Universal Robots Handle TIG Welding and Press Brake Loading, Improving Both Production Efficiency and Job Satisfaction at Fujita Works
01 the short story
Fujita Works, Co., Ltd., a leading manufacturer of high-precision sheet metal components, wanted to automate its TIG welding operation due to the lack of skilled workers. After much trial and error with a system integrator, the company developed a solution with cobots from Universal Robots (UR) that enables even young employees to perform high-quality TIG welding. In addition, Fujita automated the loading of workpieces into the press brake system to improve work efficiency, reduce the physical burden on the workers, and increase their overall job satisfaction.
02 the challenge
Welding requires craftsmanship. TIG welding is particularly difficult and the finish pieces vary depending on the welding technician. Fujita Works, which had been using skilled workers and industrial robots to perform welding, anticipates a future shortage of human resources for both hand welding and the complex programming of the industrial robots, and wanted to realize TIG welding not affected by the skill level of the craftsmen and the availability of robot programmers.
Video — Fujita Works Co., Ltd., Japan
03 the solution
Koji Fujita, CEO and President of Fujita Works, had been toying with the idea of dividing the welding process into pre-welding and permanent welding, with pre-welding done by workers and permanent welding done by robots. He visited EUROBRECH, an exhibition of sheet metal machine tools held in Germany in 2018, and saw many UR cobots, which triggered the development of the system. Fabace, a trading company specializing in sheet-metal processing machinery, proposed the development of a system using a UR cobot, and the three companies, including system integrator Kufusha, decided to develop a system for TIG welding.
“Our customers have been impressed with the ease of use," said Mr. Iichiro Onishi, President of Kuhusha.
With the URCap enabled interface, the time required for inputting data has been reduced from five minutes to one minute. Emi Wakita, Sub Leader of the WeReevo Group, Fujita Works, who has been working as a welder for two years, says, "Direct teaching allows me to do what I want. It was very easy because I could move the welding torch to where I wanted with direct teaching,” she says. “With the robot, I just set the start and end points and it welds straight away, which makes a difference in the quality of the work.” With the introduction of the UR cobot, welding work that used to take more than three years to learn can now be done in a few months.
UR5 handles TIG welding
Direct teaching allows the operator to do what she wants. "It was very easy because I could move the welding torch to where I wanted with direct teaching,” she says.
When an operator sets the start and end points, the cobot welds straight away, and provides higher quality welding
2 UR5s handle press brake loading
The robotic system is movable and set up when needed
When the UR5s feed the workpieces, the press brake processing machine performs the bending process, and the workpieces are removed by air cylinders after processing
The next step for Fujita Works was the metal bending process. Two UR5s were installed to feed the workpieces into the metal press brake processing machine; when the UR feeds the workpieces, the press brake processing machine performs the bending process, and the workpieces are removed by air cylinders after processing. Miyoshi Miyazawa, Denkai Group, Fujita Works says; “In the past, two people had to feed metal sheet workpieces more than 1,000 times a day, and when they got tired, their timing would sometimes be off. The two cobots work at a constant speed, which has improved efficiency.” By reducing the number of workers to one, the extra workers can be put in charge of other processes, which contributes to the productivity improvements through the entire plant.
“We want to continue to robotize simple tasks," said Haruo Kosa, Product General Manager at Fujita, who led the automation projects. “We currently have 20 workers in the welding process. We might want to use one robot for each worker in the future.”
Koji Fujita, CEO and President, said, "When we think of a new device, which is not available in the market yet, we collaborate with manufacturers and partners. By infusing our metalworking know-how into UR cobots, we will create robot systems that are easy to use for everyone.”
- The TIG welding process, which used to rely on skilled workers. The learning period has been reduced from two-three years to a few months, and work efficiency has been improved.
- The workpiece feeding into the press brake machine, which used to be done by two people, has been automated, allowing one person to be in charge, improving work efficiency and the safety of the work environment.
- Future labor shortage will be solved by introducing cobots.
- No need for safety fences
- Easy to program and direct teaching of the cobot to move as desired
- Welding (TIG Welding)
- Machine Tending (Press Brake Loading)
UR cobot models used:
1x UR5 for TIG Welding
2x UR5 for press brake loading
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Cost-effective, safe and flexible collaborative robots - or cobots- are making automation easier than ever, even for the small and mid-sized companies.