How to Choose a Welding Cobot in 2022
Welding companies are facing a slew of challenges in today’s business environment. In addition to the standard issues most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) encounter, companies with welding operations have many sector-specific headaches that constrain growth.
A long-running shortage of qualified welders is now being compounded by significantly longer lead times in the supply chain and skyrocketing prices for raw materials. Many welding companies have decided the best answer to these issues is to invest in welding automation—specifically, welding cobot packages. But with all the available options, it’s hard to decide what features are most appropriate.
Here are some tips for selecting the right welding cobot for your business.
What is a Welding Cobot
Collaborative welding robots, referred to as welding cobots, are robotic arms paired with welding equipment designed to work closely alongside human workers. Where traditional robotics must be fenced off to protect workers from being injured in a robot collision, cobots are smaller and move much slower, so they don’t pose an injury risk. Of course, cobots excel at monotonous and repetitive welding. This frees your experienced welders for other critical and value-added tasks.
Moreover, some welding cobot tools offer easy-to-learn programming interfaces, lowering the knowledge barrier needed to put those collaborative welding robots in production. This is a good advantage because most small and medium companies don’t have robotics expertise internally, and hiring robot experts as contractors can be costly.
Select the Right Welding Cobot for Your Business
1. It Should be Accessible by Your Welders
Most small and medium-sized welding companies are looking into automation to solve their need to hire more welders. However, many of the cobot welding tools on the market still require someone experienced with robot programming.
Moreover, experienced robot programmers are just as challenging to find as welders due to the demand. A professional programmer requires about eight years of formal schooling and their salaries tend to be higher than a certified welder.
So to solve your need for welders, you’ll need a welding robot that should be easy and accessible enough that your current welders can use it without a background in robot programming. If your welders can quickly learn to use the robot, it means less downtime, faster setup, more production, and a speedier return on investment for your business.
2. Quality, Ease of Use, and Flexibility
In most small-medium welding businesses, performing and recognizing a good quality weld is vastly more important than programming because rework will eat up profit margins faster than most other business risks. The robot is there to enhance your welder’s expertise and productivity, which won’t happen if the process can’t deliver consistent quality welds.
This was the main driver behind the engineering of Hirebotics’ Cobot Welder, which is widely regarded as the most user-friendly cobot on the market. Welders can program the robot from a smartphone or a tablet with a dedicated application that does all the complicated programming behind the scenes. Welders can also ‘teach’ it what to weld using only two buttons on the robot arm.
This simplified job setup means less time learning how to program it and more time welding parts.
Many small and medium-sized welding businesses operate in a high mix/low volume environment. Therefore, your cobot investment must have the flexibility to shift welding jobs without significant reprogramming, re-fixturing, or adjusting.
3. Reporting is a PLUS
There’s an old adage in manufacturing: “If you can measure it, you can manage it”. At its core, this adage means that if you can collect data on a process, you can optimize that process, increasing its efficiency while reducing costs. Any new manufacturing technology worth its salt will come complete with software that has excellent reporting capabilities that will help you:
- Validate the cobot’s ability to do the job while maintaining throughput targets.
- Verify reports from your employees.
- Improve future calibration and performance of your cobot.
There is much data that the cobot software can provide. However, in choosing, make sure that the robot, at the very least:
- Provide precise cycle times and consumables usage: These numbers can help produce more accurate quotes and lead time estimates to your clients, improving competitiveness and profit margins.
- Allows for real-time alerts: Knowing when a job is finished or when the machine needs attention dramatically reduces downtime between jobs or during lights-out operations, maximizing uptime.
- Maintains a directory of who can program and operate the cobot and who can teach it new part paths.
- Industry 4.0: Updates and new welding paths can be downloaded easily, while business-critical reports can be viewed anytime and anywhere. It can also connect to ERP, project management, or accounting software to reduce data entry errors and delays.
4. Company Support, Training, and Accessibility
After-sales support is another important consideration when you choose a welding robot. The technology provider should be accessible to answer your questions when you need them answered. With today’s connectivity, some cobot companies provide real-time support over video calls or produce training and educational videos that you can watch and practice directly in the welding cobot app while producing parts.
Choose the Best Welding Robot
Choosing the best cobot welding solution that works for your company can be a daunting task with far-reaching consequences. Getting it right solves production issues on the floor and could result in a distinct competitive advantage that drives company growth for years to come. If you need extra information and inspiration, download Hirebotics Getting Started With Welding Cobots Ebook for free.