Robotic Welding and the Future of Manufacturing

October 16, 2015 | American Manufacturing, Welding

The MFDC welder at work.Time flies, doesn’t it? A little over a year ago, Marlin Steel added a revolutionary new parts welding machine to its production line: the CSR102-1230-MFDC NC Jig Welding System from IDEAL.

At the time, the machine was only five in the world, and the only one outside of Germany, making it a rare and unique piece of equipment. This machine represented a new and more efficient future for welding operations, as it was able to complete a weld in 1/30th the time it would take a traditional AC (Alternating Current) welding machine to complete the same operation.

Just as the first arc welding robots represented a new leap in manufacturing efficiency over manual welding, the MFDC (Medium Frequency Direct Current) welding machine from IDEAL was an evolution in the welding process.

This makes the MFDC welder an example of the future of robotic welding.

How will this technology impact future manufacturing efforts? Here are a few ways.

Increased Efficiency

As MFDC welding devices become more commonplace, manufacturers who adopt them for welding operations will grow more efficient than before. This can be attributed to a combination of factors, including:

  • Fast Weld Speeds. As mentioned earlier, the MFDC welder can complete a weld in 1/30 the time it takes a traditional AC welder. For reference, an AC welder takes 60/1,000 of a second to make a weld, an MFDC welder does it in 2/1,000 of a second. A human eye blink takes 100-400/1,000 of a second, so an MFDC welder could (theoretically) complete between 50 and 200 welds before you could finish blinking your eyes.

  • Reduced Spatter/Discoloration. A side benefit of completing welds faster is that the MFDC welding machine uses less flash, which reduces the blistering, spatter, and discoloration caused by arc welding operations.

  • Less Deburring After the Weld. One of the processes that typically adds a lot of time to the manufacture of a welded metal part is the deburring process, wherein sharps, burrs, and other deformities are ground down to leave a smooth, even surface. By reducing the occurrence of these deformities, you can reduce the amount of time and labor spent on correcting these deformities.

All of these factors help to reduce the amount of time and labor you use for each part produced using the MFDC welder.

Reduced Need for Manual Adjustments in the Welding Process

As welding technology continues to improve, we will see the parts manipulation and overall agility of welding machines increase.

For example, the MFDC welder used by Marlin Steel has multiple welding heads that can move in three dimensions, and even a pincer welding head that can rotate 359 degrees of a full circle. This enables the welder to handle welds in a part at multiple heights or along a curved surface without the need for an engineer to manually reposition the part for each weld.

One benefit of this is improved efficiency, since you don’t have as much downtime between welds.

Another benefit is…

Increased Safety for Production Workers

Welding parts manually is hazardous work on the best day. Whether you use oxyacetylene torches or arc welding wands, there’s always the risk of metal spatter or sparks causing injury to a worker that is holding the welding device in their hands.

Even when workers were extra careful not to burn themselves, being so close to the spark and flash of the welding process could cause permanent vision damage.

Older robotic welders that could only weld along a 2D plane still put their operators in harm’s way from time to time, as the operators of such devices would manually hold and position some parts while the robotic welders were at work.

As robotic welders with full 3D welding capabilities become more commonplace, manufacturers who use them should see a significant drop in their time-lost incident and workman’s comp claim rates.

This is because instead of holding a hot torch in their hands and staring point-blank into the flash of every weld, workers will be able to take a more supervisory role, standing well back from the potential injury risks of the weld operation and overseeing the performance of the manufacturing robot.

For example, Marlin Steel has gone several years without a time-lost incident on its manufacturing floor thanks in large part to manufacturing automation such as the MFDC welding robot.

So, what does the future hold for welding and the manufacturing industry? If technology continues to improve as it has over the last few years, it should continue to become more efficient, productive, and safe thanks to innovations such as MFDC welding and newer, more agile robotic arms for automated welders.

Marlin Steel Ideal Welding Machine