Operating a Robotic Welding System
Robotic welding accounts for 50% of the applications automated by industrial robots across the world, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Robots improve the efficiency, safety, speed, and quality of welding processes. The benefits along with a substantial shortage of welding professionals is causing many manufacturers to forgo manual processes and invest in robotic welding packages.
Welding EquipmentA complete robotic welding system involves more than just an industrial robot. There are several components that are needed to operate together in order to automate a welding process. Components may vary depending upon the type of welding process and workpieces, but they will generally be comprised of the following:
- Wire Feeder - Many welding processes need a filler wire for additional material to support the weld joint. Wire feeders are typically mounted to the top of a robot arm and will programmatically move filler through the robot arm to the welding torch.
- Welding Torch - The welding torch is the type of robotic end-effector that is integrated to the robot wrist. It is the device that directly interacts with the metal workpieces. Heat is applied from the welding torch to melt and join workpieces together.
- Power Supply - As the name implies, welding power supplies provide power to the welding torch in order to generate the heat needed to produce a weld. These can vary depending upon the specific application and part types. Popular power supplies include the Miller Auto-Axcess 450 and the Lincoln Power wave 455M.
- Robot - 6-axis articulated robots are the most commonly used for automating welding applications. Their arm movements control the motion of the welding torch and provide accessibility to parts. For arc welding processes the FANUC Arc Mate 120ic is an ideal option. While the FANUC R-2000ib/210F is popular for spot welding. The robot controller is used to communicate the application program and path with the power source and robot. While the robot teach pendant is used to input application parameters and manually move the robot if needed.
- Torch Cleaner - The torch cleaner or reamer is used to automatically clean the welding torch in between cycles. It removes spatter and prevents build up ensuring optimal torch performance.
How Does a Robotic Welding System Work?Robotic welding processes will vary depending upon the specific welding tasks being automated, but in general they will follow the same basic steps. First, the robotic welding system will need to be programmed using the teach pendant. The operator will input program parameters to be carried out by the robotic welder. Once this is completed, the system will be ready to be deployed.
Parts will need to be loaded into the work area either manually or by the robot. Once the desired part has been secured in the workspace the operator will launch the welding program from the controller. The robot arm will lower the torch towards the workpiece. The power source will supply the electric current through the robot to the wire feeder and to the torch at the end of the robot arm. The heat created from the electric current is expelled out of the torch nozzle to melt and create a weld joint. As the welding torch is operating, the wire feeder will supply any additional filler wire needed through the torch cable. The Motoman Master Arc 1400 is another optimal choice to be used in this application.
Once the weld is completed, the robot arm retracts the torch so the part can be unloaded from the work area. While awaiting the next cycle run, the robot arm can move the torch to the reamer to remove any spatter.