Robotic welding is a manufacturing process where a mechanized robotic arm is fitted with weld equipment (typically a MIG welding gun) and is programmed to follow a defined path to create a weld joint between two parts which are securely fixtured in a known location. This is a great way to automate a process which was traditionally very manual. It is widely used in the automotive, aerospace, and construction industries due to its precision and efficiency.

In this article, we will explore this welding technology and assess the suitability and potential benefits for a given part or component.

Flexibility and Adaptability of Robotic Welding

Robotic systems showcase exceptional flexibility and adaptability in modern manufacturing. One example is their capacity to handle various part sizes and geometries. Most robotic weld systems have the capability to manipulate the part being welded as well as the weld gun at the same time. This allows the robot to easily access hard-to-reach areas of the part that would be more difficult if the part was stationary.

More advanced robots also have cutting-edge sensors and vision systems that allow them to adapt to the dimensions of different pieces. For example, machine vision systems can track features such as part edges allowing the weld to follow a known edge which results in a more consistent weld and reduced programming time.

Reprogramming robotic systems for different welding tasks is another testament to their versatility. They can be reconfigured to accommodate new requirements or part design revisions. This saves time and costs associated with tooling changes and retraining of operators. Manufacturers can also easily respond to changing production demands or product variations, ensuring efficient and agile production lines.

How To Determine Robotic Weldings Suitability in Applications

Here are several key elements to assess when determining the compatibility of a part for robotic welding:

Material Type and Thickness

Welding with robots is highly adaptable, but certain materials weld more easily than others. Due to their well-established characteristics, metals like steel, aluminum, and stainless steel could be welded using robotic systems. These materials offer good conductivity and respond well to the heat generated. However, plastics or exotic materials may be less suitable due to their different properties.

Additionally, robotic systems can weld a wide range of material thicknesses, but limitations exist. Thinner materials require precise parameter control including heat input and travel speed to prevent distortion or burn-through. Conversely, thicker metals may demand higher power and longer welding times which could impart significant heat into the part and cause warping or distortion.

Weld Processes

Various welding processes are used in industrial manufacturing such as MIG welding (GMAW), TIG welding (GTAW) and stick welding (SMAW). The process most suitable to robotic welding is MIG welding since the electrode/wire is fed through the weld gun at a predetermined feed rate. The weld wire is consumed at the same rate it is being fed at allowing the welding gun to maintain a set distance (arc length) from the part.

Unlike MIG welding, both TIG and Stick welding use an electrode which has a fixed length, therefore as the electrode is consumed, it must be moved closer to the part to retain the same arc length. While not impossible, this creates significant challenges for robotic welding since it adds another movement variable. MIG welding still offers significant adaptability since it can be used for materials such as mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum simply by changing the wire feed mechanism and shielding gas selection.

Joint Geometry and Accessibility

Robotic welding excels at handling joint types, such as butt and lap joints and even T-joints. However, complex or irregular joint geometries may pose challenges. For example, very thick welds requiring multiple passes to achieve a specific fillet size may be more difficult to program and the results may be inconsistent. Even this however can be addressed with more advanced adaptive machine learning.

When selecting a part for robotic weld processes, accessibility and position must also be considered. Welding in the horizontal or close to horizontal position is most predictable, so vertical welds can be more inconsistent with a robotic welder. In addition, the robotic arm must be able to access and weld all necessary areas. Robots also have fixed or limited reach so the part must be precisely positioned and must fit within the envelope of the welding cell to allow the welding tool to reach all required locations.

Weld Quality and Inspection

Automated welding can produce consistent and repeatable welds, which aids in quality control overall. However, there can be weld inconsistencies introduced by a number of factors. The robotic welder relies on a consistent supply of shielding gas and welding wire to perform optimally, if either of those are disrupted, as is common in manual welding, the weld quality will be impacted. In addition, robotic welders rely on repeatable part fixturing to remain consistent, if a part is allowed to move or is improperly positioned during the welding process, the part will be non conforming.

For these reasons, it is essential to consider post-weld inspection and testing procedures based on statistical defect rates in order to set adequate inspection parameters. It may be possible for welders with machine vision to visually detect if there is a missing weld or inconsistent weld. Quality control should also ensure the process control of the weld settings such as heat (amperage) and feed rates are within tolerance. Lastly, periodic weld inspections and destructive/non-destructive testing should be completed to ensure the welds meet the requirements for penetration and porosity.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Employing Robotic Welding

Robotic welding systems are significant investments for businesses and ust offer a suitable benefit to be used efficiently. Analyzing the cost-benefit of implementing automated welding involves considering the following aspects:

Experience Fabrication Excellence With JVC Precision!

JVC Precision is a trusted partner in delivering exceptional design and manufacturing services across diverse industries! Our process begins with conceptualization, where we work with clients to ensure that goals are defined before advancing to the production phase. We cater to various services, including laser cutting, precision bending, forming, advanced welding, meticulous assembly, and rigorous testing.

Contact us or request a quote now!