How to weld non-standard parts using automation

With automation like thermal imaging cameras and 3-D programming, non-standard parts that used to cause challenges for welding systems are much easier to weld.
By Association for Advancing Automation (A3) June 30, 2017

Image courtesy: CFE MediaCustom, non-standard parts once caused challenges for welding systems. But there are best practices for the robotic welding of non-traditional parts. Understanding what makes the part non-standard, how to leverage off-line programming and welding with thermal imaging cameras can help in this non-standard approach.

Knowing non–standard parts

The welding tip has to be lined up and kept on point. Part consistency was once essential for robotic welding success, but the development of sophisticated software and vision systems make flexible welding a realistic solution. Non-standard parts have varying shapes, sizes, and can come in different types of materials and many times are produced in small quantities which can mean frequent programming changes. There are steps to take that keep the process manageable and affordable.

Handling non-standard welds

3-D programming software checks the tool path prior to production. Doing test welds is an important first step according to Steve Spanjers of Triton Innovation. He added that testing validates the simulation while checking on heat distortion and how the material will move.

Jerry Wright of Genesis Systems said his team does a 3-D simulation of the part and tests equipment in an automated solution center. He also does 3-D printing of the parts to help determine the best tooling options. 

Welding with thermal imaging cameras

Infrared (IR) welding is another option used to weld plastic parts in the automotive industry. Thermal imaging cameras can be used to monitor IR quality and can be combined with an analysis done by software. This allows the system to recognize when a temperature is within the upper and lower control limits. When the weld is within acceptable limits, then an approval signal is sent via the programmable logic controller (PLC) and the weld continues. If the software fails, then the welding stops.

This article originally appeared on the Association for Advancing Automation (A3)’s blog. A3 is a CFE Media content partner.