The Case for Robotic Welding

Artificial Intelligence is changing the face of manufacturing. This piece of writing will make a case for robotic welding.

Robotic welding v Manual welding

The North America Manufacturing Association estimates that as many as 24 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled by the year 2024. The American Welding Association estimates that as many as 0.5 million of these vacancies are welding jobs. The gap created by the shortfall in personnel is likely to be filled by automatons.

The advantages that accrue from manual welding are twofold:  Foremost, if a job requires changes to be executed midstream, an expert/professional welder can switch course (midstream) on demand. This is not possible with a robot that requires to be programmed any time the specifications of a job are altered.

Robotic Welding Processes

Robotic Welding can use several processes to get the job done. These are enumerated below:

  • Arc Welding: In this technique, heat is generated by an electric arch and the heat generated melts the metal. Molten metal then acts as a glue that joins different parts after it solidifies on cooling.
  • Resistance Heating: This process is deployed when a project is being executed on a low budget. The molten metal that acts as the glue binding two metals is generated by passing a current of electricity over two metal bases.
  • Laser Welding: Deployed for jobs that require a high level of precision. The ideal industry where this process is deployed is the medical equipment industry and the jewelry market.
  • MIG Welding: Also known as Gas Metal Arch Welding (GMAW or MIC) this process has a wire moving continuous tip of the welding robot arm the wire is smelted and drips onto the base metal where it is used a binder with a second base metal.
  • TIG Welding: It goes by the full name gas tungsten arch welding. It involves passing an electrical current between a tungsten electrode and a metal base. The gas generated is what essentially binds the metal bases.
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Seven Considerations for Choosing a Robot

  • Compact Design/ Minimal Design Flaw: The ideal robot has a small footprint and easily integrates into the workplan of the plant. Similarly, ensure that your robot has minimal design flaws which translates to the presence of concealed air and electrical lines.
  • Offline Programming Software: Ideally get a robot whose system can be upgraded periodically offline. This has a dual advantage, first it is easy on your pocket and secondly it ensures periodic upgrades to your equipment. On the same subject ensure that you request for some training for your personnel.
  • Duty Cycle Time: This refers to the period your robot can continuously execute a task. A higher duty cycle means that you have a robot that is fast and geared to perform over longer periods of time.
  • Allowable Moment of Inertia: The higher this value the greater the payload a welding robot arm can carry, the greater the force the robot arm can exert without straining the motors of the robot. This naturally translates to a longer shelf life.
  • Energy Consumption Rating: Check the energy rating classification attached to your robot. Ideally purchase a product that is tagged as either A or B in terms of energy classification. The end goal of this metric is to ensure that as you streamline your operations you similarly cut on the cost of input cost such as energy consumption.
  • Warranty: Lastly ensure that you invest in a brand or a manufacturer that has the pedigree. Investing in a run of the mill manufacturer may save you some money by way of purchasing price but in the end keep in mind that cheap is expensive over the long haul.
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Cost Implication

It is worth noting that robotic welding has been in existence from the mid 1990’s. However, because this technology is slowly being rolled out there do exist some cost implications that have to be addressed. These are listed below:

  • Initial High Set Up Cost: A standard robot will set back a business anywhere between US Dollars $ 65,000 to 100,000. This is in no way loose change for a small to medium sized business The flip side of this is that over the long haul the economies of scale that this investment offers are innumerable. Think of it as a sunken cost that eliminates the wage bill of three professional welders and minimizes the amount of floor space that a business requires.
  • Flexibility: Robots are notorious for needing to be programmed any time a client demands for a customized product. Compare this to a human being who can switch streams midstream. However, the flipside of this is that a robot can do simultaneous jobs in a production process and thus return a faster turnaround cycle.

The Future

Despite the wow factor that robotics has had on the manufacturing industry, the future of this venture is yet to be exhausted. Two frontiers are on the horizon with respect to this industry:

Mind Controlled Welding Robots: Researchers are making a network where neural pathways are generated between a cap and a welding robot arm. The impulses generated by the brain have the effect of moving this arm- the implication here is that time is saved on programing robots as the welding arm simply takes instructions from the nerve impulses and executes a motion.

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Collaborative Robots: Mind controlled welding robots are on the horizon, collaborative robots (cobot) are in the market. This equipment working alongside human beings who need only direct movement of the welding arm and input that memory in the cobot. The deployment of many such a robot has drastically cut the wage bill of many an enterprise.

Our Robotic Welding Service

The world of manufacturing is changing right before our eyes. Automatons, once thought to be the stuff of science fiction are working alongside human beings on production floors across the world. If you are in the world of manufacturing the time is ripe for you to make an investment in technology. The Return on Investment is worth your money.

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