How To Analyze a Welding Application for Automation
What Is Automated Welding?
Welding automation is broken down into two basic categories: Semi-automatic and Fully Automatic. In semi-automatic welding, an operator manually loads the part(s) into the welding fixture. A weld controller then controls the torch/part motions and welding parameters to ensure a quality, repeatable weld. After the weld is completed, the operator then removes the completed part and the process begins again.
Fully automatic welding uses a custom machine or series of machines to load the workpiece, index the part or torch into position, effect the weld, monitor quality control, and then unload the finished product. Additional "part in place" and final product quality checks may also be designed into the machine if necessary. Depending on the details of the specific operation, a machine operator may or may not be necessary.
Which Welding Applications Are Most Suitable For Automation?
Applications that benefit most from automation have one or all of the following three basic requirements:
Excellent candidates for automation include, but are not limited to precision devices such as batteries, capacitor cans, solenoids, sensors transducers & instrumentation, metal bellows & seals, relay cans & enclosures, light bulb elements, fuel filters, thermos flasks, medical components, nuclear devices, pipe to fittings, transformer cores, valve elements and airbag components. Companies that make limited quantities of products may benefit from a semi-automatic system but might not be candidates for fully automated welding systems.
Benefits Of Automated Welding
The benefits of well-engineered welding systems range from improved weld quality to decreased variable labor costs. The most prominent advantages are:
Planning For Welding Automation
The benefits of system automation are accompanied by some challenges. Although these factors can be controlled, they should be recognized from the onset of a project for automated welding.
Strategy For An Automated Welding Project
In times when quality and productivity are watchwords with suppliers and customers are demanding superior products, the implementation of an automated welding system may determine whether a company remains competitive. Use the following strategy and guidelines to help avoid pitfalls.
Project Objectives and Details
What are the exact objectives of the project? What do you specifically want to improve on, speed up, or otherwise change through welding automation?
Welding Automation Suppliers:
Research the automation supplier thoroughly. Do they have skills both in welding technology and automation? Ask for appropriate references.
Before purchasing any system, have the supplier provide you with sample welds using standard production parts if possible. This will show the weld quality and welds speeds possible.
The results of a well thought out plan for an automated welding system are tremendous savings in time and money. Benefits are derived in weld quality, labor savings, decreased costs, ease of operation, repeatability, reliability, scrap and rework reduction, and increased productivity. As companies become increasingly challenged with rising costs and global competition, these are benefits the modern manufacturing organization simply cannot afford to ignore.
Costing An Automated Welding System
How much automation do you need?
Operator and skilled welder salaries vary somewhat according to geographic location. The basic assumptions used in the calculations below are as follows:
Work hours per year: 2000 (40hours/week x 50 weeks/year)
Manual Welder Costs
The table below gives a simple example of calculations for return on investment based on equipment and labor costs alone. For a full analysis of actual costs the following must also be considered:
With sufficient production requirements, the choice for automated welding becomes obvious based on labor rates alone. The usual question is how much to automate.
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