AUTOLAS: Switch successfully and competitively from manual to automated/robotised welding
The possibilities for automated welding of 'smaller' series (> 200 to 300 items) are constantly growing, which is also the case for modern robotics. Many companies are already applying this evolution in a meaningful way, but, despite the potential, it is not always the obvious choice because of the following reasons:
- There is a lack of overview with regard to all aspects that can be an issue when automating the welding process (robots, peripherals, jigs, planning, tolerances, programming time, welding time-assembly time, etc.). Often, the focus is on the possibilities of the robot and therefore practical thresholds often remain hidden and only appear during the start-up. Practical examples and guidelines (tips and tricks) are needed to support SMEs that want to transform their welding process.
- No ready insight into the applications that are feasible in practice for automating the welding process based on recent technological developments. Companies find it difficult to follow evolutions and to assess the potential of these evolutions for their specific challenges/situation.
- SMEs are experiencing difficulties when trying to assess the return on investment (ROI) realistically. Stories from companies who have been struggling for years to arrive at a profitable implementation stop other companies from starting to weld using robots. There are however good practical examples of successful implementations, but little is known about them.
Agoria, Sirris and the Belgian Welding Institute (BWI) have joined forces due to the aforementioned reasons in the frame of the approved project AUTOLAS, “Switch successfully and competitively from manual to automated/robotised welding”, because there is no knowledge in Belgium that can assist and support companies in an independent manner in relation to the welding automation.
1. Hands-on workshops:
- Allowing the target group to experiment with the available technologies to experience firsthand what a technology may contribute towards their specific situation.
- Study specific topics and provide an initial practical experience.
- Facilitate matchmaking between companies amongst themselves and with third parties that can offer further support.
2. Support companies individually towards implementation:
- Answer the last questions and eliminate the remaining thresholds for the implementation of the available automation technologies.
- Optimising the existing welding automated process
- Typical issues include drawing up a plan of action with priorities and assessing the different possible scenarios (business case) and possible partners to ensure that the preconceived plan is a success.
- If a ready-made automated solution is not available, the correct knowledge partner can be referred who can, in this case, design a feasibility study together with the company in question.
Did you know that the most important reasons why an SME does not use robots are the following?
|Reason||% of surveyed SMEs|
|Series that are too small||60%|
|Process can not be automated||61%|
|Robots are too expensive||37%|
|No operator available to operate the robot||27%|
|Robots are too heavy and insufficiently flexible||23%|
|Programming is too time-consuming||20%|
During the last few years however, a new generation of welding robots has been developed for smaller series and the above reasons are therefore becoming less relevant: the robots can be more easily integrated in a welding booth, programming takes place offline through 3D CAD files and a reduced cost (as from € 100.000), which has lowered the threshold considerably and smaller series are therefore now possible. Another cited point is the (technical) training to become a welding programmer, which means that the programming efficiency increases significantly. This topic was also examined within the framework of the project.
- Contact Wim Verlinde