Manual welding requires an operator to maintain consistent torch orientation and arc length over a long production run. Fatigue leads to mistakes and lower output. Automation solves these problems.
Most forms of welding can be automated. Arc welding, resistance/ spot welding, and less common variants such as ultrasonic welding or submerged arc are all good candidates.
FastArc Weld Cells eliminate the variation inherent in manual operations, which results in more consistent quality. It's usually faster than even the best welders can achieve and runs continuously, so capacity increases. The stable takt time simplifies production planning and control, and consumable consumption drops.[L1]
Robotic welding and dedicated (hard) automation can be fully or partially automated. Partial (or semi) automation usually entails materials being fed and positioned manually and unloaded the same way after welding.
Dedicated or “Hard” Automation
This type of equipment is designed for a single job. It's often used with resistance and ultrasonic welding. The pieces being joined are loaded and clamped in place. The welding head moves in to fuse the pieces together. Unloading follows as the machine gets ready for the next cycle.
This kind of automation, although fast, is expensive and lacks flexibility. It's generally used for high-volume production of a single product or closely related product families.
Investment costs are lower for semi-automation. Parts are loaded and unloaded by hand, but the welding remains under automatic control. Consistency is still achieved, but output rates are usually lower.
Here, the robot moves a torch or head along the joint to weld the pieces together. In a fully automated robotic welding system, parts are fed in — on conveyor or from magazine — and clamped in position for the robot.
Once the welds are made, the parts can be unloaded or transferred to the next operation. Subsequent operations could be leak test, inspection, assembly or packaging.
In a semi-automatic robotic welding system, an operator enters the robot cage to remove the completed weldment and position the next pieces.
In addition to low piece costs and high quality, robotic welding provides great flexibility. With part programs developed offline, a changeover can often be done in minutes. This makes it viable for shorter production runs. Many smaller fabrication shops are adopting robotic welding for this reason.
Help Is Available
Many manufacturers choose FastArc Weld Cells over less flexible automation. The specialists at Acieta have extensive experience with automating welding processes.