Robotics help client climb ladder of welding challenges
27/10/2006 - How did an Australian safety equipment manufacturer recently expand their production of welded aluminium ladders when the national skills shortage has decimated the pool of good welding staff? And how could they have saved money AND improved quality while doing this?
Welding aluminium rungs along a 2.4 metre section of ladder is a repetitive and time-consuming process. It's also skill-consuming; aluminium is a difficult material to weld with - due to its low melting point and susceptibility to ambient temperature variations. On top of that, variations in weld penetration or bead profile can inhibit the sections of the ladder which must slide against each other freely to extend the ladder to it's different operating positions. 32 consistent & high-quality aluminium welds were required for each ladder section - the potential for failure and wastage is high.
When demand for the client's ladder products began to outstrip their capacity to supply they were faced with a problem, particularly in the current climate where the "national skills shortage" extends to skilled welding staff. Attracting such staff is hard, and retaining such staff in a repetitive job would be harder still.
Robotic Automation P/L provided a fully integrated OTC robotic welding package and safety cell equipment.
A work cell was configured with two work-stations and safety screens mounted on a horizontal-axis positioner (somewhat like a BBQ spit!) positioned in front of the robot. This arrangement makes the most efficient use of space, and allows an operator to simply load a ladder section to the jig fixture at station 1 while the robot welds another section on station 2.
When finished, the positioner flips the stations over so the robot can immediately begin welding the freshly loaded section, while the operator now has access to station 2, where they can unload the finished section and load the next. The process is then repeated in continuity.
The operator is always protected - both from the robots fast movements and the glare of the welder - by the safety screen which bisects the two stations.
A "Long-reach" model of the OTC AX-V6 robot was chosen to work with these larger aluminium sections, boasting a working diameter of 4012mm and repeatability within +/- 0.1mm.
The new DW-300 digital MIG welding system was chosen for its newly developed heat-reducing "AC/DC Wave-Pulse" and "Turbo start" functions which provide superior quality and arc-start performance on aluminium and other thin-plate metals, with clean and smooth "TIG-like" bead appearance.
The system also provides an Arc-monitoring function and an extended range of parameter controls to account for environment conditions, including: Penetration-depth, Volume of melted wire, Gap tolerance and much more - taking all the anxiety out of aluminium welding.
- Greater weld speed
- Greater weld quality
- Greater weld consistency
- Much greater production capacity
- Reduced skilled-labour costs