Automated welding equipment, most commonly called a “welding robot,” is used for welding structural steel applications. The primary role of a welding robot is to provide a higher degree of safety and accuracy in performing the weld process. Generally speaking, a typical part undergoes many different steps before it can be called a finished product.
At the very beginning of the process, raw materials are used to build a part. After a series of steps through different stages of production, the final step is welding. A robot uses an automated welding process to create strong and durable bonds between materials that is expected to last for many years or even decades. In comparison, a human welder would repeatedly lay down beads of weld, which often become brittle and crack over time.
In order to perform automated welding, a robot needs two primary components: the welding gun and the welding torch. The first component is attached to a robot arm that can move in three dimensions as it moves back and forth across a joint area. The welding gun is what creates the actual weld.
On the other hand, an industrial robot that performs arc welding or gas metal arc welding (GMAW) uses a torch that has two contacts. The first contact supplies electricity to an electrode wire while the second connects with the workpiece. This process of supplying current is done by using one of three methods: contact, short-circuit or proximity.
In order to operate a welding robot, an industrial robot control system is needed as well as proper programming for the machine. In general, industrial robots are programmed with the help of a teach pendant that contains all of the necessary components and tools for programming purposes. The industrial robot control system (or simply the control system) is made up of a controller, inputs and outputs.
Programming for welding robots can be challenging due to its complicated motions. Welding robot programming requires three components: positional information, speed and time information. This type of data is known as kinematic data. Although there are some pre-built programs available from welding robot manufacturers, most users create their own programs from scratch.
In addition to the kinematic data, welders need to input electrodes angles and stickout information. This is necessary because of the different types of joints that are created. In order for a welding robot to perform one type of process flawlessly, it needs to be programmed with the exact process.
Most of the time, welding robots have a safety system that allows it to detect if anything is blocking its path. A safety fence or a safety light curtain is installed around a welding surface and set at a certain distance from the robot arm. If either product detects something in its path, such as an operator’s hand or body part, it will automatically stop the welding process.
The safety system is only one of the many safety features that are installed with a welding robot. In most cases, a programmer needs to input safety factors such as pass-through time and electrode burnback time in order for a robotic welder to operate safely.
In some cases, welding robots are used for less complex welding jobs. In the past, most robots were only designed to perform arc welding processes through a continuous motion. However, in recent years there have been significant advancements in robotic technology.