Robotic Welding Comes Of Age
Robotic welding has come of age in the past few years. In advances in computer technology and robotics, simple, repetitive tasks in manufacturing are often performed by robotic welding devices, with a resulting savings in labor and an improvement in safety, since there is less human interaction and less chance for human error.
Trade shows and conventions for the fabrication industry and welding trades often feature robotic welding devices these days. Demonstrations at the trade shows give examples of robotic welding machines doing graceful and complex maneuvers, demonstrating speed and flexibility possible with robots today that were not possible a generation ago.
Industrial robots are used in welding, painting, ironing, assembly, palletizing, pick and place, inspection, and testing of products. Robots have proven themselves to be valuable resources in manufacturing applications in all of these areas.
Any welding task is suitable for automation if the task is repetitive. From a practical, financial standpoint however the number of pieces that need to be welded must be of sufficient quantity to allow a continuous flow, to justify the initial expense of setting up robotic welding machinery. In such instances an automatic welding gun can be placed in a static position or if needed on a curved track to achieve a circular weld. In this type of situation, a work piece can be rotated past the welding gun.
The major manufacturers in three basic sizes offer robotic welding arms. These include a tabletop size with a six-pound payload, a medium sized model with a 13.2 pound payload and larger machines with a 22.2 pound payload. While these robotic welding machines are available new, many used and reconditioned models are also available and popular.
Where robotic welding machines, and industrial robots in general came from is of interest. The first industrial robot, used for simple tasks, was invented in 1962. In 1969 a Stanford University professor developed the Stanford arm, an articulated robot that widened the potential of robots, making robotic welding possible and feasible. By the 1970’s industrial robots were firmly rooted in most industries and robotic welding’s strong points had become obvious to industry. Soon large companies like General Electric and General Motors were manufacturing robots, and several companies n the U.S. stated specifically to manufacture them and market them to industry, including Automatix and Adept Technology, Inc, while Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired Animation, the grandmaster of industrial robotics. Many Japanese companies also entered the arena.
Today’s popularity of industrial robots, and in particular of robotic welding devices is due to the fact that these machines save man hours, allowing skilled human technicians, including welders, to concentrate on more complicated tasks worthy of their skills and training. Simple and repetitive tasks that would be a waste of a skilled welder’s time are generally handled by robotic welding machines with cost savings in the millions every year, benefiting the companies and stockholders.
Overall, Robotic welding is one of the most advanced computer technologies and robotic welding devices save in labor and an improvement in safety, by reducing human error and human tragedy.