Flexibility and adaptivity have become vital capabilities in heavy manufacturing. The new enhancements in software and welding automation enable the robot to sense the altering groove geometries bringing new state-of-art dimensions to welding heavy and complex structures.
Shift from manual to adaptive welding
It is fair to say that the world’s most adaptive welding system is a professional manual welder. A manual welder can adapt to variables accordingly and thus, perform needed actions successfully to create high-quality welds even in the most demanding circumstances.
Machinery, automation, and robotics are designed to increase health, safety, and ergonomics and to increase the cost-effectiveness of welding. The request for improving repeatability, productivity, and constant high quality is increasing globally, automated welding solutions are needed to fulfill those requests. Furthermore, as the trend of lacking skilled manual welders is rapidly spreading and growing all over the world, modern welding machinery is even more desperately needed to perform welding tasks. With welding automation, multiple work phases can be performed flawlessly, repeatedly, and time after time. And with the ever developing technology, adapting to variables in a similar way as a manual welder is possible.
Welding automation solutions that do not have a “sensing” system and smart software to interpret the information, require precise preparations. In some instances, it is not cost-efficient to make prefabrication with such high precision to enable automated welding. This is usually the point where adaptive robotic welding comes into question. With adaptive welding, machinery, and automation can mimic the needed actions the manual welder performs while creating high-quality welds.
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Adaptive robotic welding in a nutshell
Automated welding which adapts to weld conditions by controlling welding parameters in real time is called adaptive welding. To describe the development levels, welding automation is typically divided into different stages starting from manual welding and incrementing to adaptive welding. Today, adaptive robotic welding is considered the highest and most sophisticated automation level.
The biggest advantages of adaptive welding are gained when welding geometrically altering grooves on heavy and large products. Thanks to the method’s capability to “sense”, it enables consistent and flawless welding quality despite the groove changes. Additionally, when automation takes care of both handling and welding, production efficiency and safety are maintained high. Adaptive features enable automated welding to be used for weld joints where preparations are not 100% accurate.
In adaptive welding, the movements and welding parameters are automatically adjusted according to information received from sensors. The sensor type that is commonly used in the manufacturing industry for adaptive welding is the optical laser sensor. The information, usually the position and geometry of the weld groove, is delivered to the control system. The control system uses this information to adjust the welding equipment and the automated machine moving the torch. In a robotized adaptive welding application supplied by Pemamek, this means that robot will adjust the welding speed, weaving parameters torch location, and torch angle according to the information provided by the sensor & control system.
Additionally, when automation takes care of both handling and welding, production efficiency and safety are maintained high.
Multi-pass welding with PEMA WeldControl 300 Scan
At the core of any adaptive welding method are sophisticated software and intelligent sensing system, such as laser scanning. At Pemamek this powerful combination is called PEMA WeldControl 300 Scan. Robotized stations equipped with Scan software can produce flawless full penetration welds, e.g., pressure vessel nozzles, wind energy components, large crane components, and mining equipment.
Compared to robots equipped with traditional multi-pass functions, such as a fixed multi-pass weld sequence, Pemamek’s Scan’s advancements are significantly ahead. After the automated scanning work cycle, the data of the scanned groove is presented in PEMA WeldControl 300 SCAN software. The operator can utilize the library of the existing multi-pass weld sequences for the scanned groove or create a new sequence, which can be saved in the library and applied in the future to similar weld connections. In the Scan software, every single weld pass in the multi-pass weld sequence is adapted to the scanned groove automatically by the software. With these features, the groove is filled evenly despite preparation-caused deviations.
For adaptive robotic welding to become a mainstream method in heavy manufacturing industries, continuous development and collaboration are needed among different operators in the manufacturing industry and within the solution providers. In the future, the core philosophy that welders are the welding operators will remain the same, but the focus should be on increasing the productivity and usability of the automation solution.
One potential development trajectory is improving the robot’s reachability. When this is improved, robotic adaptive welding can be used in even smaller spaces, opening new doors in the spectrum of suitable workpieces. The advancements in the usability of the solutions are also highly valuable. By decreasing the number of needed actions by the operator in the control system, the operator is no longer tied to the control system and is therefore free to do other tasks. As the HMI can do tasks in a more automated way, adaptive robotic welding could be paired with for example PEMA FMS solutions. In an optimal scenario, adaptive robotic welding could be utilized even in unmanned production. At Pemamek having the possibility to make the control system and solution optimization by in-house engineers and run thorough tests enables fast-paced responses for existing and new upcoming challenges.
Adaptive robotic welding has been used in the manufacturing industry for many years, but today the need for smarter, more responsive, and adaptive solutions is higher than ever before.
Manual Welding: Welding is performed manually.
Partly mechanized welding: Manual welding with mechanized feeding of filler material.
Mechanized welding:Welding, where all the main processes (exluding workpiece handling) are automated. Manual adjusting of welding parameters during welding is possible.
Automatic welding: Welding, where all the main processes are automated. Manual adjusting of welding parameters during welding is not possible.
Robotic welding: Automatic welding performed by robot.
Adaptive welding: Automatic welding, where movements and welding parameters are adjusted automatically and in real time according to information from sensors.