The advantages of robotic welding over manual welding
Robotic welding is an automated manufacturing process in which a robot operates welding equipment guided by software. It first gained popularity on automotive assembly lines that required highly repetitive tasks to be completed quickly and accurately.
Robotic machinery on a traditional high-volume production line
Today, robotic welding is a popular choice in all kinds of heavy industries that involve highly repetitive manual work. More recently there has been a drive to use robots in manufacturing to tackle the chronic shortage of skilled welders.
As more and more manufacturers consider robotic welding, it’s important to understand exactly what benefits robotic welding offers over the traditional manual approach.
What are the advantages of robotic welding?
Robotic welding isn’t right for every welding job, but it can work very well in a number of familiar applications. Let’s take a look at three advantages robotic welding brings to the table.
1. Consistent quality
Quality is the most important factor in welding. A poor-quality weld is never acceptable, even if it’s done quickly.
Robotic welding systems excel at consistent, precise results because they are programmed to perform the exact same movements with every weld. This consistency in quality reassures manufacturers that their products will meet the expected standards. With manual welding, achieving very high consistency requires exceptional skills and attention to detail. Even the most experienced welders will have some degree of variability in their welding movements. These variations may be slight but can affect the quality and durability of the weld.
Ultimately, robotic precision and repeatability combine to deliver higher quality welds, as long as the robot has been programmed accurately. Precise movements of the torch also mean the robot can complete a weld in fewer passes. This reduces the risk of distortion from the heat of the metal near the point of contact, which is a common challenge with manual welding.
2. Increased productivity
Manufacturers typically increase productivity in two ways: by running longer shifts or by finishing each job faster. Robotic welding can do both, enabling significant gains in productivity.
Robotic welding systems, unlike their human counterparts, do not take breaks, go on vacation, get sick, or even sleep. These systems are often designed to withstand the rigors of 24-hour operation, so they can expand your production capacity instantly.
Robotic welding is quicker than manual welding, so every shift delivers higher throughput. Plus, let’s not forget the impact of higher consistency on productivity. Robots not only eliminate the need to repeat tasks, but their lower overall rate of errors minimizes time spent on rework.
Finally, robotic welding allows manufacturers to reassign the most skilled welders to those tasks that can only be performed manually, boosting productivity for those jobs.
3. Lower costs
Robotic welding helps manufacturers minimize costs in several ways.
While it’s true that robotic welding systems have significant up-front costs, they reduce the amount of money spent to keep human welders safe. Welding can be dangerous, so naturally it requires an investment in training, safety gear, insurance, inspections, and other related costs. Robotic welding eliminates all of these for certain applications.
Software programs a robot to weld once, reducing overwelding waste
Improving productivity also reduces operating costs, and these savings can be used to increase your margins or have a bigger competitive advantage when bidding on new contracts.
A third way robotic welding lowers costs is by reducing waste. Overwelding happens when welders intuitively reinforce the quality of a weld with an oversized bead, resulting in a lot of wasted material. Manual welders also make mistakes that require rework, which uses up even more material.
On a similar note, robotic welding systems minimize splatter because they work so precisely and repeatably. Less splatter means less waste as well as less downtime in between jobs because cleanup doesn’t take as long.
Robotic welding allows manufacturers to exert greater control over all potential operating costs, including consumable supplies and even power. In fact, robotic welding systems actually conserve energy by running continuously instead of requiring repeated start-ups.
What are the disadvantages of robotic welding?
Like all welding options, robotic welding has some disadvantages too. The most notable one is the initial investment, which can be significant compared to adding a manual welder to your workforce. (Of course, robotic welding systems are growing in popularity because these manual welders are in short supply.) Higher up-front costs can also be mitigated by running the system for more continuous shifts and gaining ROI more rapidly.
Another potential disadvantage is complex system operation. Automated systems still need to be programmed, which can take days, weeks, and in some cases even months. This is another reason to carefully consider what type of programming solution you’ll use for your robotic welding system.
Learn about robotic programming
Discover what’s possible with automated programming solutions for robotic welding in a wide range of high-volume and low-volume applications and read our guide to offline robot programming.