Robotic Welding Cell Cuts Production Time In Half
Advanced Cutting Systems started in 1992 as a waterjet cutting shop primarily processing foam and fiberglass. As the business grew, so did the need for more fabrication equipment including; 5 –axis waterjets, press brakes, laser cutting, and in February of 2008, a robotic welding cell. Kevin Koenig, President of Advanced Cutting Systems took some time to answer a few questions about his latest piece of welding equipment, a robotic welding cell.
What are the parts you are currently welding on the robot?
We weld a variety of parts on the robot but right now we are welding soil conditioners. It’s a pretty big part, it has about 200 welds that are about once inch long.
How were you welding these parts before and how long did it take you to finish?
We had a fixture; we would assemble, tack and weld by hand. The manual weld time on that part is 1 hour from start to finish.
Was that a time consuming process?
Yes it was. We still tack weld for the robot, but the primary welds are much faster. So instead of hiring an experienced welder we can train someone to tack weld the parts, so we save money on labor by not having to hire an experienced welder.
How has the robotic welding cell changed that?
The robotic welding cell has cut production time in half. We can weld the same part in 30 minutes.
How hard is it to find a good, quality manual welder these days?
Real hard. It seems like they don’t teach it in high school anymore. You have to learn it on the job and I don’t want to pay to train someone on the job. It has taken us 3 years to find 3 good welders.
Is that the reason you added a robotic welding cell?
We wanted to add a robot because at the time we had two welders, but when things got slower it was harder to find something to keep those guys busy. The robot can run so much faster and welds are so much better. Plus, our customers appreciate the quality of the welds.
How has the robot changed your process and flow?
The guys who were manually welding before are now the ones making the fixtures and they have more time to make the fixtures, which allows for better parts. Not only that, but they can run the lathe or another machine while the robot is working, so we need less labor to do more work.
What kind of production difference have you seen on the welding cell?
On some parts it’s been as much as a 3 to 1 difference on part output. On bigger parts that we used to do by hand you would have a lot more material handling; we would weld then move the part and weld again. However, with the rotary axis we can load parts on both sides of the fixture and move from one part to the next without having to clear off the area, it saves time.
How has the robotic welding unit helped you compete in the marketplace?
It keeps our cost down, which makes us more competitive. It has allowed us to bid on, and win, larger jobs that in the past we would not have been able to bid on, it has made us more profitable in that way.
How has adding a robotic welding unit affected your secondary processes?
We have a lot less clean up now. With manual welding you have more clean up and grinding on the parts, robotic welding just doesn’t have that. It allows us to ship parts faster and we get paid faster.
Who do you have operating the robot?
We just brought a guy in who has never welded before and had no training. We taught him to tack weld the parts and then all he has to do is load the fixture and push a button.
Do you feel the training you received allowed you to program and run the robot?
Yes. We were able to get a part running in a couple days and it was about two weeks before we were programming and welding our own parts.
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