FAQ – Robotic Welding

Q:  Why can’t we use our manual welding fixtures in our new robot?

A:  Its very rare that a manual welding fixture will work in an automated welding system.  It is easy to forget what a human can do very quickly and intuitively, can be very difficult or impossible for a robot.  Any adjustements, mid cycle operations or other simple steps a human can perform, can end up being very costly and time consuming in a robotic system.

Many times the existing manual fixtures are not designed with a strict size envelope in mind and may not fit correctly in the robotic system without significant modifications.  They also may limit the weld access since they might be manually flipped or have parts removed mid way during the manual welding process.

Q:  We have a family of parts that are similar, but not identical.  How many can we fit into one fixture?

A:  Depending on the similarities between the parts, one fixture can sometimes accomodate many parts within itself.  This does require extra design time and consideration, however, the end result can offer much higher flexibility ultimately and arc on time, which lowers your overal costs.

We have designed fixtures which accomodate upwards of 32 unique part numbers in one fixture, (see Project Photos) for the ultimate in flexibility and utilization.  We always strive to try and make our fixtures accomodate as many parts as practical, knowing that it will help make your robotic welding system more effective.

Q:  We already have a fully equipped toolroom and staff who program our lasers and CNC equipment, why do we need your help?

A:  Your company may be fully capable of getting your welding system optimized and running very well, expecially if you already have multiple robots and an experienced team.  There are some companies who dedicate entirely to making sure welding robotics work in their facility, and employ many managers, engineers, welders and tool makers to do so.  If you are like most companies in Western Canada, you will have many other projects that keep your staff occupied and not able to focus solely on welding robotics for months on end.  Without the dedicated staff with experience in welding robotics, it can quickly become overwhelming and ultimately fail.

The programming of the welding robotics is unlike other programmable manufacturing equipment, mostly due to the welding knowledge required to make good parts.  Programming techniques and methods are also very important, and many hours of re-programming can be avoided with an experienced programmer.  Also, many people forget that the weld development is as important, or more important, to the final weldment.  The weld development can take equal to more time to perform than the robotic programming.  Weld development also requires physical parts to be welded and perhaps made into scrap material, which can quickly add up the costs.

The programming used for welding robotics can also become very complex when using features such as Touch Sensing, Through the Arc Seam Tracking (TAST), and 2D and 3D vision systems.  Experienced programmers can also make sub routines and programs used by multiple parts to further decrease the programming time.

Even in facilities with multiple robotic systems in operation, they find that there are many advantages to have a turn key system installed.  Not only does it free up your high skilled staff to work on other projects, it reduces the time to have the system operating by using skilled, experienced welding robotic people.

Q: I have a high part variation and small batch sizes, will robotics work in my facility?

A:  It will depend on the parts themselves, whether they are good candidates for robotic welding.  Using quick change fixture mounting, you can realistically change out a large fixture in under 10 minutes and keep the arc on time very high. There are also some programming options to help speed up the program selection and reduce the chance for missing parts and other errors associated with high part mixes.

It is a very wise decision to do a pre weld cell purchase investigation to ensure the system will deliver to your expectations, and your ROI.

Q:  Should we buy a robotic welding system and then get you involved?

You absolutely can, however we can always get you better results if we are involved BEFORE the purchasing of a welding robotic system.

Typically the process has been:

1.  Company decides to pursue welding robotics to reduce cost, increase productivity.  Select parts for robotic welding that are high volume, long weld times, or troublesome.

2.  Contact robot and welding distributors / manufacturers and start getting prices and quotes.

3. Buy robot welding cell and start designing fixtures to fit into cell.

What we recommend is:

1.  Company decides to pursue welding robotics to reduce cost, increase productivity.  Select parts for robotic welding that are high volume, long weld times, or troublesome.

2.  Do a Pre Weld Cell Purchase Investigation.  From that you will now know:

–  the “true” size of the robot needed to weld your parts with the fixtures and      framework to properly hold them

–  number of nested parts per fixture that can fit, or if progressive fixtures are needed

–  how big does the robot need to be to reach all the areas

–  what robot options are needed (touch sensing, through the arc seam tracking, 2D vision, 3D vision etc.)

–  cost of your fixtures, framework and programming for ROI calculations and budgeting

–  accurate cycle times and load / unload times and sequences

3.  Contact robot and welding distributors / manufacturers and start getting prices and quotes.

Q:  What is the largest size part that can be robotically welded?

A:  Todays modern servos and part positioners can handle almost any size part you can imagine, from under 1 lb to over 8,000lbs.

Q:  Do we need to pre tack our parts before the robotic welding cycle?

A:  Not always, in fact we have delivered more robotic welding fixtures that do not require any pre tacking.  Simply load in loose parts into fixture, clamp, and cycle start.  This saves an entire sequence with a tack welder and station beforehand, and it also lets the fixture determine the location of the parts, not the tacking fixture, which is usually a manual welding fixture and not repeatable enough for robotics.

At times there will be a need to pre tack parts, however our goal is to always try to not do so to overall decrease your cost per part.

Q:  I already have a fully equipped toolroom, why can’t you just supply the design to us?

A:  Every companies parts are different, with different materials, processes and tolerances.  Over the years we have learned many techniques and methods to build reliable, heavy duty fixtures that locate precisely but that also release the parts after being welded.  The smallest details can make big effects on the end results, and by manufacturing the fixtures in house we can ensure that we deliver a product that functions as specified, every time.

Q:  Do you recommend manual clamping or pneumatic / hydraulic clamping for your fixtures?

A:  We always recommend the best solution for your specific parts, goals and budget.

There are many applications where manual clamping will provide a perfectly good solution at a very reasonable price, and the added expense of pneumatics or hydraulics will offer little advantage. Manual clamps are robust, reliable, easy to replace and have high holding forces.  They are also easy to use and just as precise when used correctly.

In some situations, moving to a pneumatic or hydraulic system may be warranted.  There will be an increase in the cost of the fixture, however it may dramatically reduce the overall cost per part and save you money in the long run.  Normally pneumatics are used in higher volume, lighter gauge parts, and in fully automated systems where the operator has little interaction with the cell.





Innovair Automation has added AKS Cutting Systems to their offering 

We are now the exclusive distributor for AKS Cutting Systems in Northwest ON, MB and SK.  Sell-Install-Maintain-Warranty-Training all provided locally by Innovair Automation in Winnipeg!

INNOVAIR AUTOMATION has recently added ABB Robotics as a supplier. 

Innovair Automation has recently become an ABB integrator to be able to deliver better support and options for customers. Call or email us for more information.

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