Lightweight Cobots Take On Heavy Duty Jobs-Even Welding

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Cobots maybe lightweight (the largest UR10 robot weighs less than 29kgs), so they are light enough to pick up and move from one process to another, however they’re now able to complete heavy duty tasks such as welding. There is already a range of Cobot welding systems to choose from. This should not be coming as a surprise as it’s just one of the many smart applications for these highly versatile, cost effective and easily programmable automation tools.

The flexibility and easy to programme cobot-based welding systems make them especially well suited for low volume/high mix environments, as well as custom or small template welding processes. With a high level of accuracy and repeatability, these systems can also handle long runs with consistent quality. Welding tasks can be programmed in less than half an hour, by employees who have little to no experience, and programmes can be saved and reused, saving the expense of robot programmers. Lightweight Cobot welders can be mounted on tabletops, hung from ceilings, or installed into existing welding booths, offering more flexibility than manual welders or traditional fixed robots. There are several companies that have already announced cobot welding systems.

ARC Specialties and Universal Robots (UR) recently announced the first collaborative MIG welding system in the US. The SnapWeld Collaborative Robot Welding Package is a cobot-assisted, interactive welding system that can be deployed in existing, manual welding booths, so it eliminates the requirement for costly new robotic cells. The System is ideal for small job shops that are having difficulties with budget, programming and space requirements of traditional welding robots.

The SnapWeld system includes a Profax wire feeder and water-cooled torch for welds up to 600 amps, along with the UR robot. One of the advantages of using cobots for welding application is the ease of programming. SnapWeld was developed with and verified by Universal Robots through the UR+ platform facilitating direct software integration into the UR programming environment, allowing advanced settings to be easily programmed directly on robot’s teach pendant.

“We are getting a lot of requests for integrating Universal Robots in welding booths, so we saw this as a unique opportunity to develop an integrated low-cost system for gas metal arc welding (GMAW) applications that no one else in the market is currently offering,”  says John Martin, Vice President of ARC Specialties, a Certified Systems Integrator of UR robots.

Settings include features such as wire-feed speed and burn-back time, gas-flow time, and crater-fill time with instant feedback on welding volts and amps. The result is a fully integrated, low-cost system for gas metal arc welding (GMAW) applications that are ideal for low-volume/high-mix shops.

Another cobot welding system, the CoWelder, is available from Migatronic in Denmark. The CoWelder system includes a UR5 or UR10 robot—depending on payload and reach requirements—along with a Migatronic power source, start/stop safety box, and Migatronic welding torch and torch holder.

The system fits on a tabletop, making it ideal for even the smallest shops, with simple set-up and programming for significant savings over traditional complex robotic systems. The robotic welder ensures uniformity in series production, but it is so fast and easy to re-programme that it provides value even for small batches. For high-mix scenarios, shops can build a library of programmes for different workpieces and easily switch among them during a workday.

Migatronic customer Sebastian Jacobsen, Project Manager at Jyden Bur A/S, Denmark says, “We can program new workpieces in no time. It really only takes 30 minutes for us to program a new workpiece and a few seconds to recall already stored programs. I don’t think it can get any easier.”

Speaking of productivity gains, Jens Christian Lægsgaard, General Manager of MVI Maskinfabrik in Denmark says, “Our time saved per workpiece is about 50%. We produce from ten to 1000 workpieces at a time. Our efficiency gains are 30-40% owing to the easy switching between programs and welded workpieces. And this is just the beginning…”

As integrators look to provide high-ROI automation solutions, welding is a clear target. And integrators around the world are looking first to UR for the cobots to power their collaborative welding systems. Additional solutions have been announced from the Dutch integrator Cobot Automation and US-based SCOTT Automation (parent company of RobotWorx).

Robotics News, December 19