Let’s begin with the most important choice. When picking a Welding robot for your business, you'll need to consider the type of welding it can perform and the end-effector, or welding torch, it requires. The major types are:
Regardless of the type of robot you choose, it’s good to keep in mind that a large robot can weld big, bulky parts but will require more floor space and safety fixtures. On the other hand, a small robot will mitigate these concerns but may lack the power, range and precision, also known as repeatability, for your applications. Compare specs like payload capacity, duty cycle, repeatability, accuracy, and IP rating to choose a robot suited for your production line.
With a robot selected, your next consideration will be the end-effector, which in robotics refers to the tool you want the robot to use.
Unsurprisingly, this end-effector will take the form of a welding torch not too unlike that which your human welders use but adapted for your robot of choice. Robots can handle welding torches, MIG welding guns, dual-tipped resistance welding torches, and even laser welding machines. These are powered separately from the robot itself and may require additional resources, such as shielding gas.
Arc Welding robots are the most common and often a good economical choice. End-effectors for these robots are common and your robot’s manufacturer will be able to recommend the best fit for your robot and application. Note that you’ll need a robot with a high enough payload to handle not only the welding torch but also any attached cabling for shielding gas.
Laser welding end-effectors use a concentrated laser beam to melt and fuse metals. They require a laser welding head to focus and aim the laser, which works well for high-precision welds, especially on small parts. However, laser Welding robots are typically the most expensive type as they require an external laser generator, which can demand a large amount of floor space in your cell and extra safety precautions for the high-energy laser.
It’s necessary to consider the types of materials you need to weld, weld quality and precision, production volume, and budget when choosing between arc welding, resistance welding or laser Welding robots. You should also ensure your robot has a high enough payload capacity to handle any additional cabling required for the end-effector.
When choosing a Welding robot, there are a few key factors to consider based on your needs and specific welding application.
For instance, the number of axes or degrees of freedom. A robot with four to six axes of movement will offer more flexibility and dexterity for complex welds. Fewer axes, like three, may be suitable for basic spot welding, but not for advanced joins. Think about the types of welds you need to perform, the types of angles the robot needs to reach, and how much articulation is required.
Then you’ll also want to consider the payload capacity which refers to the maximum weight the robot can lift and manipulate. You may require your robot — or another nearby robot — to manipulate and maneuver parts for welding. Most importantly, your robot needs to be strong enough to handle both the end-effector and any connected power source, electrode for MIG welding or shielding gas cabling.
Another consideration is the working environment. If high temperatures or hazardous conditions are present, a robot with an appropriate IP protection rating is needed. Some are designed to withstand high heat, dust, moisture or chemicals. If you’ll have human welders or operators working in close proximity to your robots, ensure you have the budget and space for the necessary safety equipment.
Major manufacturers of Welding robots include FANUC, ABB, KUKA, Yaskawa, and Standard Bots. Comparing specifications and offerings from different companies can help find a robot well-suited to your welding tasks. By evaluating your needs, welding processes and facility requirements, you can choose a Welding robot that is optimally designed for the job.
When choosing a Welding robot, you have several top manufacturers to consider. Each offers models with different capabilities, so you can find one suited for your specific needs.
ABB is a Swiss pioneer in robotics and welding automation. They offer a range of Articulated and Cartesian Welding robots that are able to handle both small precision welds as well as high-volume production. Their robot arms provide flexibility and can weld in hard-to-reach areas. Popular welding models include the IRB 2600 and IRB 4400.
FANUC is another industry leader, producing over 400,000 Welding robots and is headquartered in Japan. Their diverse range includes everything from affordable tabletop robots for small shops to higher-payload models for heavy manufacturing. Known for reliability and precision, popular Fanuc Welding robots include the ARC Mate 100iC and ARC Mate 120iC.
Germany-based KUKA manufactures robotic welding solutions for Arc Welding, Laser Welding and Spot Welding in a variety of industries. Their KR AGILUS series provides compact, lightweight models well-suited for medium payloads. The KR 1000 Titan is designed for demanding welding applications with its high payload and long reach. KUKA’s Welding robots are known for speed, precision and longevity.
Japan-based Yaskawa Motoman produces innovative Welding robots for cost-effective, automated welding. Their broad range includes the affordable GP series, the high-speed and compact DX series, and the industry-leading NX series for heavy payload welding. Yaskawa’s welding robots provide speed, reliability and welding quality for high-production environments. Popular models are the GP25 and the NX100.
Standard Bots is a US-based robotics manufacturer. Their RO1 Six-Axis robot brings the highest payload and most precise repeatability in its class. The company is well-known for its competitive pricing, advanced, no-code programming, and vision systems.
Have a question we didn’t cover? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
Welding robots can perform several major types of welding:
The specific welding method depends on the type of end-effector, or welding tool head, attached to the robot arm. Robots can weld both similar and dissimilar metals with high precision and quality.
The end-effector, or welding tool head, determines the welding process. Common types include:
You'll need to choose an end-effector that matches your desired welding method. Some robots also allow you to switch between multiple end-effectors for different operations or to perform an action like gripping and moving a workpiece. Your robot’s manufacturer will be able to recommend the ideal end-effector for your application.
Welding robot solutions can range from $35,000 to $500,000 or more, depending on the robot size, number of robots required, payload, and features. Additional costs can include the end-effector, programming software, accessories — such as workpiece clamps, conveyors or laser-guidance systems — safety accessories installation, and training. While the upfront investment can be significant, Welding robots often provide a fast return on investment through increased productivity and duty cycles, consistent quality, and reduced costs.
With this high-level overview of the Welding robot landscape, you now have the knowledge to make an informed choice for your specific welding needs. Whether you’re automating TIG Welding, Spot Welding or another process, the purchase process remains the same.
Consider your required weld types, workpiece sizes, production volumes and of course, budget. With some research, you’ll find the perfect robotic welder to boost your productivity, improve quality and take your manufacturing capabilities to the next level.
Interested in bringing Welding robots 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.