Robotic welding has actually come of age in recent years. Anticipating computer technology and robotics, simple, repetitive jobs in manufacturing are often performed by robotic welders, resulting in labor cost savings and improved safety because there is less human interaction and less opportunity for human error.
These days, robotic welders are commonly featured at trade shows and conventions for the manufacturing and welding industries. Presentations at the shows feature examples of robotic welders performing graceful and intricate maneuvers, demonstrating the speed and flexibility possible with robots today that were not possible a generation earlier.
Industrial robots are used to weld, paint, iron, assemble, palletize, select and place, evaluate and inspect items. Robotics has proven to be a valuable tool in all of these areas, especially with collaborative robots.
Any welding job lends itself to automation if the work is repetitive. However, from a practical and financial standpoint, the number of parts to be welded should be large enough to allow a constant throughput to justify the cost of setting up a robotic welding system. In such circumstances, an automatic welding gun can be positioned in a fixed position or, if necessary, on a curved path to achieve a circular weld. In such a case, the workpiece can be moved past the welding gun.
Major manufacturers offer welding robot arms in 3 standard sizes. These consist of a table size with a payload of six pounds, a medium size version with a payload of 13.2 pounds, and larger machines with a payload of 22.2 pounds. While these welding robots are available new, numerous used and refurbished versions are also available and popular.
It is interesting to note where welding robots, and industrial robots in general, originated. The first industrial robot, used for simple work, was created in 1962. In 1969, a Stanford University professor developed the Stanford Arm, an articulated robot that expanded the capabilities of robotics and made robotic welding possible and feasible. By the 1970s, commercial robotics was firmly established in most markets, and the strengths of robotic welding had become obvious to industry. Large companies such as General Electric and General Motors quickly manufactured robots, and numerous companies in the U.S. specialized in their manufacture and marketing, including Automatix and Adept Technology, Inc, while Westinghouse Electric Corporation gained the grand champion of commercial robotics with Animation. Many Japanese companies also entered the industry.
The appeal of industrial robots today, and welding robots in particular, is that these machines save man-hours and allow experienced professionals, including welders, to focus on more complicated tasks that match their skills and training. Simple and repetitive tasks that would be a waste of time for an experienced welder are typically handled by robotic welders, which save millions of dollars in costs each year, benefiting companies and investors.
In general, robotic welding is one of the most innovative computer system technologies and robotic welders save labor and improve safety by reducing human error and human disasters.