Cobots, with smaller arm lengths, typically don’t weld large workpieces, translating to less needed floorspace. Cobot arm reach typically tops out at 5 ft., allowing for a wide range of welding tasks on smaller workpieces. One cobot limitation: a restriction to one part orientation, as the part cannot be repositioned mid-process without additional cobot programming. Ultimately, selecting a cobot comes down to choosing an arm length that meets the size of the workpieces while also adhering to safety measures for collaborative environments.
Whether investing in a robot or cobot, the type of welding gun used will make or break the technology’s effectiveness. Welding robots can accommodate multiple types of guns based on the welding process required. The gun must be held securely and positioned accurately to produce repeatable and precise welds. For both robots and cobots, fabricators must select torches that allow proper access and reach to parts. Additionally, torches designed for automation, unlike handheld torches, ensure consistent tool centerpoints and targeting from one part run to the next.
Programming and Technical Requirements
Welding automation is not as simple as “set it and forget it.” Welding robots offer the ability to handle more complex tasks and larger workpieces, making the corresponding programming more technical and requiring advanced knowledge and expertise in robotic operations. Additionally, full robot programming and setup can be accomplished offline with special software. Part complexity determines the level of programming required. An operator also may need to account for factors such as complexity of the joint geometry and weld size, joint repeatability, weld processes needed, and code requirements.
From a maintenance perspective, robots typically are more technically demanding. Robots tend to use advanced features such as vision systems to locate parts, which add complexity and the need for increased operator skill sets. In sum, investment in a robot goes beyond the unit, and includes a deeper level of investment in time and training for operators than that required for a cobot.
Cobots excel in tasks that require frequent changes and adaptations. Why? Their designs include more intuitive, user-friendly interfaces that allow operators to input welding parameters as needed, reducing downtime and the need for offline programming. In addition to inputting specific welding parameters, cobot-programming needs may include specifying safe zones, speed reductions or force sensing to help keep operators safe when working alongside. Even so, cobots typically require minimal technical expertise when preparing them for part runs, thus easing the opportunities for manufacturers to leverage welders of varied skill levels in order to increase productivity. MF
Article supplied by Tregaskiss, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; www.tregaskiss.com.
See also: Tregaskiss
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