Selecting a Robotic Welding Method
Welding is one of the most common robotic applications. Half of all active industrial robots are used for welding automation. Deciding to automate with industrial robots is easy when considering all the benefits. However, selecting a robotic welding method may not be as straightforward. The welding method or methods you select will depend upon a number of factors. Below is a look at some of the key issues to consider when selecting a robotic welding method.
It is important to consider the materials being welding for your application. Of course, the majority of welding involves only metals, but there are some processes that can join non-metals together. For instance, the FANUC Arcmate 120ic can weld plastic workpieces using the ultrasonic welding method. Not every welding method can be used for any metal type. Most welding applications are restricted to specific types of metals. Robotic spot welding is limited to steel and stainless steel. While TIG welding robots need electrically resistant metals such as titanium and copper.
The metal thickness of your workpieces should also be considered. Some robotic welding applications can handle any thickness, but others are limited to either thin or thick metals. Both plasma and electron beam welding robots can weld metals of any thickness. The ABB 2400 is a popular plasma welding robot. Those with thin metal workpieces could use either a laser or TIG welding robot. While thick workpieces can be welded by the Yaskawa Motoman MA1400 using the MIG method.
There are some welding methods that allow for greater flexibility than others. Those with a high mix of products or with high product turnover should consider a method that provides them with the greatest flexibility for manufacturing. Robotic ultrasonic welding allows for the joining of metal or non-metal workpieces. While plasma welding can handle any metal thickness and EBW can weld dissimilar metals to one another. Most arc welding robots can automate multiple welding applications. The FANUC Arcmate 100ic can automate MIG and TIG applications allowing for users to switch based upon the workpiece type using a robotic tool changer.
While automating a welding process with robots will lower production costs, some do have higher startup costs than others. Welding processes that require specialized equipment will have a higher upfront cost. The vacuum chamber needed for EBW makes it one of the more expensive methods to automate. Traditional processes like TIG, MIG, FCAW, and plasma welding generally have lower startup costs. Purchasing a used robotic welding system can make automating more affordable for a faster ROI.
Automating any welding process will decrease cycle times, but some welding applications are faster than others. Laser, MIG, plasma, and ultrasonic welding are some of the fastest robotic welding applications. While TIG is one of the slowest as its main purpose is precision.
The type of weld finish is another important factor to consider. If your weld seam will be visible you will want a method that produces clean, smooth welds such as plasma, ultrasonic, and TIG. MIG and FCAW do not produce as clean of a finish so they are best for weld seams that will not be visible, otherwise additional finishing steps will need to be taken.
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