The long-term benefits of a robotic welding operation can be positive. For companies who have already invested in robotic welding, but are looking to improve or better understand their operations, or for those considering the investment, it is critical to consider some key factors about the technology.
1. There’s more to the payback on a robotic welding system than just speed.
Justifying the cost of a robotic weld cell comes down to the ability to gain (and prove) a payback on the investment. Typically, that payback comes in the form of greater productivity and higher-quality welds (which minimize instances of costly and time-consuming rework), but there are other contributing factors to the return on the investment (ROI) in this technology.
Robotic welding also offers the advantage of lower energy and labor costs, and in many cases lower material costs due to fewer instances of overwelding. Overwelding is a common and costly occurrence in semi-automatic welding.
For companies just considering the investment in robotic welding, it is important to consider how to calculate the payback. Assess the current part cycle times and compare those to the potential cycle times of a robot. A trusted robotic welding integrator or OEM can often help with this calculation. During this process, also consider the possibility of reallocating existing labor to other parts of the welding operation, where these individuals can add value to the process. Up to 75 percent of the cost in a semi-automatic welding operation is labor. If there is the opportunity to use that labor elsewhere to increase part production, the payback on the investment in robotic welding will increase.
2. Parts and product flow need to be consistent.
The output from a robotic welding cell is only as good as the parts fed into it. In order to gain the advantages of these systems, it is critical to have accurate, repeatable part designs. Gaps, poor fit-up or poor joint access all prevent a robot from completing its job correctly.
3. The MIG guns and consumables on the robot can impact productivity and profitability.
The robotic MIG gun and consumables on a robot together are responsible for directing the current to the arc to complete the weld, making them integral components in the whole system. To gain the best quality and to avoid expensive downtime for maintenance, repairs or replacement, companies need to select a robotic MIG gun that is suitable for the amperage, duty cycle and cooling capacity needed in the application. Using a robotic MIG gun that offers inadequate cooling or amperage can cause performance issues and lead to premature failure — both factors that increase costs and downtime. Using a robotic MIG gun that offers higher amperages than necessary raises the total cost of ownership, as typically the cost of a robotic MIG gun increases directly in proportion to its amperage.
4. Peripherals can help improve the return on investment in a robotic welding operation.
Peripherals refer to any additional equipment integrated into the robotic welding system to maximize its performance. They include items such as a nozzle cleaning station (sometimes called a reamer or spatter cleaner), anti-spatter sprayers, wire cutters and neck alignment tools.
5. Having skilled operators with proper training to oversee the robotic weld cell is critical.
Robotic welding operations require ongoing supervision and maintenance, and that job needs to be completed by a skilled operator who has undergone the proper training. When considering an investment in robotic welding, companies should take care to evaluate the available pool of talent. As a rule, skilled welding operators and/or employees with prior robotic welding experience are the best candidates to supervise the weld cell. After the proper training, which a robotic integrator or OEM can typically provide, these employees can provide the necessary operating and troubleshooting skills to ensure the maximum uptime in the robotic welding cell.
As part of the routine training, it is absolutely necessary for the operators who will be overseeing the robot to be able to schedule and perform routine preventive maintenance on the system. Implementing preventive maintenance helps minimize unnecessary downtime and keep the robotic welding system running more smoothly. If problems can be solved before they arise and the robotic welding equipment made to last longer, it can protect the company’s investment, and ensure the productivity and profitability sought by this equipment in the first place.
Soruce: Tregakiss Welding Products www.tregakiss.com