A robotic CMT weld head
Delcam has announced that its Birmingham (UK) facility has acquired an ABB robot armed with a Fronius CMT Advanced welding head. The new robot will be used as a research tool to further develop Delcam’s PowerMILL Robot software into a hybrid manufacturing suite.
CMT, or cold metal transfer, robots were originally built to weld different metals or materials to one another. For high-performance applications that required the union of aluminum and steel components, CMT welding proved exceedingly effective.
While CMT welding heads have proven their manufacturing mettle, the idea has crept into the minds of many interested in milling and machining that this metallurgical miracle might lead to a new production technology: hybrid manufacturing.
As hybrid manufacturing is conceived today, CMT weldheads could be attached to multi-axis robots and programed to build components in much the same way that a fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer creates an object layer by layer. Of course, the difference between traditional FDM and the CMT version boils down to materials, and oh what a difference a metal can make.
Designers and engineers the world over have been dreaming of a day when large-scale metal parts can be printed into unthinkable shapes. But can CMT deliver on this promise?
In Delcam’s vision, a CMT welding unit strapped to a robot could be used to build components, with varying materials, in a single manufacturing run. As the ’bot completes its build path, a subtractive tool could be swapped with the CMT and then used to mill the part that had just been built additively.
Delcam believes that with its already fit PowerMILL Robot software it may have a robust solution for making hybrid manufacturing a reality.
Alhough Delcam is developing the technology that may drive a new and critical method for advanced manufacturing, there are those out there who believe hybrid manufacturing is a solution for a very limited set of problems.
Do you agree with that sentiment? Are there many applications aside from finishing in which an automated machining process needs to be added to an additive regime? Or is this developing technology for technology’s sake? Please add your responses in the comments below.