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How to Choose the Best Robotic Welding Cell for Your Facility

December 1, 2020

Transitioning welding processes from manual to automated brings countless benefits to machine shops and manufacturing facilities. Robotic welding equipment helps achieve more consistent welds, improve product quality, reduce part rejection rates and increase production efficiency. But figuring out which robotic welding cell is right for your welding application can feel like a daunting task. In this article, we’ll discuss five factors you should consider when deciding which robotic welding machine best suits your needs:

  1. Physical characteristics of the materials you’re welding
  2. Material flow and cycle time
  3. Level of precision
  4. Cost-effectiveness
  5. Employee support and operator training

1. Physical Characteristics of the Materials You’re Welding

The height, length, depth, material, weight, production volume, and accessibility of the parts you’re welding will determine what kinds of robotic welding cell features you need. For example, extremely large parts will require a lot of positioning and fixturing, while the robot can easily reach smaller parts with fewer workcell features. Rather than basing your automation equipment decisions on your most complicated part, start with a simpler part first and then handle more complex parts later on. Doing so will allow for a more immediate and successful impact on your production workflow.

You also need to consider which robotic welding process best suits the materials you’re welding. The following table highlights top considerations when selecting the welding process for your production application.

  Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) Spot Welding
Also known as: Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding   Stick welding Resistance welding
Ideal materials: Non-ferrous materials like aluminum, copper, lead, stainless steel, nickel, gold, brass, magnesium Stainless steel, carbon steel, copper, nickel, aluminum, and more Ferrous materials like carbon steel, stainless steel, low-alloy steels Ferrous materials like carbon steel, stainless steel, low and high alloy steel, cast iron, ductile iron Stainless steel, low carbon steel, nickel alloys, titanium
Ideal thickness: Thinner materials that can be heated through easily and quickly Thicker metals and larger objects Thick and dense portions of steel over 20 gauge Metals thicker than 1/16” Thinner metals up to 3 mm (0.125”), diameters up to 12.5 mm (0.5”)
Applications: Bicycle, automotive, and aerospace manufacturing, ship fitting Pipefitting, automotive, railroad track Construction, shop fabrication, shipbuilding Home-shop welding Automotive, aerospace, rail, metal furniture, electronics, construction

- Produces highest quality, precise welds

- Provides a clean and pure weld without splatter, sparks, or fumes

- Great for repairing damaged parts

- Best welding technique for aluminum

- Minimal cleanup

- Offers high welding speeds

- Can join objects made of dissimilar metals

- Best welding technique for steel

- Inexpensive

- High welding speed and portability

- Can be performed outdoors in windy conditions

- Can create strong bonds on rusty or dirty metals

- Great for welding thicker joints

- Most economical welding method

- Can create strong bonds on rusty or dirty metals

- Can be used in harsh weather

- Can join objects made of dissimilar metals

- Deep penetration for welding thick sections

- Best welding technique for joining overlaps between metal sheets

- Easy to automate with robots and manipulation systems

Level of difficulty: Most difficult to master - requires a high level of skill and precisionl Easiest to learn (same equipment can also be used for flux-cored welding) Easy to learn More difficult to learn - requires frequent rod changing, emits spatter, finished welds must be cleaned Easy to learn - the most common joining process in high-volume manufacturing lines

2. Material Flow & Cycle Time

Understanding the volume, cycle time, and material flow will help determine the layout of your robotic welding cell. Are your production requirements a high-volume, low-mix or a low-volume, high-mix? A manufacturer that welds a single product in large volumes for a long period of time with few manufacturing changeovers can meet their needs with a simpler model with fewer features. Conversely, a job shop that welds several different products in lower quantities with more frequent changeovers would use a more complex machine to full capacity.

Since the estimated cycle times will affect operator movement and activities, you need to be aware of the duty cycle that’s necessary to achieve the most cost-effective results for your welding projects and choose your robotic welding cell accordingly. It’s also important to consider how much space you have available for the equipment and its operations and where the robotic welding cell will be installed in your manufacturing plant. This is where workcell configurations come into play:

  • A single-station configuration is most commonly used for assemblies with long cycle times and lower volumes.
  • In a single-point multistation, the operator can be in one area while the positioner indexes the assemblies to the robot.
  • In a multipoint load/unload station, the robot welds in one station and the operator loads and unloads the assemblies in another station.

