Welding is one of those jobs that could be replaced by automation… but at the moment it’s also one of those jobs that is seriously understaffed. Few young people are becoming welders. It’s a hard job, often performed in harsh environments, and it requires specific skills. It can also be a dangerous job.
That sounds ripe for automation, doesn’t it? In theory, robot welders could produce more consistent welds, faster and more safely than human welders.
In practice, welding often requires the ability to adapt to changing needs. There are some products that need hundreds of identical welds on identical pieces one after another, but that’s not the norm in all industries. Robots aren’t always able to produce the right weld for the project without programming for each individual weld. What’s more, that programming may rely on learning from individual human welders, so the quality of the input relies on the quality of work off that individual.
Sensors to the rescue
Sensors have been the big news in motion control recently, and new welding-specific sensors have made robotic welding more practical.
These sensors make sure the workpiece is in the right position for the weld, identify the specific needs of the workpiece, and otherwise behave like eyes.
But you will also need sensors to make the sure the fumes are under control. Increased throughput and less start-and-stop improves both ROI and environmental responsibility, but it can also mean significant increases in fumes. Your robot welders will still need skilled operators, and air quality matters for your human staff.
Weld data monitoring also helps ensure consistent quality in welds over time. Machine learning can use this data, and human supervisors can also fine-tune the process based on the data.
Rexroth has specific welding controllers, used by companies like Audi for energy-efficient precision welding applications. For these and all electric industrial drive and control systems from Rexroth, we are your first choice for service and support.