Why cobot welding can be the solution for small and medium-sized companies
Automatically working welding robots as far as the eye can see. The robot arms move sometimes hectically, sometimes silently. There is a hiss, hum, and crackle in the air. You can only recognize a person here and there. Automation clearly dominates. Such a vision is more of a fear image for small and medium-sized companies, because people here seem to be completely in the background, yes, being pushed out of their job. So it seems. A machine like a collaborative robot – a so-called cobot – can support people in their work. The use of cobots in welding can thus become an economical solution for small and medium-sized companies.
Enemy image robot?
In the early 1960s, the first industrial robots were launched on the market. Right from the start, automation and welding technology go hand in hand wherever large batch sizes have to be welded in industry. Welding robots work with high precision, they are fast, deliver constant quality and never get tired. It is obvious that such results cannot be expected from manual welders. This is only human. Why haven't robots already established themselves in small and medium-sized companies for welding?
There are several factors that play a role here. We have put together four of the main reasons for you:
1. The step into automation is big
Automating manufacturing processes is a complex thing. Operating a robot welding system requires trained robot programmers. So, conditions have to be created that mean a big step for change for a company that previously only relied on manual welders.
2. The welding tasks are too variable
Especially in the case of small batch sizes and complex components with many weld seams, the manual welder is significantly faster than the robot, as this has to be programmed first. The manual welder, on the other hand, is completely self-sufficient and can start right away.
3. The costs should not be underestimated
The acquisition costs for a welding robot can still be manageable. However, if you take a closer look at the additional effort involved in purchasing a welding robot, many small and medium-sized production companies are brought to their knees: the training required to operate a robot. Although it is certainly easier to teach a welder how to program than a programmer to weld. Personnel may also need to be increased. This is not always easy to implement.
4. The safety technology is complex
For a welding robot, it is mandatory to have appropriate safety technology that will reduce the dangers to humans to an acceptable minimum. Companies must also find out what type of robot cells they need and coordinate the available space with the safety technology. Behind all this is the necessity that the human being as the user must be protected against all possible dangers from the system, such as UV radiation, welding fume and collision of the welding robot.
So, what needs to be done when in production time and cost pressure come up? When the manual welder can no longer handle the increasing quantities? When the welding task becomes monotonous and the quality of the weld decreases with increasing quantities?
It doesn’t have to be a welding robot!
Honestly, what would be a really smart solution to the problems that particularly small and medium-sized companies that engage welders are dealing with? There should be a facility that supports people with their know-how and works with them – and enables the following:
- Small and medium quantities are welded quickly and with consistent quality
- Modified sizes and geometries can be easily reset
- Programming and operation is quick and easy
- The device can be quickly adapted to the new welding task and the new component
Such a system does exist: the cobot!
Cobot instead of welding robot
A big difference to a conventional industrial robot is that the cobot can be used more flexibly thanks to its lightweight design and also requires less space. Appropriate axis sensors detect a collision with humans and the robot stops automatically. When welding, however, the welding torch, the welding wire and the entire process must be considered. Since many aspects pose a risk of injury here, it is essential to prevent them with appropriate safety precautions.
But why a cobot when you shouldn't use it directly in a collaborative manner?
The generation of the cobots stands for more than just axle sensors, because another important difference is that the cobot is much easier to use. You do not need extensive programming knowledge to operate a cobot, because programming is guided intuitively and is easy to learn – and therefore extremely flexible when components change.
The cobot shows all of its advantages in welding technology when:
- components have a low to medium complexity or geometry
- lot sizes change between small and medium
- simple devices for the components are sufficient
Who are the providers of cobots in the industry?
One of the largest manufacturers of cobots in the industry are universal robots, or UR for short. Well-known robot manufacturers such as FANUC, ABB and Yaskawa Motoman now also have cobots in their product range. Other manufacturers of cobots are AUBO, Hanwha, Han’s Robot and Doosan. ABICOR BINZEL offers suitable welding technology for almost all models.
How do you get started in automation and cobot welding?
A welding system as a system solution with a cobot requires only a few components and can also be installed quickly and easily. These are:
- Cobot depending on the size of the application
- Welding torch and flexible cable package to meet the requirements, ideally a welding torch with integrated fume extraction
- Torch mount as well as flange and cable assembly
- Power source with software and interface to the cobot
- Welding table, fixture and even external axes
- Safety components, so that the occupational safety regulations and machine guidelines are observed. Various housings or protective curtains and an extraction system are recommended here. When using a welding torch with integrated fume extraction, you do not need an extraction hood and a powerful and expensive stationary extraction system. In this case, you can implement a clean cobot cell with a cheap mobile fume extraction system.
Welding torches with flexible cable package, torch mount plus power source with software and interface to the cobot are already offered by ABICOR BINZEL in a complete package with the ROBiPAK. In addition, the most important setting functions of the power source are integrated into the UR operating panel, making programming considerably easier. This makes it simple to put together your welding system with a cobot.
The overall package of the welding system with the cobot should be easy to use. Make sure that the welding system is also as easy to use as possible and can best be done directly on the control panel of the robot. This enables you or your welder to use your own knowledge in joining technology and to facilitate the new handling of the cobot as a complete solution. To make the most of this, there are specialized system providers who deliver, install and support you with the complete package of the welding system with a cobot. We would be happy to advise you on the selection of suitable partners.
What else is there optional for cobot welding?
- Fume extraction: If you do not already have a suitable welding fume extraction system, you have to integrate it into your work process. Read more about this under »health and safety«.
- Torch cleaning station: For quick and efficient cleaning and preparation of the gas nozzle on the torch neck for its next use. This system can be easily integrated in the welding system with cobot.
You have to take the following into account when it comes to health and safety with a cobot
Moving machine parts
Moving parts may not have contact to machine parts during operation to exclude accidents. Existing risks are therefore checked accordingly by plant manufacturers and taken into account in the planning. Appropriate measures help to minimize the risk.
Radiation and splashes
A visual protection, a screen or a curtain help to reduce or completely exclude UV radiation emissions. They must not have any harmful effects on humans. This also applies to welding spatter.
Inhalation of dangerous fumes
It must be absolutely avoided that harmful welding fume from the welding process gets into the respiratory tract. For this reason, welding fume extraction is mandatory.
These regulations are subject to Directive 2006/42 / EC (Machinery Directive 1 and 2). All information can be found in TRGS 402 »Determination and assessment of hazards when working with hazardous substances«, 900 »Workplace limit values – Technical rule for hazardous substances« and 528 »Welding work – Technical rule for hazardous substances«. This shows, among other things, that welding fume must be extracted at the point of origin. This is also very easy to achieve with a cobot with the appropriate equipment.
Save costs with a cobot
Experience has shown that a system with cobots pays for itself within 12 to 18 months. The mere fact that the duty cycle (arc ON) is approx. 25–30% for a manual welding system and approx. 60–75% for the cobot, suggests the savings.
Cobot welding – don’t be afraid of an automated future
Robotics do not need to be the big, costly unknown. In the case of cobots, robot technology for welding is »just a new tool« that makes work easier, increases efficiency and protects us humans from dangers. The welder is relieved because he programs and operates the robot. In this way, he can concentrate more intensively on high-quality, demanding welding tasks for which all his knowledge and experience are required.
You see: A cobot can become a really valuable tool when welding in your industrial production. We would be happy to help you gain the first positive experiences with a cobot.