Robotic automation in the manufacturing sector is considered to have first started with the introduction of robotic welders in a General Motors Plant in 1962. However, the movement didn’t gain traction until the 1980s, mostly in the automotive manufacturing industry. Once manufacturers across other industries began to see the advantages of using robotic welders, the automated procedures were implemented in factories across other industries, such as metals manufacturing and mass production. Being an industry that thrives on improving efficiencies at all levels of the production process, manufacturers have pushed modern robotic welding systems to new levels of performance. Let’s take a deeper look at the world of robotic welding and how these machines help to maximize time and costs across multiple channels.

Maximizing Key Performance Metrics Through Robotic Welding

When we start to look at how robotic welding machinery plays into manufacturing output, we have to look at key performance indicators across the operation to see how they might be impacted.

Quality of Work

Robotic welding machinery relies on sensors and the data they gather to perform welds in the most efficient manner possible. Because of the precision made possible by these systems, welding robots can consistently produce accurate welds within 5-thousandths of an inch.

Reduced Weld Distortion

A common challenge for manual welders is distortion that results from the expansion and contraction of metal adjacent to a weld as a result of inefficient welding methods. Sensors built into robotic welding units can calculate the exact size of a weld necessary to create a joint and how many passes it should take to complete the weld. This minimizes how long the weld takes, which in turn minimizes the heating of adjoining metal and the distortion that might result.

Maximized Productivity Through Robotic Welding

The debate over whether a master welder can perform certain types of welds faster than their robotic counterparts can be debated all day long. However, it’s often not how fast a specific weld can be performed, but rather how many times can a specific type of weld be performed, with as little variation as possible in a given shift. A primary advantage of deploying a robotic welding machine in the production line is to increase efficiencies. There are no downtimes for lunch or restroom use when it comes to welding machines. According to interviews with experts, over the course of a shift, fatigue can cause arc-on time for manual welders to decrease from a starting point of 50% of the time. This results in an overall maximum efficiency of manual processes of around 20%. With robotic welding machines, arc-on time ranges from 75% to 95% of the shift.

Superior Transition Time Between Tools

While human operators are more flexible and can handle a wider range of non-standard welding situations, robotic welding machines are able to transition between the necessary jigs to meet the job requirements. The units can also be fit with cleaning attachments that keep attachments clean between use automatically, whereas a manual welder would have to stop, clean the attachments, and then reattach them in order to complete the job.

Cost Considerations for Competitive Advantage

Reduced overall costs allow a company to reinvest capital in strategic ways that help them to outperform the competition. Robotic welding machinery’s increased efficiencies lead to cost reductions on several key indicators of performance: labor, material costs, and overall production costs.

Labor Cost Reductions

Skilled welders are hard to come by in the modern economy, and manufacturers of robotic welders have had to work extra hard to push out units to meet demand. While there is still a need for master welders on jobs requiring intricate levels of customization, robotic welders are able to shoulder the majority of the work, minimizing the need for hiring and training, and the associated costs of maintaining a large workforce such as benefits programs and other associated costs.

Reduced Consumables

Because robotic welders are able to accurately repeat a weld throughout a given shift, and only utilize the exact amount of materials every time, waste is reduced significantly over time. For a manual welder who misjudges the necessary size of a weld bead, just an ⅛-inch overestimate can double the costs of filler metals on a given weld.

Production Cost Decreases

Aside from labor and materials costs, other production cost factors are influenced by deploying robotic welding machinery in your facility. The overall cost to deliver parts and finished products is reduced through the overall efficiencies introduced through robotic automation. Because of the inherent efficiencies of the system, overall energy consumption is reduced, and because there are fewer employees at risk, insurance costs are also reduced.

Robotic Welding Promotes Safety

OSHA inspection at a factory.

Recall from the start of the article that widespread robotic welding didn’t start to be embraced by manufacturing companies until the 1980s, and the trend continued throughout the 1990s. During the years leading up to widespread automation, the people responsible for performing welding tasks were at significant risk of injury and death, according to archived OSHA reports from 1993. At the time, an estimated 562,000 employees were at risk of exposure to hazards related to welding, cutting, and brazing. The risk of death was considered high by OSHA, at more than four per thousand workers over a working lifetime. Dangers included heavy metal poisoning, lung cancer, metal fume fever, flash burns, and other risks associated with fumes, gases, and the ionized radiation formed and released during the welding, cutting or brazing processes. Through automation, the manufacturing industry has minimized the need for humans to perform tasks under such dangerous conditions.

Equipment Hub Wants to Help You Cash In on Robotic Welding

The Equipment Hub understands just how important a role robotic welding machinery plays in the profitability of modern manufacturing facilities. Whether you’re seeking used or new machinery, our online catalog will help you find the equipment you need to keep your assembly lines in motion. Our equipment experts look forward to discussing your industrial machinery needs and we hope to partner with you moving forward.

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