Welding automation equipment is a generic term used to describe a wide range of devices—some simple, some highly complex—designed to automate repetitive welding tasks.
Although there many different types of welding automation equipment available these days, all this equipment has one vital point of commonality: it has been designed and engineered to make welders lives easier, improve welding accuracy, increase weld quality, improve repeatability and augment the skills of welders.
Welding Automation Equipment Options
MIG Gun Latch
Oftentimes, one of the most basic forms of welding automation is overlooked: the latch feature on a MIG welding gun. The purpose of the latch on a MIG gun is to ensure that the welder or operator must only pull the trigger once, and can then let go. The wire then feeds out at a consistent rate, allowing the welder or operator to focus on their welding technique and positioning. The welder no longer has to concentrate on preventing simple mistakes like relaxing and taking their finger off the trigger or, worse yet, cramping up and losing their grip completely. There is also a similar latch feature built into high-frequency TIG torches with 2T and 4T.
Prior to the introduction of the latch feature, welders had to use and manually replace welding rods. By automating this process, welders can now concentrate on weld technique, quality, efficiency and productivity (rather than monitoring welding rod usage rates).
Rotators, Rollers and Turntables
If you regularly weld pipes or vessels, you will be all too familiar with rotators, rollers and turntables. Whether it is a set of rotators that turn your pipes, or a set of rollers that turn your vessels, these forms of welding automation equipment have been engineered so that welders no longer need to weld in a difficult position.
Rotators, rollers and turntables all operate on a similar principle: they slowly rotate tubular or round work pieces (like pipes, vessels and flanges) by 360 degrees. This enables a welder to stand in the same position while constantly welding a level surface.
The benefits of using this type of welding automation are vast. Rotators, rollers and turntables help reduce welder fatigue and boost productivity; the welder does not need to constantly move around the pipe to complete the weld and the frequent interruptions to the welding process required for re-positioning of the workpiece are eradicated. This type of automation also tends to improve weld consistency and quality because vertical and overhead runs are eradicated.
Seamers and Track Driven Buggies
With increasing quantities of linear or longitudinal seam welding came the introduction of seamers and track driven buggies.
The traditional process used for longitudinal seam welding required that a welder manually hold the workpieces in place, tack weld the pieces together, and then perform the longitudinal seam weld using a handheld welding torch. This process was both expensive and time-consuming for a welder:
- Accuracy throughout the entire length of the workpiece was difficult to guarantee
- The length of a single pass was limited to how long a welder could stay focused and how far they could move
- There were many stop-starts that had to be dressed up and which increased the potential for defects
Seamers and track driven buggies help overcome these issues: workpieces are clamped in place and easily welded in proper alignment to produce a butt free weld with little distortion or shrinkage. Best of all, by using a seamer or buggy, repetitive tasks are reduced, thereby greatly reducing welder fatigue.
Robotic arms take welding automation to another level. Welding robots are now used in a wide range of welding applications, although are still most common in high production arc welding and resistance spot welding processes, such as those used in large manufacturing plants and the automotive sector. Their high cost (although coming down quickly) has restricted their use to high-production applications.
Welding robots may be pre-programmed, guided by machine vision, or by a combination of the two methods. Robots provide increase accuracy, repeatability, and throughput for fabricators with high volume applications.
K-TIG 1000 Welding System
K-TIG’s 1000 Welding System integrates with your automation equipment to deliver high quality, deep penetration welding. Our patented technology is based on extensive, scientific study of the gas-tungsten-arc process, and is the result of many innovations relating to arc characteristics, weld pool stabilisation, heat removal and process efficiency. The K-TIG process is well suited to lower conductivity materials such as stainless steels, nickel alloys, titanium alloys and indeed most corrosion resistant and exotic materials.
Superb quality can be achieved by a skilled manual welder and, for some applications, you just cannot beat manual, hand-held welding. An experienced welder makes continuous, instinctive, split-second decisions on factors such as travel speed, torch angle, oscillation, heat input, voltage and wire feed. Welding is not a binary process. By its very nature welding is a multi-variable problem which must be solved in real time; human beings have proved to be outstandingly adept at this. Automation allows welders to concentrate on tasks that require these split-second decisions, rather than performing repetitive, time-consuming tasks.
With the introduction of welding automation equipment, there are less occupational health and safety issues. Automating welding processes reduces the risks associated with welder fatigue, heat stress and proximity to the arc welding in confined spaces, helping to minimise the risk of injuries to welders.
While the nature of welding jobs may change with the introduction of advanced welding technology, the welding expertise and technical knowledge that is required to set up appropriate welding parameters and specifications remains essential.
Welders can make even greater contributions to productivity and profitability if they aren’t confined to performing repetitive, strenuous and, at times, high-risk tasks.
For more information, take a look at The Pros and Cons of Welding Automation and 22 Welding Automation Technologies to Improve Productivity.