Robotic MIG Torch Cables: Best Practices

Posted by Jason Jamiel on Mar 18, 2021 10:55:01 AM
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When considering the needs of your robotic welding set up, there are far more components to worry about than just the torch. Cables are an often-overlooked part of your setup, but can make a world of difference in efficiency and productivity.

Your cable decision stems from a full understanding of your robotic welding process. In this blog, we will break down the necessary steps you should take as you consider different robotic MIG torch cables.

Identify The Process and Type Of Robot

The first step you will want to take into consideration is what process you are running. This step will be the deciding factor in identifying which robot you will need. Over-arm and through-arm robots both require a cable, but the process in which they are used varies.

Through-arm robot torches should not be used in every application. When it comes to reach, they tend to have limited articulation. For example, let’s say you’re welding a picture frame. When using a through-arm robot, it will have a much longer 5th axis casting. Therefore, when you forward the robot to the far extremity, like the x-axis to the far corner of the frame, you lose articulation because the 5th axis casting is longer the over-arm. If you are doing most of your work through the center line of your tooling and are not often going to the far extremities, a through-arm is a better option. When looking for reach and articulation at the extreme ends, then I would suggest going with an over-arm robot.

Once you know the process and type of robot you intend to use, consider what the radial intent of your process is. Are you going to be doing 300 degree turns with axis 6 a lot? If so, you may want to go with an endless rotation type torch. That’s not saying you have to use it in an endless fashion, but this type of torch can technically go in circles forever. Being realistic, you would likely rarely use it this way. If you are running 200 degrees one way and 200 degrees back the other way, it may not be necessary to do a full 360 degree turn on the torch. In the end, you will break less cables and bands this way.

After you have these essentials figured out, you will find it easy to determine the proper cable length.

Having the correct length cable is essential. If your cable is too long it tends to rub on the casting, but if the cable is too short it can wear out your shock sensor quicker or deviate your programming positions. You are more likely to have issues with long cables on an over-arm torch. When the cable rubs on the casting, it will wear away at the insulation on the cable and eventually give way to the robot. In addition to this, cables can get caught on clamps very easily, causing issues during your process. When working with a through-arm torch, you do not have to worry as much about the cable length, but over-arm torches will require the correct length every time.

Welding Robots

Extending The Life Of Your Cables

The hard part is done, but now that challenge falls into how long you can keep your cables running productively. A good robotic welding cable assembly will increase productivity and deliver better products consistently. A lot of times, the programming aspect of your robot is going to the deciding factor. Be sure you have a knowledgeable team prepped on how to properly program your robot torches to ensure all secondary aspects run as they should. Programing is not the only factor that can change your cables life expectancy though, let’s take a look at a few more ways to improve your operation.

The length of your cables plays a huge part. You will consistently have a longer lasting cable if you are not rubbing on tooling or the robots arm itself. Having it greatly compressed or stretched too tight, which won’t work in a through-arm robot, will also create more problems with lasting longer.

Improper seating of the cables can cause a number of issues. When not feed into the wire feeding accordingly, you can ruin your wire feeder all together. A jam in your wire feed system is common and can end up feeding wire out into the system itself, which will heat the equipment and begin to melt the surrounding areas. The same goes for seeding the cables into the torch properly. Improper feeding can result in the same issues. This can create excessive resistance, which will end in poor welding.

This may seem obvious, but when you’re using a water-cooled torch, do not forget that a water-cooler is necessary. Water-cooled torches have to have water running through them, otherwise they will melt down fast. Make sure your water-cooler is clean and the lines are clear to ensure optimal performance. Each time you begin welding, you should always be sure the water-cooler is running. Sometimes, it works best to wire the power of your cooler into the logic of the robot. This means the robot won’t run unless the cooler is on. I have seen too many people lose their setup from a lack of water running through a water-cooled system.

Ultimately, take care of your equipment. Especially when using an endless rotation torch and consumables. Some people will take pliers right to their tips and crank them down, which is just not going to cut it. A cable will only last as long as you treat it like an important part of your robotic welding cell setup.

Want to know more about robotic torches? We have an eBook for you. Check out The Definitive Guide to Robotic Torches here.

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Topics: Robotic Welding