As the robot industry continues to grow, so does the technology that goes along with it. Each year new trends develop to advance the scope of industrial robots. Below is a look at the trends occurring with robotic welding.
Less Conventional Welding Applications
While traditional arc welding applications still remain popular for robotic welding, many are starting to see the benefits of automating with less conventional welding methods with robots. Two welding applications that are gaining popularity for welding automation are laser welding and electron beam welding. The ABB 2400 and the FANUC Arcmate 120ic are two arc welding robots that are ideal for automating laser welding. Laser welding robots set themselves apart from others with their capability to weld workpieces without making contact. Laser welding robots can complete welds from up to a foot away. This makes it possible to weld hard to reach or delicate parts. Robotic laser welding continues to advance with new technology that allows laser welding robots to weld while moving. Robots are able to position themselves and locate the weld joint autonomously, significantly reducing cycle times.
Electron beam welding, EBW, is another non-traditional welding process gaining ground with robotic welding. The unique vacuum environment protects the weld pool, producing incredibly pure and clean welds. This method also allows dissimilar metals with different thicknesses to be welded together. The Motoman MA1400 can be deployed for robotic EBW applications.
Welding Dissimilar Metals
With new welding methods and advancements in robotic technology, the capability of welding dissimilar metals together is now a reality in robotic welding automation. Welding dissimilar metals together is a cost-effective manufacturing method. Expensive metals can be welded with inexpensive metals, helping to reduce material costs. As mentioned above, robotic EBW is capable of welding dissimilar metals. For instance, the FANUC Arcmate 100ic can weld together copper and stainless steel. Other robotic welding methods capable of dissimilar metal welding include laser welding and GMAW/GTAW brazing. The automotive industry is primarily responsible for this trend as welding dissimilar metals is common for automobile manufacturing.
While collaborative robots are currently used for automated material handling, robotic assembly, and packaging applications, robotic developers are looking into incorporating cobots with welding applications. Collaborative robots are able to operate directly alongside workers, acting as another set of hands or an assistant. Their advanced safety sensors and rounder configuration make them safe for human interaction. Developers are looking at using cobots for welding with the ability to program them through gestures by simply guiding the robot arm through the welding program. Using cobots for welding could simplify the programming process by doing away with traditional teach pendant or offline programming. Developers see cobots trending in robotic welding within the next three to five years.
Incorporating AI Technology
Incorporating AI technology with industrial robots has been a big trend in 2020, especially when it comes to robotic welding applications. AI technology improves the operation of robots, making them more intelligent. Robots with AI are capable of learning from data collected in order to assess how to operate instead of relying on programmed algorithms. AI technology is starting to be incorporated with welding robots, giving them the capability to inspect seams after welding or to automatically adjust to part changes.
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