Tungsten inert gas welding is an arc welding process involving the use of a non-consumable electrode to complete a weld. While the technical name for this application is gas tungsten arc welding, it is commonly shortened and referred to as TIG welding. During this process the weld arc forms between the electrode and the workpieces to heat and join them together. The weld pool and electrode are protected from atmospheric contaminates and oxidation with the use of an inert shielding gas, usually either argon or helium. TIG welding is favored over other types of arc welding because of the strong, high-quality welds produced due to the greater control provided by the shielding gas. Although quality is greater with TIG welding it is a complex and slow process that requires a high level of skill and precision when performed manually. Many industries are now automating their TIG applications with robotics in order to ease complexity of the application while also increasing productivity and quality.
TIG applications can be fully automated by integrating robots such as the FANUC Arc Mate 100ic with a welding power supply like the Lincoln Powerwave i400. TIG welding robots provide flexibility within operations due to their ability to produce high quality welds on almost all metals and alloys, including: steel, aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and copper. They are capable of welding thin metals as well as small intricate parts that requires extreme precision. Their robot arm allows for access to welds in hard to reach places or angles that require torch rotation, that otherwise would not be possible with human welders. Even older robots such as the FANUC Arc Mate 100ib can still be used efficiently in TIG applications.
TIG robots like the Motoman MA1400 are programmed to control application parameters including speed and the amount of heat applied during the weld. TIG welding is a slower process than other arc welding applications. This requires precise, controlled passes of the weld torch for longer periods of time. This can be difficult and taxing on human welders as holding a heavy weld torch can result in fatigue and inconsistent movements. Not only does a human welder have to control the torch, but also the heat level applied. If too much or too little heat is applied, it will result in a poor weld that is distorted in appearance and will compromise the durability of it. More materials will need to be used to try to correct the errors or replace the workpieces all together causing costs to rise along with cycle time. TIG welding robots provide precise, repeatable, consistent, and uniform welds on all workpieces ensuring the integrity of the weld is intact. With TIG robots such as the FANUC Arcmate 120ic manufacturers can be confident in the longevity and quality of their products.
As mentioned above, TIG applications require highly skilled welders in order to achieve quality results. It can be difficult for manufacturers to find qualified workers, especially since the nature of TIG welding can impede worker safety. Exposure to the UV arc puts workers at risk of developing conditions such as arc eye. They can also experience adverse health effects related to the inhalation of toxic fumes produced during the welding process. Replacing manual welders with TIG robots like the ABB IRB 2600 increases worker safety and decreases labor costs. Robots can handle the difficult elements of TIG welding applications without stoppages, keeping productivity levels high and consistent.