The welding automation industry is increasingly implementing collaborative robot arms from Universal Robots.
This year’s FabTech Expo features several UR cobot powered path-processing solutions:
- BotX Welder by Hirebotics;
- Red-D-Arc and Airgas;
- Vectis Automation’s Cobot Welding Tool; and
- SnapCut by ARC Specialties.
The average age of today’s welder in the US is 55 years old, and fewer than 20 percent are under the age of 35, according to the American Welding Society.
These demographics lead to a projected deficit of 400,000 welders by 2024 in an industry where weld shops are caught between a rock and a hard place: they already can’t find enough skilled welders, and they can’t automate the increasing amount of high-mix, low volume production runs with traditional welding robots.
Stu Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots’ Americas division, says: “Addressing the severe labor shortage in weld shops with cobots is now a solution that we see rapidly emerge as industry leaders and innovators start offering automated welding tools utilizing the Universal Robots’ platform.
“FabTech attendees will witness how the ease-of-use and versatility of the UR cobots can translate into unique new welding automation tools in ways few believed were possible just a couple of years ago.”
BotX – hire a robot welder by the hour
The new BotX Welder, developed by Hirebotics, Red-D-Arc, and Airgas, utilizes a UR10e cobot to address two major hurdles of robotic arc welding: ease of programming and the ease in which a customer can obtain the system without assuming the cost of ownership.
There are no installation costs with BotX, and with cloud monitoring, manufacturers pay only for the hours the system actually welds, thereby enabling the manufacturer to hire and fire BotX as business needs dictate.
Rob Goldiez, co-founder and CEO of Hirebotics, says: “We chose Universal Robots to power BotX for several reasons.
“With Universal Robots’ open architecture, we were able to control, not only wire feed speed and voltage, but torch angle as well, which ensures a quality weld every time.”
Customers can teach BotX the required welds simply via an intuitive app on any smartphone or tablet utilizing a library of welding recipes contained in the BotX software developed specifically for the BotX and optimized to work with Airgas’ ARCAL shielding gas.
The complete BotX product offering comes with the UR10e cobot arm, cloud connector, welder, wire feeder, MIG welding gun, weld table, and configurable user-input touch buttons.
The BotX is now available to early access customers and is introduced at FabTech, doing live welding in Airgas’ booth B19043 and in OnShape’s booth A1345 in Chicago, November 11-14, 2019.
Vectis Automation’s Cobot Welding Tool – an intuitive solution
Debuting in Universal Robots’ FabTech booth booth B35083 featuring a UR10e cobot is Vectis Automation’s new Cobot Welding Tool, a portable, safe, versatile, and extremely easy-to-use solution that is even available as a low-risk, no-capital rent-to-own option.
Vectis’ Let’s Weld Together intuitive programming interface is accessible directly through the UR cobot’s own teach pendant. Programs can be created, saved, and later recalled in order to handle the numerous part numbers typical for high mix/low volume shops.
Josh Pawley, director of business development and co-founder of Vectis Automation, says: “We saw Universal Robots prevail as the undisputed leader in the cobot market, lowering automation barriers through ease of use and fast deployment.
“We wanted to build our cobot welder on this platform, providing the same user experience to welders that manufacturers in many other industry verticals now enjoy.”
Pawley adds that the Vectis Cobot Welder is commonly 25-40 percent less expensive than the all-in cost of a small traditional robot welder.
The Vectis system comes with all hardware provided fully integrated onto a 3ft x 6ft mobile modular fixturing cart enabling metal fabricators to bring the cobot to the work, or the work to the cobot with no anchoring nor dedicated footprint required.
SnapCut – a cobot cutting through steel
A traffic stopper at last year’s FabTech was SnapWeld, the first integrated MIG welding system for collaborative robots available through Universal Robots’ UR+ platform that certifies products to work seamlessly with UR cobots.
SnapWeld was launched by ARC Specialties, who has further developed the UR product portfolio with the release of SnapCut that allows traditional metal fabricators to easily cut shapes in 3-dimensional steel components with no prior robotic or computer programming knowledge.
SnapCut will be showcased in Universal Robots’ FabTech booth B35083 utilizing the UR10e cobot to manipulate a Hypertherm cutting torch to desired positions around the cutting path
John Martin, vice president with ARC Specialties, says: “With SnapCut, we have developed a tool that allows metal fabricators to deploy UR cobots to cut non-standard positions on-location with near plasma table quality.
“We’re providing an easy automation alternative to a process that today is primarily done manually.”
Users can easily switch between plasma cutting and welding, turning SnapCut into SnapWeld.
ARC Specialties just updated the SnapWeld interface, pre-loading it with welding schedules so the user – with no prior robotic experience required – simply inputs material information, then teaches the welding path by pointing the robot at the weld.
UR16e debuts at FabTech
FabTech is also the metal fabricating audiences’ first chance to experience Universal Robots’ new heavy-duty cobot UR16e which boasts an impressive 16 kg (35 lbs) of payload capability.
The new UR16e combines high payload with a reach of 900 mm and pose repeatability of +/- 0.05 mm making it ideal for automating tasks such as heavy-duty material handling, deburring, and machine tending.
With UR16e, Universal Robots is introducing the highest payload and best pose repeatability in this reach class.
The new cobot is put to work in the UR booth by Fusion Cobotics, a UR partner that has developed the FC Series, a pre-configured machine tending solution with the UR16e.
Manufacturers can utilize the equipment for efficient, reliable, uninterrupted machine tending throughout the day and into the off-shifts (lights-out) enhancing the return on investment capital equipment without tying up money and valuable floorspace usually required by conventional robotic machine tending solutions.