How to Automate Your Welding Task
James Anderton posted on November 21, 2017 |

Universal Robots makes collaborative robots that are capable of diverse industrial tasks, from pick-and-place, to machine tending, assembly, deburring and many other repetitive jobs. But what about welding?

Traditional robotic welding cells are typically deployed in high-throughput environments such as an automotive production line. However, a recent collaboration between cobot specialists Universal Robots and welding specialists ARC Specialties provides the tools for a multipurpose, lead-to-teach collaborative robot to perform MIG welds.  

According to the company, one of the goals of Universal Robots is to make their robots easy and intuitive to program. This allows their customers to rapidly develop new applications for their robots, driving collaborative robotics forward as a useful tool in today’s industrial environment.

For example, a plant manager may install a UR-5 robot in a deburring cell, next to a worker who spends part of her day performing a part-marking operation using a small CNC engraving machine. Seeing the robot in the workplace gets workers into the automation mindset, and that worker may then realise how their task could be automated. Before long, the plant has a schedule of performing deburring for the first half of the shift, then moving the robot to the part-marking station and tending the engraving machine for the remaining half of the shift, freeing up the worker to complete other tasks. Such deployments can also address labor shortages.

Along with this organic process of developing new applications for collaborative robotics, Universal Robots has a purpose-built development platform called UR plus. On the platform, Universal Robots works with other companies to develop new end effectors, accessories, and software for the robots. It was on this platform that they developed the Snapweld system with ARC Specialties. Watch the video above to find out more about the system.

One of the key features of this welding system is that it’s easy to program a new operation. An experienced welder can quicky learn to program the path of the robot. Without welding experience, it’s more difficult. The programming is path-based. To input a good path, you need to know how to lay a good bead to begin with. For example, you must set the right angle of the welding gun to lay a good quality bead, something any welder can tell you takes practice.

Another unique feature of this system is that welding parameters and settings such as wire feed rate, gas flow rate and voltage are integrated into the robot teach pendant. This means you don’t have to manually input these settings, and that they can be adjusted from the pendant, or even controlled as part of the program.

Lastly, since the foundation of the system is an unmodified cobot, the welding end effector and accessories can be removed with 4 bolts, and the robot can be redeployed to another application.

Is this the future of industrial robotics, with skilled workers such as welders and fabricators using their knowledge of the trade to intuitively program collaborative, multifunction robots in a lean production environment? If so, it could be an effective way to address the growing skills gap, as a small number of skilled workers could multiply their output through automation.

For more on how collaborative robots are being deployed for production, watch VIDEO: Why Collaborative Robots Help Human Workers Rather Than Replace Them.

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