What Types of Welding Robots Exist

The use of robots due to the rapid evolution of technology is frequent in many big industrial projects. So, it doesn’t surprise anyone the fact that there are robots that perform welding. Nowadays, it’s very uncommon to create metallic structures without the use of welding. Over the years different welding processes have been created and joining two pieces of metal is done optimally. The diversity of those methods along with specific requirements depended on each project has allowed the creation of different types of welding. In this article, the operation and advantages of those types of robotic welding will be discussed. 

What is Robotic Welding?

Complete automation of a welding process with the help of programmable equipment (robots) is known as robotic welding. Robots are capable of performing weld operations and handling the work at the same time. Automatic welding should not be confused with robotic welding because automatic welding processes involve human assistance in preparing the weld and handling the part. Robotic welding is mostly used in industries where high production rates are required. Usually, spot welding and arc welding can be performed with the help of robots. Different industries are using robots for the last 50 years but the use of robots for welding processes is a newly developed technique. Robots have become very common in industries and half of the applications of robots are related to the welding processes.

How does a Robotic Welding Unit Work?

Installation of a robotic welding unit is not economical and it is a time-consuming process. However, the long-term benefits of robotic welding units tempt many companies to install them. In a robotic welding unit, components from different categories are involved such as safety equipment, accessories, and main components that take part in the welding process.

What are the Components of a Robotic Welding Unit?

Filler wire is extensively used in the welding processes. A wire feeder is used for sending in the filler wire. Rate of insertion of filler wire can be programmed and it can be inserted at a constant rate or a variable rate according to the requirements. The equipment that involves the robot controlling the tool is known as a welding robot. In typical cases, the tool is a torch. 

A wire cleaner is included in a robotic welding unit for removing the spatter from the torch during the work cycles. The place at which the work is placed for allowing sufficient space to the robot for working is known as a work area. Automatic fixtures are used for holding the work. 

Controllers are the brain of the robotic welding unit. They are responsible for sending proper instructions to the working equipment. The instruction is programmed into the controller. The controller is capable of storing different programs and the operator just gives a command for the specific program.

How to Program a Robotic Welding Unit?

Teach pendant is the user interface that allows the communication between the operator and the controller. Different welding parameters can be adjusted from this device and the movement of the robot can be controlled with the help of it. 

Stack light indicates the different conditions that concern the robotic welding unit. Usually, there are three different types of lights. The red light indicates the emergency conditions. The orange light indicates that the robot is being programmed, and the green light shows that the robot is perfectly performing the welding operations according to the given instructions.

The operating box contains all the necessary buttons. Different buttons for initiating the process, resetting the program, restarting the program, etc. are all contained in the operating box. Robotic welding units are equipped with different safety equipment. Arc shielding, fencing, access doors, and other important equipment is used for the safety of the welding unit, work, and the operator. It is very important to prevent the exposure of workers to different kinds of dangerous lights and fumes. Usually, the welding robot is used inside a special kind of fence for safety purposes.

How to Operate a Robotic Welding Unit?

There are various steps involved in robotic welding and they require close monitoring. Steps in chronological order are given below:

  • Place the part into the fixture and use clamps to hold it securely.
  • Go to the controller and chose the desired program. If the program is not pre-stored, then use the teach pendant for the new programming.
  • The start button is available on the controller. Push it for initiating the process.
  • After the completion of the operation on the first part, move in the second part. In the modern robotic welding equipment, the movement of parts can also be automatic. The only requirement is to place the part in the loading station.
  • Different work stations can be set up for obtaining high production rates. The robot will complete the welding on the first working station and it will move to the second working condition. Wire cleaners are available in between the two working stations.
  • After the completion of the welding process on all the working stations in the desired number of cycles, the robotic welding unit is properly shut down from the controller.

Types of Welding Robots Based on How they Move

Articulating Robot

Robots that have rotary joints are known as an articulating robot. They consist of rotating arms for their operations. There is a rotating wrist at the end of the arms and it works like a human limb. Articulating robots can move in all kinds of regular and irregular paths.

Rectilinear Robots

Rectilinear robots offer motion in three basic directions. They can only move in X, Y, and Z directions. They offer limited movement and they can only work on regular shapes. Sometimes, the rotating disk is also attached to the robotic arms and a box-shaped movement can be employed.

Types of Welding Robots Based on Processes

Resistance Spot Welding

 Spot welding is extensively used in automobile industries. High production rates are required in the automotive industry and robotic welding is very successful in this industry. Robotic spot welding is majorly used in the assembly lines of the automotive industry.

These robots move to the required place and come back within seconds after performing the spot weld. The electrode is held in the wrist of the robot. Articulating robots are usually used for performing spot welding. Rectilinear robots are used for spot welding if the object is brought to the working space of the robot.

Robotic Arc Welding

Robotic arc welding is a new technique in the industry but it is catching up the robotic spot welding. Arc is produced with the help of a power supply and electrode is held in the wrist of the robot. Robotic arc welding equipment is very costly but they produce high production rates and they have a high return on the investment. However, it has facilitated the welding industry in achieving the required extent of the welding process.

Robotic TIG welding

When a high level of precision is required, robots are used for TIG welding. Electricity is provided to the tungsten electrode in the wrist of the robotic arm and TIG welding is performed.

Robotic MIG welding

In many industries, high deposition rates are required. Therefore, robots are used to perform MIG welding when high deposition rates are required for achieving high production rates. Wire feeder continuously provides the filler wire to the heated tip of the non-consumable electrode in the wrist of the robot. Articulating robots are used for this type of robotic welding.

Laser Welding

When the requirements are to produce a high volume of parts with accuracy, laser welding with the help of robots is performed. Small medical parts and jewelry are produced with the help of laser welding.

What are the Pros and Cons of Robotic Welding?

Every technique comes up with some advantages and disadvantages. The same is the case with robotic welding. Advantages and disadvantages of robotic welding are listed below:

Advantages:

  • Higher Efficiency of the Process.
  • More safety for the operators and the work.
  • A higher level of accuracy.
  • A lesser amount of waste products.
  • Lower production costs.
  • Higher production rates.

Disadvantages

  • Higher initial costs.
  • Lesser flexibility.
  • Zero feasibility for the smaller projects.

A major risk involved in robotic welding is that complete dependence on robotic welding. It could lead to losses in production when any of the robots is broken down.

Is there any Future for Robotic Welding?

Most analysts forecast a bright future for robotic welding. There are very shortcomings in the welding process and manual welding is not meeting the needs of the production rates. Researchers are working on mind-controlled robots and collaborative robots. These robots will be able to work in collaboration with human welders. Engineers are working on automating the 90% of the welding processes that are still being performed manually. It is estimated that there will be a growth of around 8% in the use of robotic welding by 2023.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, robotic welding is a very beneficial addition to the welding industry because the requirements of welding are ever-increasing. The use of robots has helped a lot in achieving the required level of efficiency in welding processed.

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