3-D robotic welding simulation benefits

Cover Story: Teaching robots how to weld using 3-D simulation is beneficial because welding is a complex, precise process that cannot be explained or taught easily to humans.


Figure 1: Reach simulation study for a robotic laser welding application. Courtesy: Robotic Industries Association (RIA)/Genesis Systems Group, LLCElements of advanced motion control, 3-D vision, and robotic control combine in 3-D simulation software for robotic welding. The future in robotic welding is digital and simulation helps show possibilities that might not have been considered before.

Genesis Systems Group uses simulation to visualize and demonstrate complex or large-scale robotic processes before anything is built. This is especially helpful for welding, which is a complex, precise process that cannot be easily explained or taught to humans.

The 3DG Environment at the Genesis Systems Group Virtual Solutions Center is designed to combine virtual reality and immersive 3-D visualization to visualize a robotic process in the concept and design phases. The 3DG technology is designed to ergonomically evaluate parameters such as welding torch access and robot reach. The system consists of a 16-panel audiovisual wall that displays 2-D and 3-D images. It's also portable, which makes it easy to dismantle and set up.

"It's a great tool for us," said Brendan Brown, virtual solutions engineer at Genesis Systems Group. "With the 3DG Environment, we're able to draw clients into the experience and give them a real-life feel for what they will get with one of our systems. They get to see what we do upfront and all the pre-order work we do to give them the right solution."

They also use the 3DG system to conduct reviews with their in-house design and tooling groups for a collaborative process.

"You wear a set of regular 3-D glasses like you would get at a movie theatre," Brown said. "Then with the joystick, you can drive around the model, to go around the machine, get underneath it, come inside, and look at it from all angles."

For example, a welding robot on a three-axis gantry is positioned to MIG weld the frame of a large dump truck used in the mining industry and the multicolored sections represent the part.

Figure 2: Immersive 3-D virtual reality technology simulates robotic welding processes for more efficient design and concept review prior to build. Courtesy: Robotic Industries Association (RIA)/Genesis Systems Group, LLC

"Some of these parts are 40 feet long," Brown said. "This part requires multi-pass, heavy thick-plate welding. It's a 48-hour cycle time to weld one piece. This part actually grew 2- to 3-in. during the welding process just because of the heat and draw on it (distortion)."

Brown said the simulation environment allows them to demonstrate advanced processes to their clients that they may not have imagined were feasible. The automotive and appliance industries are starting to take a closer look at laser welding.

"We won a handful of customer orders because we were able to laser weld, which has a lot less heat and distortion. We've done simulations to show them. One gentleman in my department does strictly weld distortion and heat analysis. He can show a customer how with traditional MIG welding on a certain part you might have 5 mm of draw or deflection in it, but with laser welding it's down to 1 mm." 

Laser welding benefits

Across the hall from their Virtual Solutions Center is Genesis' Automated Solutions Center, where they test technologies such as remote laser welding and a laser seam stepper.

Figure 3: Robotic laser seam stepper combines clamping force with laser welding technology to replace traditional resistance welding. Courtesy: Robotic Industries Association (RIA)/Genesis Systems Group, LLCGenesis is using the robotic laser seam stepper to test customers' parts that have been traditionally spot-welded. They also have a few robotic systems already in the field.

The laser seam stepper is a servo-driven, self-contained laser head. "One of the advantages is that you don't need the large laser safety cabinets common with most laser welding processes," Brown said. "The robot will move above the part, then drive the laser head down, basically applying force with the head, which helps push the two materials together. Then it runs a bead up to 40 mm in length. You don't need the giant light-tight enclosure, and a lot less fixturing is involved. It's a much better finish than a traditional spot weld and certainly more consistent."

Brown said advanced welding technologies such as remote laser welding and the laser seam stepper still prompt the same concerns for part fit-up and other critical variables as do conventional welding processes. The process still has to be understood in its entirety to successfully automate it.

Tanya M. Anandan is contributing editor for the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and Robotics Online. RIA is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to improving the regional, national, and global competitiveness of the North American manufacturing and service sectors through robotics and related automation. This article originally appeared on the RIA website. The RIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


Key Concepts 

  • 3-D simulation can be used to teach robots how to weld.
  • Teaching laser welding to robots can reduce distortion and deflection and improve accuracy overall.
  • While robots can be taught how to weld, humans need to have a strong understanding of the process.

Consider this

What other benefits can come from teaching robots how to weld?

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me