Bring the robot welder to the work instead of bringing the work to the robot.
“Traditional manual welding comes with many problems, which are mostly weld seam inconsistency and quality. However, using robotic welding the welded seams have consistent shapes and the seam width is stable, thanks to the excellent repeatability and motion control of robots. Moreover, automatic welding reduces the occurrence of porosity, making the welding seam more aesthetic,” said Rickard Oosthuizen, Operations Manager of Robotic Innovations.
“Automation in the automotive industry has seen large investments in conventional robots that perform the many repetitive operations when manufacturing and assembling a vehicle and are an essential part of making automotive plants competitive. They improve quality and reduce warranty costs, increase capacity and relieve bottlenecks whilst protecting workers from repetitive, difficult and dangerous jobs. Car assembly plants use robots predominantly for sub-assembly handling, spot welding and painting, but there are many other opportunities to use robots throughout the supply chain.”
Once considered to be just a machine tending solution, cobots have evolved to take on jobs throughout the shop, such as assembly, inspection, welding and palletising. Cobots with higher payloads can handle heavier items, while some newer cobot models are mounted on mobile carts so users can quickly move them to different machines as needed
“However, nothing stops a conventional robot from moving from point A to point B if so programmed hence the need for safeguarding. Standing in its way can lead to serious injury or even death,” explained Oosthuizen.
What makes the cobot unique
“Not so with a cobot. Bump into a cobot and the cobot won’t keep moving unabated. It will stop. This allows the operator and others to stand near the robot during the operation itself. An operator can in this sense ‘collaborate’ on a project, adjusting the robot motion in real time.”
“This has all sorts of implications for basic assembly and machine tending applications, areas where cobots have received plenty of media attention. But it also has some significant implications for other tasks in manufacturing, including welding.”
“With cobots being all the rage since their introduction into the marketplace, we have seen cobots being used in some very ingenious ways. Let’s start by defining what a cobot is though. A cobot, or collaborative robot, is a robot intended for direct human robot interaction within a shared space, or where humans and robots are in close proximity.”
“Although a simple definition, there are some serious factors that make it safe for a robot and a human to work within the same area without any traditional safety fencing or area access safety zoning. Although there are many more, the main factors can be summarised as follows. Cobots move slowly, cobots have sensitive payload/collision settings, cobots can reset themselves after a collision and continue with its programme but most importantly, cobots have certification that allows them to be classified as cobots.”
Cobot welding package
“In striving to always be ahead of the competition, Robotic Innovations (RI) decided to design and build a compact, mobile, all-inclusive cobot welding system in conjunction with Fanuc, our long-time partner and supplier. We realised that there are many fabricators and manufacturers that need a flexible automated solution to take on simple and repetitive welding projects so as to free up their skilled welders to do jobs that require more expertise. Or in many other cases they do not have a welding department because of the cost of labour and not having enough work to justify employing a welder full-time. This cobot welding package is ideal for them.”
Cobots are also well suited for welding processes that require a high level of technical skill, complicated movements, or great dexterity, because they precisely lay a consistent weld bead and can move anywhere around the weldment
“Cobots, are easy to use, allow for quick and flexible implementation and represent an exceptional option for many companies to tap into entirely new potentials when it comes to the efficiency and quality of their welding operations. Additionally they are not beholden to outsourcing or finding an experienced welder on a contract basis.”
“The RI Cobot Welding Package consists of a cart onto which everything a robotic welding system consists of is mounted for ease of mobility. This includes a Fanuc CRX collaborative robot, an iQuip supplied Demmeler 3D modular welding table so as to accommodate the accurate location of conventional jigs or fixtures used in the welding process and as an option the Demmeler patented and multiple award-winning 3D clamping system.”
“The idea is to allow the system to be wheeled around within a manufacturing facility, and due to its ease and speed of programming, allow many more staff to use the system for both once-off or high-volume production runs.”
Bring the robot welder to the work instead of bringing the work to the robot
“Whether you are a contract manufacturer, a jobbing shop, a fabricator, laser cutting or forming company or just a shop that only operates CNC machines, a small or large company, but still needs to have the option of doing weldments this system is for you,” said Willem van der Merwe, Manager: Sales & Applications at Fanuc South Africa.
