Which Robotic Welding Application is Best: TIG or Laser?
Welding robots account for nearly half of all active industrial robots around the world. The accuracy, cost savings, speed, and quality of industrial robots is why many manufacturers are choosing them when it comes to welding automation. Once realizing the benefits of welding robots, the decision to automate with them is easy. However, deciding which robotic welding application to implement can be more difficult as there are many to choose from with traditional and non-traditional methods. TIG welding and laser welding are two common welding applications automated by robots. Each has their own unique features and understanding their differences can help users determine which would suit their operations best.
Robot TIG WeldingTungsten inert gas welding is traditional welding method and is one of the most common forms of arc welding. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic and the Motoman MA1400 are two examples of welding robots capable of automating TIG applications. In order to implement a robotic TIG application, a welding robot will be integrated with a welding torch, power supply, wire feeder, and safety equipment. During welding the articulated robot will apply the torch to the metal workpieces. A non-consumable tungsten electrode forms the weld arc that melts the metal workpieces, joining them together. Shielding gas is used during welding to prevent contamination of the weld pool.
TIG welding robots are ideal for working with thin or detailed metal workpieces. The FANUC Arcmate 100ic can weld both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, however electrically resistant metals are best since they heat the fastest. Robotic TIG welding is often used for any weld requiring precise, detailed work since it produces clean and even seems. No filler is used, preventing spatter or slag from occurring.
Since robotic TIG applications use traditional welding equipment, initial investment costs tend to be lower. Also, the welding equipment can be reused for other applications such as robotic MIG welding. One downside is TIG is the slowest robotic welding process. The lower welding current results in long metal deposition rates. If you choose to implement robotic TIG welding it is important to know the main focus is for welding detail and not speed. Many used FANUC welding robots still have the robotic welding power source integrated into it.
Robotic Laser WeldingLaser welding is considered a non-traditional robotic welding process. It sets itself apart from TIG and other traditional robotic arc welding applications since it does not require contact with workpieces. Six axis robots are integrated with a laser cutter and laser generator. The factory robot will focus its laser cutter onto the location of the weld seem. A powerful laser beam it emitted which will melt the metals and fuse them together. The ABB 2400-16 is capable of welding workpieces from a foot away using the laser method.
Like TIG welding robots, laser welding robots are ideal for working with thin or intricate metal workpieces. Unlike TIG robots, laser welding robots have the advantage of being able to join dissimilar metals together and can work with most metals as long as they are not reflective. Longer reach robots like the ABB 4600-20 and FANUC M710ic/20L can be used for both processes when a larger work envelope is required.
The incredible power of laser welding robots produces highly focused, dense welds with great strength and a small heat affected zone preventing distortion of the workpiece. The no-contact method allows laser welding robots to access hard to reach angles for greater welding flexibility. The initial investment for robotic laser welding is higher than for TIG welding, but the fast processing speed can make it the more cost-effective method overall. Laser welding robots can weld delicate workpieces in less time than TIG robots while still producing precise welds.