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Are the robots coming for your welding job?

In a time where a lot of jobs are facing automating, not even the humble welder’s job is safe. Or rather, the traditional way of welding can be automated. Rest assured though, there will always be a need for the human component in welding.

What is robotic welding?

Robotic welding is one of the most common robotic applications in the industrial sector, mainly driven by the automotive sector for the last several decades. This is when the welding process is automated for increased accuracy, safety and speed to complete a project. It is often implemented for repetitive tasks that need consistent results, such as the assembling of automobiles.

How does robotic welding work?

Usually, a robot arm that can move in three dimensions for rectilinear types and through more planes with articulating versions is programmed and closely monitored by a certified human operator.

A wire feeder sends the filler wire to the robot as necessary, while a high-heat torch at the end of the arm melts metal to complete the welding process.

With a shortage of skilled welders in many industries, more mundane tasks can be automated to ensure high accuracy and faster operation with less waste, allowing professional welders to get on with critical projects that need, well, a human touch.

Robotic welding processes

There are several different types of robotic welding processes that each has their own benefits and types of applications.

Arc welding

This is one of the most common types of robotic welding. An electric arc generates extreme heat in excess of 3 500 degrees Celsius to melt the metal. The robotic arm can keep the molten metal joints stable as it solidifies during cooling. Arc welding is the ideal process if a project requires a significant volume of accurately conjoined metals.

Resistance welding

If cost is a consideration or if a project needs heat treating, robots use resistance welding where a current of electricity creates a pool of molten metal, which joins the pieces of metal together.

Spot welding

Spot welding is frequently used in the automotive industry to assemble various part of an automotive body. For this variation of resistance welding, robotic welders connect a pair of thin metal sheets in a single spot.

TIG welding

When high levels of precision are required, the robot may apply TIG welding, where an electric arc passes between the metal base and a tungsten electrode.

MIG welding

This is the fast and straightforward method with a high level of deposition most welders are familiar with.

Laser welding

Laser welding is the preferred method of joining when the project calls for accuracy of a high volume of parts, such as jewellery or medical components.

Plasma welding

Plasma is a jet of ionised gas and plasma welding is when the gas is passed through a nozzle. Because the operator can easily change the speed and temperature, this form of welding offers a significant degree of flexibility.

The seven types of robotic welding processes listed above are some of the most common and are deployed across the industrial sector for various applications. However, there are dozens of other types out there.

Robotic vs manual welding

Manual welding is preferred for projects when an expert needs to quickly change the style of welding used. Certified welders should find work easily despite the increase in the number of businesses investing in robots. In addition to this, most robot welder operators need to have a thorough understanding of welding in addition to a robotics certification to ensure the robotic welder is programmed correctly and cost-effectively.

The Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) offers a robotic welder short course, designed to impart the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge on welding technology by equipping people with the skills to manage all aspects of a robotic welding operation, including the design and programming of the welding task and safety and troubleshooting of the welding operation. The course also provides a foundation to more advanced robotic welder training by SAIW partners.

Pros of robotic welding

  • Increased productivity - robots can operate 24/7 and complete projects must faster than humans.
  • Enhanced safety - robotic welders are equipped with safety features to protect people from the temperature and brightness of the welding arc.
  • Better accuracy - repetitive motions necessary to create a large volume of parts can consistently be performed by a robot, while experienced workers may eventually make an error due to fatigue.
  • Higher quality - a robotic welder can achieve superior quality by ensuring the correct welding angle, speed, and distance with repeatability of accuracy, ensuring every welding joint is consistently produced to the highest quality
  • Less waste - with increased precision there are fewer mistakes and less waste.
  • Human resources - tying in with productivity and safety, there is less risk of injury on duty and the need for overtime to complete projects.
  • Superior competitive advantage - a robotic welding solution will set a company apart from its competition because it can complete products faster and with consistent quality.

Cons of robotic welding

  • Higher upfront cost.
  • Less flexibility.
  • Not feasible for small projects.
  • Repairs and maintenance on robotic welding systems could shut manufacturing down from hours to days.

Pros of manual welding

  • Increased flexibility - welders don’t need to be retrained, reconfigured or reprogrammed every time they start a different type of welding job.
  • Less downtime - if an employee can’t weld on a particular day, another welder to take over the project.
  • Awareness - qualified welders will notice if something is amiss on the manufacturing floor, not continue producing until part of the machinery malfunctions.

Cons of manual welding

  • Risk - an employee injured on the job can be out of work for a while.
  • Lower product output.
  • Decreased accuracy.

Everything the manual welder needs

Robotic welders are still far in the future for most businesses. In the meantime, chat to Tru-Butt, the welding specialists in Germiston for all the repairs and supplies you need.

Contact Tru-Butt for more information

For all your welding needs, including repairs, contact Tru-Butt today, for more information on their services.

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