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Robotic Flux Core Welding vs Robotic Electron Beam Welding

Flux core and electron beam are two welding applications that can be fully automated with industrial robots. Each has its own unique characteristics and deciding which process to use comes down to the work environment, materials to be welded, and budget.

Flux Core Welding

Flux core welding is a type of arc welding process that is ideal for robotic automation. The FCAW process fuses metals together through a hollow wire electrode that is continuously fed through the welding gun. Unlike other arc welding processes, FCAW does not use shielding gas, instead flux contained inside the electrode provides a protective barrier of the weld pool, shielding it from any atmospheric contaminants.

To automate flux core welding, a welding robot is integrated with a power supply, welding torch, wire feeder, and safety equipment. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and the Motoman MA1400 are two examples of welding robots that are ideal for automating a flux core application.

Robotic FCAW applications can be used to weld a wide variety of metals. Mild and low alloy steels, stainless steel, high nickel alloys, and surfacing alloys can all be welded with a flux core articulated robot, making it suitable for a large range of workpieces. In addition, robotic flux core welding does not require clean metals or work environments due to the flux. Metals can still be welded together even if they are rusty or painted. Welds can also take place in dirty or dusty work areas since the flux is able to completely shield the weld. This prevents porosity from occurring and metals remain in their pure or near pure state making them incredibly secure.

Robotic flux core welding has a relatively low startup cost since it does not require any specialized welding equipment. Costs are also saved since these industrial robots do not require a shielding gas and flux electrodes are inexpensive.

Electron Beam Welding

Robotic electron beam welding differs from FCAW since it uses a beam of high velocity electrons to create welds instead of a flux core electrode. EBW is a precision welding method in which weld joints are targeted and fused together from the heat produced from the energy of the electrons.

Robotic electron beam welding involves the use of more specialized equipment than flux core welding. For EBW a six axis robot is integrated with an electron gun, power supply, and positioner. Due to the potential for radiation exposure, additional safety equipment may be needed to protect any floor workers. EBW robots do not need a wire feeder since no filler wire is required. Welding robots that can automate electron beam processes include the ABB IRB 2400/16 and the FANUC M-710ic/20L.

Like FCAW, electron beam welding robots can join a variety of metals together. What makes these welding robots standout is that they can weld dissimilar metals to one another, while FCAW robots can only weld similar metals. However, there are stricter work conditions for EBW robots since they do not use a weld protectant. In order to produce high-quality welds, EBW robots must operate in a vacuum environment to prevent weld contamination from dust or other particles. This makes robotic EBW less flexible than FCAW.

Due to the specialized equipment needed, robotic EBW has a higher upfront cost than robotic flux core welding. However, the ability to weld dissimilar metals allows for expensive metals to be fused with inexpensive metals for savings on material costs. EBW robots are able to accurately weld precise targets with a small heat affected zone, preventing part distortion. However, porosity and cracking can happen with some metals due to rapid solidifying. While these defects are unlikely to occur with robotic FCAW. Neither application is as popular as robotic MIG welding.

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