How to get started with robotic spot welding in 2024

March 26, 2024
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What is robotic spot welding?

Robotic spot welding uses automated robots to perform resistance spot welds on metal components. 

As you know, resistance spot welding works by passing an electrical current through the metal pieces to generate heat and melt the materials, fusing them together.

The spot welding robot arm positions the welding gun over the weld joint. The gun contains copper electrodes that clamp down on both sides of the metal pieces under high pressure. 

When the robot arm triggers the welder, it releases a short burst of high-amperage, low-voltage electricity, generating intense heat and creating the weld nugget.

How do spot welding robots work?

So, how are robots making automated spot welding possible? Let’s take a closer look: 

First, we’ll look at the welding process. The spot welding robot positions the welding gun over the pieces of metal to be joined. It then presses the gun against the metal with a pre-programmed amount of force and delivers an electric current. This heats up the metal pieces, melting them together at the point of contact. Once the weld is done the robot retracts the gun.

Second, we’ll focus on heat and pressure. Spot welding robots are very precise. They can control the amount of heat and pressure applied during welding to produce consistent, high-quality welds. The robot's welding controller adjusts the current, voltage, and weld time based on the thickness and type of metal being welded. It also delicately controls the force the robot applies to get good contact between the pieces without bending the metal.

Spot welding robots can work at tremendously high speeds, completing multiple welds per minute. They’re also highly repeatable, performing the same welding sequence precisely the same way each time. This repeatability and speed, combined with their ability to work continuously with zero breaks, allows Spot Welding robots to dramatically increase productivity and throughput.

Why automate spot welds?

Still not sold on the benefits of spot welding robots? 

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights that make them so great: 

  • Robotic spot welders can perform welds much faster and more consistently than human welders. A single robotic arm can complete up to 60 welds per minute with pinpoint accuracy and repeatability. You can bet that this is a huge boost to productivity and overall quality metrics. 
  • Robotic spot welders can be reprogrammed to weld different parts as needed. The robot simply needs to be recalibrated and provided with the right welding program. This flexibility allows manufacturers to weld a variety of parts on the same system. You can also reconfigure robotic weld cells by adding or removing robot arms to meet changing production needs.
  • It can massively cut down on labor costs. Manual spot welding is an intensive, repetitive task that necessitates skilled workers. Robotic spot welding automation can minimize the number of workers needed and reduce labor costs significantly. Once programmed, spot welding robots can operate on and on without breaks — a win for productivity and throughput. 
  • Robotic spot welders provide consistent, high-quality welds. They’re programmed to follow the exact same process for each weld, applying uniform pressure, current, and time. This results in strong, uniform welds and minimizes defects. Robots also have sophisticated sensing abilities to check each weld and make 100% sure it meets strict quality standards before moving on.
  • Things get so much safer. Robotic spot welding removes workers from dangerous environments near high electrical currents, hot metal pieces, and toxic fumes. In turn, this helps minimize the risks of burns, injuries, and other horrible health issues for workers.

    But yes, proper safeguards and precautions are still necessary to protect workers interacting with and maintaining the welding robots. But overall, automation leads to a safer work environment.´

Note: Keep in mind that a lot of the usual safety concerns associated with robots can be addressed by opting for a "collaborative robot," or Cobot, like RO1. These types of robots are equipped with integrated collision detection and emergency halt features. Still, it's important to assess potential risks when utilizing welding robots

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Spot welding robots: Recommendations & costs

Spot welding robots, while a huge investment, offer long-term returns in efficiency and product quality that many manufacturers find not justifiable, but desirable. 

When thinking about going for a spot welding system, you’ll need to factor in both the initial outlay and the continuous operating expenses.

Here's what to mull over first:

  • The purchase price is going to be the bulk of your expense, with the robotic arm usually being the largest initial expense. 

    For a Six-Axis arm suitable for spot welding, expect prices to range from $25,000 to $90,000, depending on desired payload capacity and reach — we recommend no less than 15 kg.
  • Additional costs include a welding power unit, electrodes, end-of-arm-tooling, and any required mounting hardware or protective enclosures. A basic robotic spot welding cell might set you back anywhere from $60,000 to $180,000 or more, in total.
  • But you should also pay significant attention to operational costs. Expenses will include electrodes, electricity for both the robot and welding units, and routine maintenance such as servicing, part replacement, and occasional software updates to improve the robot’s capabilities or integrate new functionalities.

  • Training your staff to safely program, operate, and upkeep the system is also part of the bare necessities. Annually, operating costs could amount to roughly 10-15% of the system's purchase price.

All in all, most companies budget at least $50,000 to $500,000 for a complete robotic spot welding setup, depending on the number of robots and complexity. 

So, while the upfront costs of automation can be significant, robotic spot welding systems can provide major cost savings through improved productivity, quality, and safety over the lifetime of the equipment. And, a sweet ROI of 1-3 years to boot! 

How to implement robotic spot welding in your fab shop 

Once you’ve decided to automate your spot welding operations, it’s time to figure out how to actually implement robotic spot welding in your fab shop

There are a few steps to keep in mind before you make a purchase: 

  • First, make sure your facility can accommodate robotic spot welding equipment in the first place. You’ll need enough floor space for the robots, welding guns, and any conveyor belts. The area also needs to be properly ventilated and temperature-controlled. If your building’s power supply can’t handle the energy demands of the robots, you may need to upgrade it.

    You’ll also have to consider whether you need to purchase and install safeguards or not, so factor that in. 
  • Next, you’ll have to determine how to integrate the robots into your existing production line. You may need to reconfigure the line to maximize the efficiency of the new automated equipment. Parts that were once manually handled and welded will now need to be systematically loaded and unloaded for the robots.

    So, factor in additional conveyors or part feeders to automatically transport materials.
  • Once your new robotic welding system is ready to go, your team will still need proper training to operate and maintain it. Work with your robotics provider to develop training programs for different roles like programmers, operators, and technicians.

    You’ll also need to implement safety procedures to avoid injury, especially when working around high electrical currents and molten metal. Proper guarding, emergency stops, and personal protective equipment are must-haves.

Summing up

With some research, planning, and investment, implementing robotic spot welding can be like a lightning bolt for your fab shop's production. 

First, start by evaluating your needs, budget, and capabilities. Then, reach out to integrators and manufacturers to spec the right system. 

With diligent setup, training, and safety protocols, you'll be cranking out consistent, quality welds in no time!

Next steps

Ready to overhaul your spot welding operations with cutting-edge automation? Standard Bots' RO1 is a standout in Six-Axis Articulated robot arm technology, ideal for expanding fab workshops and industry heavyweights alike.

  • Budget-friendly innovation: With a price tag that's 50% less than competitors, RO1 makes advanced automation accessible to companies of every size.
  • Redefining performance: RO1 has an 18 kg payload and unbeatable speed and precision, setting new benchmarks in the industry.
  • Prioritizing safety: RO1 is designed with a comprehensive suite of sensors and safety features for a safe collaborative workspace for robots and humans.
  • Adaptable and intelligent: Leading the way with AI technology as advanced as GPT-4, RO1 excels in its ability to learn, adapt, and enhance its functionality continually.

Our expert team is ready to guide you through integrating RO1's innovative features into your workflow. Experience the difference with a 30-day trial, risk-free!

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