Universal Robots Takes Cobot Welding to the Next Level at FABTECH 2021
Universal Robots pioneered collaborative arc welding and continues to make cobot-powered fabricating solutions mainstream. FABTECH 2021 is the launchpad for innovative new cobot applications including heavy-duty water-cooled welding, hardfacing, plasma cutting and flexible machine loading.
FABTECH 2017 was a milestone year as the first welding systems based on Universal Robots (UR) threw sparks at the show and officially entered the market. Flash forward to 2021, and UR cobot-powered systems are mainstream at FABTECH with numerous OEMs and UR+ partners actively selling MIG, TIG and plasma welding and cutting solutions, making it one of the fastest growing market for UR cobots.
“For 40 years, robotic arc welding evolved incrementally”, says Joe Campbell, Senior Manager of Applications Development and Strategic Marketing at Universal Robots. “Collaborative arc welding is the first disruptive technology to hit the robotic arc welding market since the introduction of DC servo powered robots,” he adds, attributing the rapid market traction to several key drivers including significant shortage of welders, increase in high mix/low volume production, and the fact that cobot welders are easy to deploy, quickly producing parts with improved quality and consistency.
Visitors to FABTECH in Chicago, September 13-16, will find the flagship blue cobots in more than 20 booths throughout the show and are encouraged to start their cobot discovery at Universal Robots own FABTECH booth B-17012. Manufacturers unable to attend the show are encouraged to visit UR's virtual FABTECH booth instead. The virtual booth will feature live demos and presentations from both UR and partners and will also be available on demand after the show.
Welding and plasma cutting are now one of Universal Robots’ fastest growing markets as metal fabricators start to deploy cobot-powered solutions at a rapid speed. Nowhere is this trend more visible than at FABTECH 2021 where 20+ booths will showcase new cobot-powered fabricating applications.
Operate a Smartphone? Program a Cobot Welder
“We show attendees how easy it is to program a Universal Robot for fabricating applications – and we’ll hand out show maps featuring our partners exhibiting welding, cutting, grinding, press brake and machine loading solutions and components that exemplify this,” says Campbell, who is also hosting several innovative solutions in UR’s own booth, including Hirebotics’ new Cobot Welder, a complete, user-friendly cobot welding system that enables painless automated MIG welding deployments. Using the ingeniously simple Cobot Welder cellphone application that runs on Hirebotics’ cloud-based Beacon software platform, FABTECH attendees will experience hands-on how easy it is to teach new parts and welds.
Cobots Take on Heavy-Duty Tasks
Heavy-duty welds are now possible to perform with cobots as Vectis Automation becomes the first UR partner in North America to develop a water-cooled cobot-based welding system in a new version of its Cobot Welding Tool. Showcased at FABTECH, the Cobot Welding Tool now comes with MultiPass Software Feature and ArcPilot™ Through-The-Arc Seam Tracking. The solution is now not only compatible with Miller welding equipment but can be integrated with Lincoln and Fronius welding equipment too.
Vectis Automation also pioneers the use of a UR cobot for hardfacing, the metalworking process where harder or tougher material is applied to a base metal. At Vectis’ own FABTECH booth B17054, the company will debut new UR cobot powered plasma cutting as well, featuring Vectis’ Cobot Cutting Tool with Hypertherm PowerMax able to perform complex cuts on 3D shapes and large structures for a fraction of the cost of a tube laser.
“Most of our shop probably wouldn’t consider themselves a programmer of any sort,” says Mike Gillin, operations manager and certified welder at MT Solar in Montana that deployed Vectis Automation's Cobot Welding Tool, powered by Universal Robots. “But just about everybody out of curiosity has gone by and taken a turn. The nice thing is you don’t have to be a welder necessarily—that part’s already figured out for you.”
Application Kit Automates CNC Milling with Cobots
The UR booths also hosts new solutions for automated machine tending, featuring the new VersaBuilt CNC Mill Application Kit for manufacturers seeking a plug-and-play approach to CNC milling automation. Versabuilt’s UR+ Application Kit comes with all components pre-assembled and designed to successfully get the CNC mill and the UR10e cobot working together, automating the loading and unloading of parts into the mill.
The VersaBuilt Kit requires no programming experience with easy-to-use automation software that allows the machinist to simply enter part dimensions and CNC milling program numbers to get the application up and running.
Fabricators looking for easy integration between UR cobots and CNC machines need look no further than UR’s FABTECH booth where VersaBuilt’s CNC Mill Application Kit will be showcased.
Flexible Machine Loading for Unstructured Parts, More Payload with Longer Reach
FABTECH attendees looking for flexible, intelligent machine loading solutions for unstructured parts in bins, will be intrigued by Universal Robots’ ActiNav™; a new system showcased at the UR booth combining intelligent vision and real-time autonomous motion control with Universal Robots’ e-Series cobots. Before ActiNav, solutions for unstructured picking and placing of parts into machines were solely focused on the vision aspect, often requiring complex programming to bridge the gap from “pick” to “place” – especially if the “place” is not just dropping into a box but accurately inserting parts into fixtures for further processing.
At New England Union in Rhode Island, the ActiNav system with the UR10e cobot autonomously picks parts from a deep bin to load a gantry system that is the staging for a CNC machine for further operations such as threading or drilling.
ActiNav changes all that, combining real-time autonomous motion control, UR cobots, vision and sensor systems in one seamless Application Kit that solves the bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. At FABTECH, ActiNav will pick metal parts randomly jumbled in bins and correctly insert them into a machine. Powering ActiNav is the new enhanced version of UR’s best-selling UR10e cobot now featuring 25% more payload capacity with the ability to lift 12.5kg (27.55lbs), providing customers with exciting new deployment capabilities.
New UR+ certified sander and magnetic gripper showcased
When it comes to the grippers picking up parts in automated loading and unloading of machine tools, as well as handling of ferromagnetic raw materials, gripping with magnetic grippers has proven to reduce cycle time and increase production. SCHUNK has addressed this industry need with the new EMH gripper, the world's first electrically activated, 24 V permanent magnetic gripper with integrated electronics. The new EMH gripper will be showcased in seamless integration with a UR cobot at UR’s FABTECH booth alongside the new UR+ product, the AOV-10 Axially-Compliant Orbital Sander, from ATI Industrial Automation that is the ideal robotic solution for surface preparation and finishing. With built-in compliance, the AOV-10 is well-suited for many different robotic application types—even those that require a light touch.
Two brand new end-effectors for the UR cobots will be showcased at the UR booth as well: The UR+ certified AOV-10 Axially-Compliant Orbital Sander from ATI Industrial Automation (left) and the magnetic EMH gripper from SCHUNK.