“One of the real benefits of the system is that you can take the robot welder to the welding situation instead of bringing the work to the robot, which can be cumbersome and time consuming. Wherever you can wheel the cart to you can get your welding done.”
“Companies are already facing a great number of monumental challenges. Enormous cost pressure combined with the challenge to show maximum flexibility in manufacturing, the rapidly increasing stress of competition brought about by globalisation and industrial automation plus a stark shortage of skilled labour will only intensify in the future. The use of conventional industrial robots is often impractical on account of the high capital expenditure involved as well as the complex and time-consuming programming procedures and the massive amount of space these robots usually occupy.”
“In contrast, the innovative RI Cobot Welding Package that includes our Fanuc CRX-10iA/L collaborative robot and a Fanuc FH350iP pulse welding machine, is a very user-friendly, cost-effective system that is reachable for most companies.”
New easy programming
“The Fanuc CRX-10iA/L collaborative robot can be programmed by using a tablet interface, or by using a conventional Fanuc teach pendant, or simply by dragging the robot arm by hand into the required positions. The intuitive software is as simple as dragging and dropping command icons in sequence of the events desired.”
“Easy to use – even for those who have never used a robot or done any welding – our advanced cobot welding robot technology is also easy to learn and a novice can be bought up to speed in two hours.”
This year in March Fanuc introduced the new CRX-5iA, CRX-20iA/L and CRX-25iA collaborative robots, the latest additions to its popular CRX series that includes the CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L collaborative robots
“Our arc welding cobots – including the new Fanuc CRX – come with Fanuc’s proven, easy to use ARC Tool Software designed to improve your bottom line by reducing programming time. The easy-to-programme interface supports simple applications, but also provides you with the ability to utilise Fanuc advanced features such as Weaving, iRVision, Seam Tracking, TAST and Multi-pass.”
Launch of new Fanuc CRX-5iA, CRX-20iA/L and CRX-25iA cobots
“This year in March Fanuc introduced the new CRX-5iA, CRX-20iA/L and CRX-25iA collaborative robots, the latest additions to its popular CRX series that includes the CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L collaborative robots. The latest CRX cobots complement Fanuc’s existing line of CR and CRX cobots that now total 11 cobot model variations to handle products from 4kg to 35kg.”
“The rollout of the new CRX-5iA, CRX-20iA/L and CRX-25iA cobots, which provide a 5kg, 20kg, and 25kg payload as well as a maximum reach of 994mm, 1 418mm and 1 889mm respectively, follows the CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L cobot models. These both feature a 10kg payload and a reach of 1 249mm and 1 418mm respectively.”
“The five CRX models combined with Fanuc’s CR series of green cobots extends the company’s ability to help more companies looking to automate with cobots. CRX cobots are safe, easy-to-use, reliable and a versatile solution for a wide range of applications, including inspection, machine load/unload, packing, palletising, sanding, welding, and more. The IP67 protection level dustproof and waterproof performance is standard for all five CRX models, so that customers can use them even in the harsh environment areas of the factory.”
“They can detect external forces in the workspace, stopping safely when making contact with a person or object. This technology allows the CRX to work safely alongside people without the need for expensive guarding.”
“Most cobots have a lightweight and compact design, but the CRX cobots offer more including their high suitability for industrial environments and no maintenance for up to eight years. The CRXs can be used with a standard 100V/240V power supply, and also include energy-saving equipment with a power consumption of about 400W (with 25kg payload),” explained van der Merwe.
“Robotic Innovations is not the first company to offer such a solution for cobot welding but we believe we have one of the most advanced, easy to use systems in an environment where there is constant change on the machining, manufacturing, fabrication, production or assembly floor,” explains Oosthuizen.
“The flexibility of the system allows it to be beneficial for both one-off components or high-production runs. Because the solution is so easy to learn and operate you can designate a junior or new employee to do the sub weldments and repetitive work and allow your experienced welder to do the advanced work and assembling that he is actually employed to do.”
“You are also not held hostage to one type of programming or one person holding all the information.”
“We have heard of examples where a welding operation that normally takes two hours, with a Fanuc CRX cobot it is reduced down to 17 minutes. Another example is where a company used to assemble 12 products a week are now assembling 20. Both examples allow a company to enhance their productivity and competitiveness significantly after only a short period of introduction and, better still, at very reasonable initial costs,” concluded Oosthuizen.