Is Robotic Welding the Future? [2021]

Like every industry, welding too was taken over by automation. Not completely, yet covering the major processes and giving birth to new processes such as robotic TIG welding, etc.

In this article, we are going to look at 

  • What is robotic welding?
  • Ways in which robotic welding is classified.
  • A Detailed view of Robotic TIG and MIG welding.
  • And the future of robotics in welding.

Let’s jump right in.

Industrial Robotic Welding Machine
Industrial Robotic Welding Machine

What is Robotic Welding?

Replacing the conventional welding methods, robotic welding is simply increasing the accuracy of the weld, reducing the risk factors and time taken to complete the weld via automating the process.

And hence due to its ease and increased advantages, was quickly accepted by many industries.

People usually get confused between robotics welding to CNC welding, NO, they are not the same thing. They are different machines used for different processes.

  • CNC machines are made for one specific task and deliver high performance.
  • Whereas, robotic welding machines are made for multiple tasks, with a varied performance for each.

As the welder is dependent on many tools for manual actions, a robotic welding machine is packed with such tools and dependent on certified human operators for amending actions. 

The human operator for those machines must have a CRAW (Certification Program for Robotic Arc Welding – Operators and Technicians) certificate from the American welding society.

Further, robotics welding does cover a wide range of welding processes such as

  • Robotic TIG Welding
  • Robotic MIG Welding
  • Laser Welding
  • Plasma Welding
  • Arc Welding
  • Resistance Welding

In this post, we are specifically going to talk about robotic TIG and robotic MIG welding.

Robotic TIG Welding

TIG or Tungsten Inert Gas Welding is a widely used welding process utilizing a tungsten electrode and electric current to melt the base metal. 

Unlike MIG welding, the electrode used is non-consumable. Also, the filler material is not always required for TIG, resulting in clean weld particularly for small pieces of metals.

The automated form of TIG welding with the help of robotic welding machines is known as robotic TIG welding. It is used in industries to join small pieces of metals with high efficiency and a lesser amount of time than the traditional TIG welding.

The robotic TIG welding machine also supplies the necessary shielding gas directly into the weld pool to get a clean weld.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has laid out some standards for robotic TIG welding, which is a must-follow for the end product qualifications, along with the specific code for welding procedure specification and strict weld log.

Currently, robotic TIG welding is used in energy, nuclear, and various military applications. In the aerospace industries, this automation process is used specifically for blades, vanes, advanced turbine engines,etc.

Robotic Tig Welding
Robotic TIG Welding

Robotic MIG Welding

MIG or GMAW or Metal Inert gas welding involves a consumable electrode that is melted and acts as the filler material. 

Since the electrode itself is a filler material, the base metal doesn’t have to meet. 

The automated form of MIG welding which is done using robotic welding machines is known as robotic MIG welding. Specifically used for larger pieces of metal with high melting points or conductivity.

Although there is a major concern of weld spatter with the traditional manual MIG welding, the robotic MIG welding machines come with certain safety measures that help to tackle this issue through precise control. 

Robotic Welding Machine Components

We are going to talk about the components of the robotic TIG welding cell specifically here.

Namely, the following are the basic components:

  • Wire Feeder: This is the automated wire feeder, which is programmable before the process. The filler wire is used to add material to the weld; in TIG, however, the electrode is non-consumable.
  • Welding Robot: This component is the crux of the machine, having an automated torch or weld manipulator which are movable in three directions. Although, there is a newer technology that can move in any direction. 
  • Wire Cleaner: Rarely with robotic TIG welding, spatter is produced. This spatter is cleaned with the help of a wire cleaner after the duty cycle.
  • Work Area: Fixtures which hold the parts together in place for the welding process is called the work area.
  • Controller: The brain of the welding cell is known as the controller just like a CPU is to a computer. Instructions and objectives are fed onto the controller, via which the cell effectively performs certain actions.
  • Teach Pendant: Operator is given access to this part to set parameters for the weld.
  • Stack Light: A small light indicating the current state of the robotic TIG welding machine is called the stack light. There are mainly 3 stack light colors: 
    • Green: When the machine is working on automation.
    • Orange: When the machine is being programmed, or fed instructions.
    • Red: When the process is halted.
  • Operation Box: This contains all the important controls of the welding machine, such as start, stop, and restart.
  • Arc Shield: This is a safety feature that helps with the protection of the bystanders from the arc.
Robotic Welding Machine -Automobile Industry
Robotic Welding Machine – Automobiles

Advantages of Robotic Welding

Still, there are many fields in this automation era where manual welders are required and cannot be replaced, however, robotics welding has so many advantages over manual welding, that the list of advantages is going all the way up.

As the statistics provided by the AWS, there will be a shortage of more than 450,000 welders by 2022, further providing robotic welding a way to get a hold on its positions.

The advantages of robotic welding are listed below:

  1. Accuracy: Since the process is automated like CNC welding, there is no chance of any mistake. Also, with robotic welding, the process is done in repetitive motions without losing attentiveness.
  2. High Efficiency: A robotic welding machine can work non-stop 24*7 without much break, providing the speed to complete the project fast. 
  3. Safety: Unlike manual welding, the robotic welding machines come with pre-equipped safety measures which help tremendously to the bystanders as well as other workers including the operator. 
  4. Less Waste: With increased accuracy and efficiency, robotic welding machines produce minimal amounts of waste. The chances of error are close to none contrary to the manual welders.

And the list goes on including consistency, perfection, job opportunities, etc.

However, it has some disadvantages too such as a very high upfront capital cost, maintenance cost, not being viable for small household projects.

Future of Welding

If you have already gone through the statistics above, you already know there are plentiful opportunities for upcoming welders. 

As robotics is taking over welding, you might be asking the same questions many of the welders have in mind?

What is the future of welding? Will robotics completely take over manual welding?

Well, no one knows the answer for sure. But If I had to make a guess, NO, robotics will NEVER take over manual welding completely.

But the line that differentiates between them is diminishing year over year.

Talking about the future of welding with robotics, it will make the lives of many welders easier, producing high-quality welding in less time. 

We will see collaborative robotics welders, i.e a robot will be collaborating with you, handling your difficult works along with some other bits of help.

As of today, the operator must know how to program and perform functions for the robots, however, in the future we might see mind-controlled robots, which will read the tasks out of your mind and perform it for you.

Such innovation will greatly help with the production in the industries and at the same time will help small hobby welders. 

Although a small step on this new technology has been taken by the University of Illinois researchers, this won’t emerge any time soon.

Conclusion

In this post, we discussed the scope of robotic welding and the different processes included in it such as robotic TIG welding, etc.

This post was only for your educational purposes, and not supposed to persuade you into buying this very expensive technology.

Manual welding is still the number one mode of welding and will be in the future, no doubt about that. 

Happy Welding!