- Are cobots a good solution for robotic welding? The relative ease of use and minimal training requirements of setting up cobots in welding applications compared to their larger, traditional robot cousins makes them a good way of introducing welding automation in production places which could not consider robotic welding before.
- What types of welding tasks can a robot perform? Collaborative Robots can handle the most common welding applications, including Arc, TIG, Laser, MIG, Ultrasonic, Plasma and Spot welding.
Robotic welding can increase accuracy and reduce waste for most welding operations. Designed to be versatile, low maintenance and simpler to operate than traditional industrial robots, collaborative robots (cobots) can automate Arc, TIG, lazer, MIG, ultrasonic, plasma and spot welding as well as being able to handle soldering and brazing. In a commercial environment where companies need to drive efficiency and productivity without incurring huge costs, cobots are proving to be great investments for businesses all over the world. Here is everything you need to know about collaborative welding robots.
AN INTRODUCTION TO ROBOTIC WELDING
Welding is all about repeatability and accuracy. For production lines with a high throughput, making sure that every single product goes out with the highest quality is crucial for customer satisfaction and safety as well as the survival of the producer’s business. When performed by humans, welding is a highly skilled role. But it is also repetitive, potentially dangerous and physically demanding. Mistakes can not only put a human operator at risk of injury – they can also lead to lower quality products and more costly waste.
Robotic welding offers a way to automate this task and ensure consistent levels of quality no matter how large the workload. It is not simply about replacing skilled human workers either. With a welding robot arm handling the repetitive manual tasks, human workers are free to take on higher value assignments. The relative ease of use and minimal training requirements of cobots when compared to their larger traditional robot cousins also make them a great way to help upskill your team and strengthen your automation expertise.
The business case for robotic welding
Many businesses in the manufacturing sector are feeling the pressure. With rising prices, complex supply chains and changing customer preferences all rubbing up against a global shortage of labor, companies need to explore the ways technology can help them continue to grow. Cobot applications such as robotic welding offer the potential to enable operations to be scaled up while also saving costs.
In fact, implementing a robot welding machine into your production processes can have several key benefits:
Solving labor shortages
Getting enough skilled workers is one of the most common, and pressing, challenges welding companies are facing today. Unfortunately, it is not a pressure that looks likely to ease up anytime soon. Companies that adopt automated processes can not only maintain or grow their operations without needing to take on additional human workers – they can also attract and retain a skilled workforce by allowing people to work with cutting-edge technology.
MT Solar overcame labor shortages and freed current staff from repetitive welding tasks while successfully handling a 300% surge in demand.
Skilled human workers are amazingly accurate and experienced, but they can still make mistakes. As one welding operator at one of our manufacturing clients said:
"Although I'm a good welder, at some stage even I get tired. My eyes go numb and my back starts to ache. This does not happen with a cobot."
With a manual welding workforce, having to occasionally discard parts or having a portion of products fail quality tests is an accepted part of day-to-day operations. Robotic welding applications make fewer mistakes so create less waste.
Welding is a repetitive, high-volume task and a cobot application will perform it almost exactly the same way no matter how many times it does it. No matter how experienced and skilled a human worker is, everyone has an off day, gets sick or has to deal with workplace distractions.
For our client MT Solar, this repeatability helps maintain consistent product quality. Owner Jordan also says that the company’s customers are also impressed with the consistency:
“Our customers are always excited when we tell them, ‘Hey, you know, that part was welded by a robot.’ They go to put it on, and it looks exactly the same as the last one and they look high quality,”
You’re a collaborative robot application does not require any breaks and can work without a break. This makes robotic welding a great tool for scaling up your production processes to take on new customers or meet seasonal spikes in demand.
For Flywheel Supply, their cobot can run 24/7 without stopping. This has not only increased the company’s output but has allowed it build a more-skilled, higher paid and more diverse workforce too.
Flywheel automated TIG welding with the UR robot, and increased welding throughput by 4-5x over manual welding, subsequently reducing cycle time from a minute to about 14 seconds
Lower delivery costs
Typically, clients using Universal Robot cobot achieve ROI on their collaborative robots in under a year. That is because they are relatively simple to use and usually require less training and safety infrastructure than traditional robots. And because they can increase throughput without the need for additional staff, cobots are value-generators rather than cost centers. MT Solar, for example, was able to meet a 300% seasonal increase in demand without having to take on any extra staff.
Enhanced workplace safety
Cobot applications can contribute to a safer working environment. Not only do they free workers from having to perform dull, dirty and potentially dangerous tasks but the cobot itself comes with a range of inbuilt safety functions.
What tasks can a cobot do?
The good news is that when it comes to robotic welding, a cobot can do a lot. Our clients all over the world have used their cobots to perform the following welding tasks:
- Spot welding
One of the main benefits of a cobot-based robotic welding application is the flexibility and relative ease of use when compared to other industrial robotics applications. With the right software solutions, end effectors and application kits from our UR+ ecosystem and some minimal user training, experienced staff can get your cobot programmed toexecute a wide variety of welding tasks in as little as 30 minutes.
Cobots are also lightweight and have a smaller footprint than other kinds of traditional robots. This means that it is easier to integrate one into existing workflows without taking up too much precious floorspace. Despite cobots typically requiring less safety infrastructure, such as cages, than other heavier-duty robots, a thorough safety assessment is still required before implementation.
Once you actually have your welding robot arm, take a look at our more in-depth guide for setting up a welding application.
Robotic welding and automating tasks such as soldering and brazing open up so many opportunities for businesses of all sizes. They can be a powerful tool for those looking to expand or an important way of cutting operating costs or reducing waste for those looking to tighten up their operations. Whatever your motivation, we are here to help. Get in touch to get started today.