Choosing and installing a robot is the most important part of any TIG Welding automation endeavor. To get set up, here are the steps:
First, choose a robot model that can handle the materials, welding positions, and production volumes you need. Many manufacturers offer Six-Axis robots specifically designed for welding, with the durability to withstand high heat for extended periods and the precision to produce clean welds. Look for one with a reach of at least 1 meter so it has an ample range of motion.
Your robotic arm will need to be equipped with an “end-effector” - the “hand” or tool of the robot arm - so make sure that you choose a robotic arm with a high enough payload to lift the end-effector. This is particularly important with welding since your robot will also need to handle heavy cables. We recommend at least 10-15kg in payload capacity for a TIG Welding robot.
Next, select a welding tool end-effector for your robot. In most cases, your robot arm’s manufacturer will be able to recommend the best match. Remember, you’ll still need a separate welding power source and wire feeder to match your end-effector - the robot arm will be powered separately. For TIG Welding, you'll want a power source that provides a consistent, stable arc, as well as a water cooler to prevent overheating. Have compatible cables, hoses, and torches on hand to connect the components.
Then install the robot, power source, and wire feeder on a sturdy platform or frame near your welding stations. With all the gear in place, you'll need to program the robot's control software with the specific welding parameters for your parts. This includes details like weld sequence, travel speed, amperage, and gas flow. You'll teach the robot the correct motion path, weld timing, and weld positions for each joint.
With some practice, your robot will be laying down perfect beads in no time. Regular maintenance like torch inspections, filter changes, and software updates will keep it welding strong for years to come.
To successfully integrate TIG Welding robots into your factory, you’ll need to make sure your experienced human welders are best prepared to work safely and efficiently with their new automated colleagues.
When implementing robotic TIG Welding, safety should be your top priority. Robotic arms move at high speeds and conduct an arc welding process with extreme heat, so proper precautions must be taken. With training covered, turn your attention to the many physical safeguards you can put in place to protect your workforce.
Note: You can mitigate many common safety issues with robots by purchasing a “Collaborative robot”, or Cobot, such as RO1. These robots come with built-in collision avoidance and emergency stop functionality. Despite this, it’s worth taking stock of the possible hazards in working with welding robots.
Your robot’s manufacturer or your installation partner should be the ultimate source for information on a full safety solution, but here are our go-to tips for most fab shops:
Following standard welding safety practices and implementing additional precautions for robotics will help ensure your TIG Welding automation project proceeds safely and efficiently. Protecting human life and health should be the top goal of any factory initiative.
Automating TIG Welding will not replace human welders entirely. Robotic welders excel at high-volume, repetitive welding tasks, but human welders are often still the best choice for complex welds, one-off projects, and situations where adaptability is required. Many factories are choosing to use robotic welders for simple, repetitive welds while keeping human welders on staff for more complex jobs or to oversee. This hybrid approach allows companies to improve efficiency and quality while still valuing the human workforce.
The cost of automating TIG Welding can vary significantly depending on the scale and complexity of your operations. Basic robotic welders start around $35,000 with RO1, while large-scale automated welding lines can cost $500,000 or more after factoring in the robot, welding equipment, software, programming, and integration. While the upfront costs of automation may seem high, many manufacturers find that the increased productivity, improved quality, and reduced long-term costs ultimately make the investment worthwhile.
Some retraining of your human welders may be required when implementing automated TIG Welding. Your welders will need to learn how to properly set up, program and oversee the robotic welding equipment. They may also take on more supervisory and quality control roles as robots take over some of the physical welding work. Many welding technicians find that developing robotics skills enhances their career opportunities and job security in an increasingly automated industry.
The types of TIG Welding jobs best suited for automation include:
In general, if a TIG Welding task is repetitive, high-volume, and does not require complex programming or frequent adjustments, it is a good candidate for automation. Automating these simple, repetitive welds frees up your skilled human welders to focus on more complex, custom work.
So there you have it, a step-by-step plan for bringing automated welding technology into your factory and alleviating the pressures of a nationwide welding labor shortage. While the process may seem daunting, by following this blueprint you'll be up and running in no time. Once implemented, you'll immediately start to reap the benefits of increased productivity, improved weld quality, and cost savings.
Not to mention, your welders will appreciate being freed up to focus on the more complex, intricate welds that still require a human touch!
Interested in bringing robotic TIG Welding to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is the best choice for fab shops large and small:
Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.