an example of robotic welding systems in action

Robotic Welding Systems: 4 Things You Should Know Before Investing

Have you been thinking about purchasing a robotic welding system for your facility?

Robotic welding systems can increase productivity, improve quality, and help you cut production costs when installed and operated correctly. They can be used for a variety of tasks — making them highly versatile. 

You can program the robots to weld several different parts in a single shift, move parts when not welding so they don’t sit idle, or use a tool dock that lets your robot be fitted with other tools. We recommend limiting their tasks to more repetitive ones, however, and we’ll explain why in more detail below.

Let us show you how you can leverage the power of a robotic welding system for your facility. We’ll even give you 4 important tips that you need to know before you make the decision to invest in a system — or several.

4 Important Things to Know About Robotic Welding Systems Before You Invest

A shortage of qualified welders has left room for robots to take their place. It has been estimated that India will face a shortage of 1.2 million welders by 2020. The use of robots is growing at a rapid rate. 

According to the International Federation of Robotics, 2 million robots were functioning in facilities by the end of 2017. By 2021, they estimate that number will increase by 80%. That means there will be 3.8 million operational robots in facilities around the world.

There are several factors you should consider before purchasing a system for your facility. They are expensive to purchase and install, and there are 4 important things you need to know about so you can maximize your ROI (return on investment).

1. Robots Don’t Work Alone

Robotic welding systems require a skilled operator who has been trained to oversee their use and maintenance. Contrary to popular belief, robots can’t work alone without humans to keep them going. Operators will need ongoing training to learn the programming required, troubleshooting techniques, and preventative maintenance. Every second that your robot isn’t functioning costs you money, so it’s crucial to have trained operators in place from the start.

Depending on your particular system, you might need to install additional safety equipment to meet OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines. 

For example, the increased production you gain from one of these systems generates more fumes. Larger facilities with several of these systems in place should consider a centralized fume extraction system. Ductwork will need to be installed throughout your facility, and fume extraction hoods should be placed over the welding cell. 

Smaller facilities could make do with portable fume extraction systems that are less expensive. Portable systems can be wheeled over to the robots and placed next to the welding cells. The arms are adjusted so that they extend towards the robot to suction the fumes. No matter what system you have in place at your facility, you will need skilled operators to oversee every aspect of their operation.

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2. Peripheral Devices Can Help

You can track the parameters of welds, determine the cause of defects, and identify potential problems by installing peripheral devices that monitor welding data. Weld data monitoring can be integrated through a power source or a third party. 

You will need to purchase software and computers to make it work. You’ll also need an established ethernet network and skilled IT technicians to oversee it. IT technicians will be needed to review the data generated by peripheral devices so that adjustments can be made as necessary.

For example, you could install a nozzle cleaning station. A nozzle cleaning station improves weld quality and productivity by cleaning the spatter from the inside of the welding consumables. This will increase the life of your machine and reduce downtime for changeover during production. Investing in additional devices for safety and performance will help you get the biggest ROI (return on investment) out of your robot.

3. Repetition is the Best Investment

As mentioned above, robots don’t just work on their own. Skilled operators are required to program them to complete specific tasks. The more repetitive tasks you have for your robot, the better. Fewer job changes mean less programming time, which means less downtime for your robot. 

Repetition increases your profit by decreasing the robot’s downtime, and it frees your operators up for more critical tasks.

Humans get bored with repetition, and over time, the quality of their work will suffer if they are required to repeat the same tasks over and over. Robots don’t get bored. They love repetition. The quality they produce will never waver as long as they are properly maintained and supervised by skilled workers.

You can improve the quality even more by ensuring the parts you place in the weld cells are in excellent shape before welding. If a part contains a flaw and you place it in the weld cell, the following weld will have the same flaw. A blueprint or CAD drawing can help you maintain quality by assuring welds are executed in the same location every time. Check to make sure that parts are being held in place correctly during welding. If a part moves or comes loose, it can mess up the weld and cause flaws.

Recommended Reading: Adding It Up: The Real Cost of Partnering With a Fabrication Shop

4. Proper Maintenance is Crucial

Robotic welding systems are still machines, and they require routine maintenance to keep them running correctly. You will need to create a maintenance schedule for the entire system — including the robotic gas metal arc welding gun, consumables, and cables. Make sure to schedule time for checking the connections throughout the system and the TCP (tool center point).

It’s easy just to let the robot do it’s work and not check on it frequently. Doing so can lead to unscheduled downtime, a reduction in quality, and possibly even expensive repairs. Don’t let this happen to you. Train your staff on what maintenance is required and invest in training materials if necessary. Larger facilities should consider hiring a maintenance crew when operating several robotic welding systems at a time.

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