3. Level of Precision

Most welding equipment can achieve incredibly accurate weld placement and timing. However, there are a variety of welding robot controllers that can manage the machine’s operation. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) welding equipment has become the industry standard for adding speed and accuracy to weld jobs. It helps welders maintain an optimal balance between the strength and the size of their welds. A medium-frequency direct current (MFDC) controller is ideal for resistance spot welding because it substantially reduces power requirements, which allows for better payloads and millisecond-precise weld control.

Robot controllers can have features for tooling, touch sensing, coordinated motion, automatic part repositioning, seam tracking, environmental communication, and human-machine interface. Depending on what type of information you need, data acquisition can also vary greatly between systems. While these advanced features can greatly improve the quality, consistency, and reliability of your product, they add significant cost to your workcell and may lengthen the production cycle time for your assembly. You’ll need to weigh the costs and benefits of advanced features when choosing a robotic welding cell for your facility. Purchase your equipment with a long-term view of what your future robotic welding needs may be.

Don’t forget to also consider tooling, which is the heart of any robotic welding system. Custom tooling fixtures have a significant impact on the quality and efficiency of your automated robotic welding process. You’ll have to determine which fixtures will best control your welding environment in the most ergonomic way possible, which controls you’ll need to close a clamp, and what you need to load the tooling.

4. Cost-Effectiveness

Different welding robots require varying amounts of ongoing maintenance and consumable resources that influences the total cost of ownership. Since resistance welding processes like spot welding don’t require consumables, they are more economical than MIG welding. However, spot welding may not be the type of welding operation that works best for your most frequently-made goods. In that case, it’s worth spending a little more on a robotic welding cell that requires more ongoing maintenance. Make sure that you also factor in the costs of welding protection like helmets, gloves, and jackets.

Keep in mind that trying to hunt down one machine to meet 100% of your welding needs is often costlier than it’s worth. It’s more cost-effective to purchase a machine that can perform 80% of your welding work and then buy a separate, less expensive machine to perform any remaining niche work.

Many machine shop owners are fixated on having the newest, most high-tech welding machines on the market. However, your best option is to buy a well-cared for used robotic welding cell. Why? Consider just a few compelling reasons.

  1. Fully functional used robotic welders can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of brand new models.
  2. The previous owners of a used robotic welding cell already know what issues the machine has and can prepare you for them so they don’t come as a surprise.
  3. Used equipment can be shipped immediately, whereas brand new models from top brands may have waiting times of 12-16 weeks or longer to ship.

The fact is that affordably-priced used robotic welding cells in good condition can be just as efficient and effective at welding objects as brand new, more expensive machines.

5. Employee Support & Operator Training

It’s important to make sure that everyone, from manual welders to shop floor workers, are fully informed about the ins and outs of your automation project and are given the opportunity to voice their concerns before you purchase the equipment. Clearly specify the end goal of automation—is it to increase productivity or improve the quality of welds? Automating your welding process will only be successful if your employees are on board and know what to expect. Their practical experience and insights could also prove to be valuable in preventing potential problems during integration.

Consider how user-friendly the robotic welding programming process will be for your welding team, as this will affect how well they can control the machine’s welds. Then, once you’ve chosen a machine, make sure that you have convenient access to the supplier’s support network and understand how it’s organized. Appoint a robotic integrator who can provide operators and maintenance workers with personalized training in the basics of the robotic programming and cell operations so they can get started as soon as the machine arrives at your facility.

Purchase Used Robotic Welding Cells for Sale at Allset Machinery

Allset Machinery, a division of AM Industrial Group, LLC, sells used robotic welding cells and other metalworking machinery. Browse our selection of used MIG welders, flux-cored arc welders, and resistance spot welders from reliable brands such as Miller Electric, Hobart, AVA-1, and Motoman. All of our welding machines for sale are in stock, sold as-is, and ready for purchase. We ship items as soon as funds are received and load them free of charge. Let our support staff assist your purchasing and production departments with tailored financing, custom tooling, and timely delivery. Contact Allset Machinery today!

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Warehouse Address:
15939 Industrial Parkway
Cleveland, OH 44135
Phone: 216-433-7171

Billing/Mailing Address:
16000 Commerce Park Drive
Brook Park, Ohio 44142

All Rights Reserved 2022, Allset Machinery
Privacy Policy   |   Admin Login
Web Development by Alt Media Studios