Welding automation can provide big productivity and profitability gains in the right applications. Welding is arguably the most complex manufacturing process and often the least understood. An astonishing number of companies spend millions of dollars automating assembly while ignoring the welding process. Manual welding is still the best process for many assemblies. However, many assemblers are implementing automated welding systems to increase quality, productivity, and profitability.
Welding automation falls into two basic categories: semi-automatic and fully automatic. In semi-automatic welding, an operator manually loads parts into the welding fixture. A welding control system then maintains the welding process, torch movement, and part standstill at preset parameters. When the weld is complete, the operator removes the finished assembly and the process begins again.
In fully automatic welding, a special machine or series of machines loads the workpiece, indexes the part or torch into position, performs the weld, monitors the quality of the joint, and unloads the finished product. If necessary, the machine can also perform additional quality control checks on the inserted part and the finished product. Depending on the operation, a machine operator may be required.
Not every welding operation is a good candidate for automated welding. Applications benefit most from automation when weld quality or function is critical, when welds must be repeated on identical parts, or when parts have a high value prior to welding. Excellent candidates for automation include batteries, capacitor cans, solenoids, sensors, instrument transformers, metal bellows, relay housings, incandescent lamp elements, fuel filters, thermos flasks, medical components, nuclear devices, pipe fittings, transformer cores, valve elements, and airbag components.
Here you need to know the benefits of Malaysia welding automation
Automated welding systems offer four main benefits: improved weld quality, increased output, reduced scrap, and lower variable labour costs. Weld quality consists of two factors: weld integrity and repeatability. Automated welding systems ensure weld integrity through electronic welding process controls. The combination of mechanized torch and workpiece movement with electronic recall of weld parameters results in higher weld quality than can be achieved manually.
This provides instant quality control. In addition, because a weld is performed only once, defects are easily visible and detectable. Humans tend to “smooth out” a defect with the torch, hiding a missing penetration or a potentially defective weld. In some cases, leak testing and vision systems can be integrated into fully automated systems to provide additional quality control.
Repeatability is a function of the quality of the welding process control and the design of the machine motions. Mechanized welding provides repeatable input parameters for a repeatable output. Semi-automatic and fully automatic systems increase output by eliminating the human factor from the welding process. Production welding speeds are set to a percentage of maximum by the machine, not by an operator. With minimal set-up time and higher welding speeds, a mechanized welding system can easily outperform a skilled manual welder.
By automating torch or part movement and part placement, the possibility of human error is reduced. A weld only occurs when all requirements are met. In manual welding, scrap often increases when welders become fatigued. Depending on the value of the parts when they arrive at the welding station, the cost savings in scrap alone may justify the purchase of an automated welding system. Automation should also be considered when assemblers need to minimize the risk of shipping a defective part to a customer.
Reliance on human welders can drastically increase a manufacturer’s labour costs. When planning labour costs, manufacturers must consider the time welders spend fabricating assemblies.
Typically, a semi-automatic system has at least twice the output of an experienced welder. A fully automatic system can be set up with two weld positioners on an automatic shuttle. Such a system can load and unload parts at one station while welding occurs at the other station. In this way, a fully automatic system can operate at four speed of a semi-automatic system or eight speed of a skilled welder.
The cost of lost opportunities is also significant. When a skilled welder doesn’t show up for work, the company’s variable costs skyrocket. Eight hours of production time are lost. The availability of skilled manual welders can also be a challenge. Conversely, general machine operators are more readily available and less expensive than skilled workers.
Before purchasing a system, assemblers should ask the supplier to labour sample welds parts. The weldability of the material, the quality of the joint edges, and the accuracy of fit are critical to the success of a welding application. By welding sample parts, parameters such as the quality of the base material, component tolerances and fitting accuracy can be confirmed. Sample welds also demonstrate the weld quality possible with an automated system and produce approximate weld speeds to estimate system performance. In TSIS Welding showroom there are robotic welding cells equipped with robots from brands such as ABB and KUKA, with whom we collaborate. There is also a hand welding demonstration area where manual welding can be performed for demo sessions, training or other opportunities. Call us now!