Robotic Welding for Heavy Fabrication

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Generally, welding robots are used to weld large volumes of components with highly repetitive welds.  Heavy fabrication presents a new set of challenges for robots.  Parts are bigger with deep groove joints, and often require multiple weld passes and adaptive processes.  Fortunately, robot technology has advanced dramatically since their early implementations in the 1980’s, to handle the complexity of heavy robotic welding processes.

More and more, robotic welding is becoming a viable solution for the use of high-mix low-volume, heavy fabrication projects.  Most heavy welding applications need to be accommodated for being large, heavy, and welded in position due to the large fluid weld puddle.  This generally requires multi-axis positioners and robot transport units to greatly expand the reach and handling capability of the robot. Integrating custom welding solutions can meet the demands of some of the most challenging applications in the fabrication industry.

Offline Programming

One method used to deal with the part variety and low volume aspect of heavy fabrication, a PC computer application is utilized for programming welding robots in an offline environment concurrent to production. Offline programming solutions are typically generated through native OEM software such as Robot Studio; meeting the requirements of the most challenging welding applications.  Due to advanced calibration techniques, we can now generate programs offline that to not require an operator to touch-up program points after they are loaded into the robot controller.   Offline programming offers heavy fabricators with features such as:

  • Robot cell concept generation
  • Easy evaluation of standard and custom components
  • Creation of motion paths
  • Collision visualization
  • Programming and validation of complete production programs
  • Cycle time estimation

Offline Programming Examples:

  • Wheel Loader Buckets – Runoff one bucket in 1.5 days post Offline programming
  • New style engine frame – 1 week for program validation & process development then run in automatic mode
  • Loader Engine Frame – 1 week to program two robots then validation & weld development.
  • Engine End Frame Boxes – 6 days for validation (L & R) then running in automatic mode
  • Large Refuse Compactor Frames – 4 days for validation to Automatic mode
  • Wheel loader frame Full program transfer capability between two different cells using common programming modules and welding data

Virtual Controller

Offline programming packages utilize what is known as a virtual controller which presents a replica of the real robot system in a simulation environment.  By using a calibrated, matched replica of the real robot controller for offline programming it makes it possible to download programs directly into the system with minimal program touch-up

Robot Virtual Controller Attributes:

  • Accurate cycle time simulation
  • Accurate simulation of path behavior
  • Full controller language support for off-line programming
  • Up/download of robot programs without translators
  • Use of configuration files from the real controller


Welding Sensors

Through the arc and vision seam tracking systems utilize a variety of sensor technology required for robotic welding because they provide essential data to the robot to relay where the welding torch location is relative to the weld joint thus providing the ability to accurately complete demanding welds.  These systems are able to transmit trajectory correction data to the robot’s motion planner so that it is able to produce an accurate weld every time.  Sensor technology gives us the ability to cope with everyday welding challenges that a human welder does without much thought.

Welding Sensor Options

  • Touch sensing seam locating
  • Thru arc seam tracking
  • Laser based vision- seam locating and tracking

Meeting Heavy Fabrication Demands with Robots

Automating the welding processes for heavy fabricated parts can help fabricators drastically increase productivity and quality while decreasing welding costs.

Midwest Engineering Systems Inc. offers custom and pre-engineered welding and cutting solutions including robotic  GMAW, GTAW, GMAW-P, PAW, Plasma cutting, resistance / spot welding for applications in heavy & light gauge material welding, heavy deposition welding, tandem & twin arc processes.  Our custom positioner designs are equipped with the part handling capability for large payloads ranging from 1,000-50,000+kg systems as well as smaller pre-configured systems.  We staff a number of AWS Certified Welding Inspectors and Certified Robotic Arc Welding Technicians in order to provide you with high quality service.

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