Robot welding is the use of robots which have been programmed for the welding process. These robots are mechanized and programmable and completely automate the welding process which includes both performing the welding process and handling the part. Some processes such as gas metal welding are not necessarily equivalent to robot welding even when the process is automated because a human operator is required to prepare the materials to be welded. Robot welding is commonly used for resistance spot welding and arc welding in high production applications such as the automobile industry.
Robot welding is a relatively new application of robotics even though robots were first introduced into the US industry in the 1960s. The use of robots for welding did not take off until the 1980s when they were used extensively in the automobile industry for spot welding. Since then the use of robots for welding has increased tremendously all across the world with robots utilized in many industrialized and developing countries for welding in various industrial processes. Robot welding is now used for welding ships especially inner compartments that are difficult for human welders to enter and work for several hours due to increase in temperature in those enclosed spaces, for welding processes that require precision and perfection such as in nuclear power plants, engine blocks for cars, ships and large generators. Robots are also used for casting metal and welding with perfection for use in building modern day bridges such as sea bridges which will be extremely difficult for humans to weld under such challenging conditions. The growth of robot welding will continue as more extreme structures are built all over the world from sea bridges to skyscrapers to space stations and undersea stations which will require precision and perfection welding to ensure the safety of the structures being built.
The major components of robots used in arc welding are the mechanical unit and the controller. The mechanical unit enables the robot to move while the controller acts as the robot’s brain issuing commands that have been programmed into it and the robot executes these commands. The design can be categorized into two namely the SCARA which is the Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm and Cartesian coordinate robot which uses different coordinate systems to direct the arms of the machine. The robot may weld a pre programmed position, be guided by machine vision or by a combination of the two methods. The many benefits of robotic welding have proven to make it a technology that helps many equipment manufacturers increase accuracy, repeat action and efficiency while lowering overall cost of production.
Robot welding is now extensively used in the automobile industry in many countries around the world for the fabrication of engine blocks for cars, trucks and heavy duty vehicles. They are used for welding the different parts of cars during the assembly process and the parts are joined together at a faster rate than human operators and welders.
Robot welding is also used in shipbuilding to weld remote and dangerous compartments inside the ship which will be difficult for humans to access and work in for long hours due to increase in temperature inside these compartments. Also welding of other compartments inside the ship which can also be accessed by humans is increasingly being done by robots which carry out a more precise and efficient job compared to human welders and at a faster rate too.
Planned underwater stations which will require a high level of precision during welding willof component parts will also be carried out in large part by robot welding, so also future space stations and landing craft.
Construction of sea bridges and underwater tunnels are increasingly involving robot welding because of precision, efficiency and shorter time frame for the completion of the welding process.