Gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW for short, is a type of arc welding involving the use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode to complete a weld. Contamination or oxidation of the weld is protected against with the use of an inert shielding gas, most commonly either argon or helium. The use of shielding gas allows for greater control over other types of arc welding and creates a strong, high quality weld which is why GTAW appeals to manufacturers. However, GTAW is much more complex and difficult to learn than competing welding processes like GMAW and must be performed by a highly skilled worker. Robotics is now easing the difficulty of GTAW applications for manufacturers while amplifying precision and quality like never before.
Integrating a robot such as the FANUC Arc Mate 120IC with a Lincoln Power Wave i400 welding supply automates the GTAW process. GTAW robots can perform welds on thin sections of stainless steel as well as other non-ferrous metals including aluminum, magnesium, and copper. The welding of thin overlay work can be very difficult by requiring extreme control to successfully weld the joint. This is no problem for GTAW robots as they are able to repeatedly provide precise levels of control, producing smooth and uniform welds. These fine detail welds can be difficult for a human worker as GTAW is a slow process. It takes about one quarter of the weld speed as compared to GMAW welding. The longer weld passes needed can be difficult for a human worker to keep consistent without deviation. The smallest flinch can lead to costly errors and further delay production time. Robots such as the ABB IRB 2400L can be easily programmed with the application parameters to keep the speed and movement under control during the entire process. The high amount of control provided by the robot means less cycle time is wasted to correct mistakes further saving manufacturers money. Older robots such as the FANUC Arc Mate 100ib make automating a GTAW process with robots affordable and easy.
Not only does the GTAW process require a high level of control, but also a precise amount of heat must be applied for a successful weld. A human welder must coordinate the welding torch, filler rod, and the speed of the current. If the current speed is too low this results in not enough heat which can cause a weak weld that lifts away from the workpiece. If the current is too high, then the heat being applied is too great causing a poor appearance and increasing splatter. Robots like the Yaskawa Motoman MA2010 are much better at multitasking than humans and are programmed to always apply the correct amount of heat resulting in consistently strong, even welds.
Arc welding applications also come with safety risks for workers and GTAW is no exception to this. Exposure to UV light is of greatest concern for humans when performing GTAW applications. Workers are at risk of developing conditions such as arc eye, emphysema, and oedema of the lungs from the exposure of the UV light and the harmful toxins it can produce in the air. GTAW robots are built to withstand these hazards and worker safety is increased by moving humans to less harmful environments. Not to mention companies save on costs as robots do not need protective clothing and helmets unlike people.
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