though a filler wire is used, MIG welding robots still produce strong welds. The use of a filler material also allows MIG welding robots to join dissimilar metals together like laser welding robots. Most used FANUC robots for sale that were performing MIG welding still have the welding power source attached to them.

Robotic MIG welds will typically need additional finishing steps before being complete. The filler wire increases spatter which will need to be removed. Since laser welding robots do not make contact with workpieces or require a filler, welds turn out cleaner and do not require additional finishing, keeping cycle times low. This is another advantage to automating with robots.

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