Robotic welding in manufacturing processes will automate MIG welding to enhance safety, increase accuracy and increase throughput (less cycle time). These benefits make the robotic welding process a popular alternative to manual MIG welding. Several industries take advantage of this automated process to get the results they need as quickly as possible, such as the automotive, agricultural, heavy machinery and furniture industries, to name a few. Welding requires a high level of skill; however, the number of skilled welders does not meet the needs of the fabrication industry.
Instead of letting projects fall behind due to a lack of skilled workers, robots can pick up the slack in many cases but not in all. The parts to be manufactured by robots must have a high repeatability in shape and contour for tolerances, so they can be located the same way each time they are welded. With this said, most robotic MIG welding is performed on parts that have a higher volume of production or long welding cycles.
Make no mistake, manual MIG welding still has a place in our everyday manufacturing process. For projects in which the need to quickly change the style of welding for the manufacture of specific parts, manual welding will be the best choice. A professional welder can promptly change what he’s doing, but robots do not adapt as quickly since they need to be programmed for every weld they perform.
Professional welders will not disappear any time soon because manual welding remains a process that many companies still require. In fact, with the shortage of skilled welders, those who hold welder certifications will easily find work, even with multiple businesses investing in robots.
Whether or not you choose to use robotic MIG welding largely depends on the type and number of parts you are going to manufacture. Like all things, there are pros and cons in robotic MIG welding which help you determine whether this process is right for your manufacturing needs. Here are a few points to consider:
Robotic MIG welding has many positive features that manufacturers choose to utilize in their manufacturing processes. The benefits from robotic MIG welding can increase productivity and the bottom line for both the manufacturer producing the parts and the customer they supply these parts to.
Manual MIG welding personnel require breaks and time off, however a robot can operate for longer periods of time covering three shifts of work daily and typically have faster travel speed times during the welding process. The quicker speeds and longer working hours allow robotic MIG welding machines to complete the parts they are welding much faster than a manual welder would be able to. Due to the faster welding cycle times and longer run times, the robotic output far surpasses anything possible from a manual process.
Robotic MIG welders have safety features built in to protect people from the welding arc, the resulting heat and the negative effects of UV light produced by the MIG welding process. These safety features help keep the work area and the workers safe. A safer workplace, provides a more productive worker with a better sense of job satisfaction. These safety features drastically reduce injuries and damage to equipment that can be expensive for manufacturers.
Ideally, a robotic MIG welding project will involve a larger volume of parts that require repetitive motions. With production of this type, even the most skilled worker will eventually make errors. Robots will produce the parts much faster and with a higher degree of accuracy due to its design and functionality.
4. Less Waste
Because they are precise, MIG robots generate less scrap parts due to mistakes. Manual MIG welders may produce more scrap parts due to parts being mistakenly welded together or those with poor weld quality. Since MIG robots operate with a higher degree of accuracy, they make fewer mistakes. Without as many parts scrapped from errors, a manufacturer that uses robotic MIG welding can produce parts more efficiently with less waste.
5. Lower cost of delivery
After installation, robots weld larger volumes of parts. The manufacturer producing the parts with the robotic system can use one operator instead of a team of skilled welders to accomplish the same amount of work. The high productivity of the robotic MIG welding process will recoup the loss of the cost of the machine, thus reducing overhead costs. By trimming overhead, the manufacturer producing the parts can offer lower prices or additional services to their customers.
Robotic MIG welding, can have drawbacks that could outweigh the advantages in some instances.
1. Upfront Costs
Investment in the robotic welding system and training operators would probably find the investment a loss without a higher volume of parts to manufacture. Manufacturers that don’t normally offer welded assemblies may not use robotic welding enough to justify the high purchase price of the robotic weld cell.
2. Loss of Flexibility
The beneficial properties of having a greater amount of accuracy in a robotic process comes with a downside. Skilled welders can make changes on the fly to most unexpected situations in a way that robots can’t. When a MIG robot needs to make a change, the Weld Technician must stop the manufacturing process to reprogram it.
3. Smaller Projects Lack Efficiency
On small projects, the programing time needed for the robotic arm may exceed the welding process. For smaller projects, a skilled welder could finish the necessary welding faster, and if it’s a short run production scenario, it’s more productive to use a manual process.
There are many things to consider when evaluating the benefits of robotic welding in manufacturing. In some scenarios robotic welding is cost effective and worthwhile, but in others, skilled welders cannot be beat or replaced.