Robotic Welding Methods
Welding is one of the most popular applications for industrial robots. The automotive industry is the largest user of industrial robots with the majority of those robots being used for welding automation. Along automotive production floors you may see a FANUC R-2000ib spot welding car frames or the Motoman MA1440 arc welding smaller vehicle components.
The main robotic welding methods are those that fall under the arc welding and resistance welding categories. As robotic technology has advanced the types of welding methods being automated by robots has expanded. The automation of more welding methods has allowed welding robots to be implemented in industries outside of automotive manufacturing including the electronics and medical device industries among others.
Common Welding MethodsThere are several types of robotic welding methods. The most common ones automated by robots include MIG, TIG, PAW, spot, and laser welding. Robotic MIG welding (metal inert gas) is a type of arc welding method that involves a continuously fed wire electrode. Its formal name is gas metal arc welding (GMAW). MIG is popular due to its speed when it comes to thick metal welding.
TIG welding (tungsten inert gas) involves using a non-consumable tungsten electrode. The formal name of this method is gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). This method is the opposite of MIG although they are often compared to one another. Robotic TIG is not a fast welding method, rather it is a slower process known for its precision when it comes to welding thin, detailed workpieces.
Robotic plasma arc welding (PAW) is another precision robotic welding method. This method provides greater flexibility than TIG as it can be used to weld thin and thick metals as well as allow for temperature and speed changes.
Spot welding is a form of resistance welding in which thin metals are joined together through resistance to an electrical current. This method is quite popular in automotive manufacturing, making it overall the most common robotic welding method. The ABB 6640 is ideal for spot welding automation.
Laser welding has become a popular welding method since it is a non-contact process. Laser welding robots utilize a laser beam that can create welds from up to a foot away. Laser welding allows the FANUC Arcmate 120ic to access hard to reach parts while also reducing the risk of part distortion with its non-contact method.
Other Robotic Welding MethodsOther robotic welding methods include MAG, FCAW, SAW, electron beam, and ultrasonic welding. MAG, FCAW, and SAW are three additional types of arc welding processes. MAG and FCAW are both similar to MIG robotic welding. MAG involves the use of an active shielding gas instead of an inert gas. FCAW differs from MIG since it utilizes a tubular wire electrode with flux instead of a solid wire electrode. Submerged arc welding (SAW) also uses flux but is limited to thick plated welds.
Robotic electron beam welding (EBW) and ultrasonic welding are both unique processes. EBW involves welding workpieces from kinetic energy generated by a beam of high velocity electrons. While ultrasonic welding robots weld both metals and plastics through heat created by ultrasonic vibrations.