As traditional as it may seem to have human workers welding complex, repetitive pieces over and over again, the fact still stands that automation is revolutionising the industry. The jobs that need precise, quality work and still require mass production used to be the bane of welders for many reasons; repetition causes the mind to wander, leading to boredom and workplace accidents amongst others.
With automation, that risk is removed and the output is far greater- and in the long run this means you’re sure to see an increase in profits.
The Automation Process
Automated welding is not suitable for every job, so there shouldn’t be any fear of entire workplaces being replaced by machines. Instead, it is meant for specific jobs that require the same motion repeatedly, yet need to be completed with a high level of quality. These can include objects that require a great deal of care during construction, such as medical supplies, pipe fitting, capacitor cans and more.
The process typically uses one or more pieces of equipment, such as robotic arms, wire feeders and motorized slides, all of which cover a different part of the process. A more complicated addition might be something such as a weld oscillator; this produces a wide-motion weave for use in custom motion devices. All of these are secondary to the welding, but contribute greatly to the automation process.
The actual use of a piece of automated welding equipment is surprisingly simple in its execution, often requiring only a single program. This one-line program (OLP) will dictate the equipment’s job, and if the machine completes only one task, it only ever needs to follow the OLP.
Maintenance aside, this is one way in which automated welding can increase profits. The automatic nature of the equipment means they need very little attention and can carry out their duties without constant supervision. This is particularly true with hard automation machines that are designed for a limited number of tasks. Soft automation may require new programming and a constant controller, but welding is a task that can be completed entirely by machine, yet produces top quality results.
The speed of automation is another way to increase profit, as pieces can be welded faster and with less effort than if they were done manually. Equipment has no need to rest or take downtime, so barring maintenance, the welding process can continue at speed so long as workpieces are continually being fed to the machine. A piece of automated welding equipment typically welds at double the pace of a manual worker, greatly increasing output, and will always show up to work on time (as they never actually leave).
The quality of the weld will inevitably increase profit, since each piece created will be equal. Not only are more pieces created, but each one will be welded to a specific high-standard. This will increase the reputation of your company and should invite further business. This demand can be supplied by a faster machine, so the quality and speed act as a virtuous circle.
Two major cost-savers in automated welding are decreased labour and lack of scrap. Slag and other undesirable debris is often a result of an improper weld; with the precision of automation, these can be reduced, meaning that the time spent on disposal can be used elsewhere. Also, as welding equipment completes the job at around twice the speed of a manual welder, this reduces both labour costs and the chances of a workplace accident. Skilled welders can either continue their work or stay behind the controls to direct the machine in a safer role.
Quality, Profit and Productivity
Automated welding is a significant investment, but only up-front. From a long-term perspective, its benefits are undeniable: increased productivity, high-quality welding and faster output, to name a few.
Skilled welders will always be required to supervise and program, as well as for jobs that cannot be completed by machine, but the important jobs that contribute heavily to your company’s productivity can only be improved through automation.