The Future of Welding Automation

October 11, 2023 · Leave a comment · Red-D-Arc
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Welding automation can help offset the skilled welder shortage while improving both productivity and safety. While some welding jobs can be completely automated, that’s often not the case for many tasks. However, as welding automation systems are rapidly improving, and becoming more commonly used, we will likely see welding automation ingrained in everyday welding tasks, even in small welding shops.

Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of welding automation and how your business could benefit from automation solutions, including cobotic welding.

Welding Automation Equipment

It’s easy to picture a production facility with tens or hundreds of robotic arms making welds on an assembly line, but, welding automation doesn’t refer to only welding robots, even if they are often crucial for automation.

Welding automation systems include welding positioners that allow easy access to oddly shaped parts, welding manipulators that maximize efficiency, turning rolls for pipe rotation, growing line systems for producing large tubular elements, and others. You can see a whole range of Red-D-Arc weld automation systems that can make many welding jobs significantly more productive and cost-effective.

Fully-Automated Welding

Fully-automated welding is commonly employed in mass fabrication, like in the automotive industry. Fully-autonomous systems do everything — machines load and unload parts to and from the weld cell, control the fixtures, complete the weld, and inspect the quality. Usually, complete automation doesn’t require much human involvement.

These systems are often expensive, large-scale, and employed for repetitive welds. However, the future may see more industries transition to fully-automated welding. As artificial intelligence advances and fully-automated welding systems become more flexible, they may pose the best solution to worker shortages and maximum ROI and productivity.

Semi-Automated Welding

Semi-automated welding significantly reduces human interaction with the welding process. However, operators are still needed, and it’s often an advantage if they are trained welders. These systems are usually more affordable than fully-automated setups. In addition, semi-automated welding is more flexible, requires a lower up-front investment, and introduces less equipment to your work environment. 

The future may see a rise in semi-automated welding, especially in small and medium-sized welding businesses. These systems can significantly improve the productivity of a welding operator. As a result, semi-automation can solve the challenges of worker shortages because one operator can complete more welds with higher efficiency.

Advantages of Welding Automation

Automating your welding processes has numerous benefits that can improve your ROI and productivity with fewer skilled operators. The essential benefits of welding automation are:

  • Enhanced weld quality and repeatability
  • Increased production output
  • Reduced scrap and wasted parts
  • Reduced operator training time compared to manual welding training
  • Improved workplace safety
  • Drastically reduced post-welding cleanup

Disadvantages of Welding Automation

  • Some automation solutions can require a significant up-front investment; however, rental and lease options can eliminate the need for capital investment
  • Traditional industrial robots require specialized expertise to program
  • Large-scale systems may lack the desired flexibility for your welding business
  • It may be challenging to introduce automated systems into your workforce due to workers’ fears of replacement

Cobot Welding Systems

In a way, you could say that the “future” of welding automation is already here. Solutions like collaborative robots, commonly known as cobots, have already proved fruitful in the current environment. You don’t necessarily need to fully automate your welding production, especially if you are a small or medium welding business. 

This is where cobot welding systems stand out. They are cost-effective, easy to get up and running, and work along with your workforce. So, you don’t need to completely transition from manual labor to large-scale, expensive, permanently fixed, fully-autonomous welding cells. In addition, cobots are more flexible than hard automated systems and significantly reduce the safety hazards present with common industrial robots since they are designed to be used collaboratively with workers.

The BotX robotic welding system addresses the skilled labor shortage through short or long-term rental, lease or purchase of an advanced, easy-to-use automated welding robot. Our innovative, on-demand model allows you to quickly scale up or down your welding operation using the BotX, which is hard to achieve with manual welding. BotX can weld complex parts in minutes, provide real-time monitoring and production data, and comes with 24/7 support. Your welding team can be up and running in hours with BotX because our automation specialists will be with you every step of the way to tailor the experience to your needs.

Cobots are designed to amplify the production rate of your welders by working with them. As a result, your welders (or trained BotX operators) can get more work done faster. You can’t quickly hire more welders to bid on a large project. But you can rent a BotX from Red-D-Arc and amplify your production rate and bid with confidence. That’s the power of weld automation.

What The Future Holds

The future of welding automation will need to address the ever-decreasing availability of skilled welders and the ever-increasing need for faster and higher-quality production. However, there likely won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on the industry and business scale, the future may utilize cobot systems or fully automated, large-scale automation.

Another issue stifling automation progress is the cost of these systems. That’s why innovative solutions like renting or leasing these machines are crucial. Pay as you go lets you immediately have net gains as you bid on projects that were previously beyond your reach because you didn’t have the necessary workforce. 

Having the flexibility to bid on various projects and upscale/downscale your production is a competitive advantage that can make you stand out from other welding contractors. With the scarce welding force, it’s hard to run your business and jump from project to project with the confidence that you can do everything smoothly. But, the flexible, scalable, and collaborative welding automation systems can help your welding business stay ahead of the curve. 

If you are the only local contractor who bids with faster completion times and/or with a favorable price, you can lead the way as a preferred welding business. That’s what the future of welding automation must provide to the welding businesses dealing with labor shortages and a demanding market. 

Eventually, having automated welding systems running alongside manual labor may become a standard operative practice even in small welding shops. So, it’s wise to think about the future today. No industry is impervious to change. And adaptability is one of the essential tools at your disposal in an ever-changing industry like welding and fabrication.

Will Robots Replace All Human Welders?

A common fear among welders is that automation will replace them. While some industries and large-scale production can be fully automated, the whole industry won’t become fully autonomous in any perceivable future. Instead, the future is far more likely to use flexible  cobots, like the BotX™ cobot welding system, to amplify the skills and expertise of the welders. The best way to handle any fears is to remind your welding team that robots need the knowledge that they have in order to be used and that they are meant to be used as their tool, not to replace them.

However, as the demand for skilled labor grows, welding robots will have to pick up the pace. As a result, innovative solutions like the BotX cobot do provide a more accessible barrier to entry so that a trained BotX operator (not necessarily a welder) can easily use the cobot to produce quality welds.

Rent Or Lease Your Automation Equipment From Red-D-Arc

Red-D-Arc has a fleet of over 45,000 units of welding and cutting equipment strategically located in over 70 rental centers throughout the USA, Canada, France, United Kingdom, and Netherlands. Our weld automation specialists can work collaboratively with you to help you automate your welding business no matter the scale. 

It may not always be cost-effective to purchase your welding tools, and this includes automation equipment. Sometimes you’ll need a welding power source or a cobot for one job only, or its use won’t cover the ongoing maintenance cost. In addition, as the industry changes, so are the required welding equipment features. Therefore, for some businesses, owning expensive equipment can become an investment into a depreciating asset.

Contact us today and let Red-D-Arc’s team of welding specialists help you rent welding equipment and automate your workflow. Our experts regularly assist with rental equipment selection and finding the best ways to use the tools at your disposal.

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