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Automatic and Robotic

Arc Welding Equipment

Companies wishing to do automatic and robotic arc weld- Chapter Objectives

ing must understand the various issues that will be en-
countered when moving from manual and semiautomatic After completing this chapter, you will be able to:
welding application methods. It is helpful to understand
just what must be controlled and by whom to make a weld, 27-1 Explain automatic and robotic welding requirements.
Table 27-1. 27-2 Describe arc control devices.
The methods of application are defined in AWS A3.0 27-3 Describe seam trackers.
Terms and Definitions as*: 27-4 Describe arc monitoring equipment.
Adaptive control, adj. Pertaining to process control that 27-5 Describe various weld controls including those
automatically determines changes in process conditions and that are microprocessor based.
directs the equipment to take appropriate action. 27-6 Explain robotic arc welding systems.
Automatic, adj. Pertaining to the control of a process with
equipment that requires only occasional or no observation
of the welding, and no manual adjustment of the equipment
Manual, adj. Pertaining to the control of a process with
the torch, gun, or electrode holder held and manipulated
by hand.
Mechanized, adj. Pertaining to the control of a process
with equipment that requires manual adjustment of the
equipment controls in response to visual observation of the
operation, with the torch, gun, wire guide assembly, or elec-
trode holder held by a mechanical device.

*From AWS Standard Terms and Definitions, AWS3.0:2010, pages 3, 5, 27,

35, and 37.

Table 27-1  Methods of Process Application and Key Factors for Arc Welding

 Key Factors
for Arc Controls Controls Controls Makes ­
Welding Electrode Heat for Tracks the Electrode and Corrections
Methods of Starting Feeding into Controls Arc Correct Controls Travel Weld Pool Gun Torch to ­Overcome
Application the Arc the Arc Length Fusion Speed Along the Joint Angle Deviations
Manual Welder Welder Welder Welder Welder Welder Welder Welder
Semiautomatic PS, WF WF PS Welder Welder Welder Welder Welder
Mechanized PS, WF, CP WF PS MCD MCD Operator Operator Operator
CP, MCD, along set
SR path
Robotic PS, WF, CP WF PS PS, WF, Robotic Robotic Robotic control PS, WF, CP,
CP, MCD, control arm control arm MCD, SR
SR arm—SR
or along set
Adaptive control PS, WF, CP WF PS PS, WF, MCD (robot) MCD MCD PS, WF, CP, MCD
CP, MCD, (robot)—SR (robot)—SR (robot)—SR

Note: PS = power source, WF = wire feeder, CP = control panel, MCD = motion control device, SR = sensor required.
Robotic, adj. Pertaining to process controlled by robotic computer controller (which will direct the power source),
equipment. wire feeder, or motion control device to take appropriate
Semiautomatic, adj. Pertaining to the manual control of a action. However, if the parts can be accurately cut, bent,
process with equipment that automatically controls one or formed, and fixtured, adaptive controls in the form of
more of the process conditions. sensors, computers, and electromechanical servo systems
may not be required. These devices are expensive and add
The term adaptive control is unusual and requires greatly to the complexity of the welding system. What is
further explanation. Adaptive controls can be applied to being attempted with these high level automatic and ro-
virtually all the process application methods. In its pur- botic applications with adaptive control is to replicate the
est form adaptive controls have been around for many eyes, hands, skill, and knowledge of a welder or machine
decades. One very common use was in small light-duty operator. This is being done in order to make instanta-
gas metal arc welding systems. These all-in-one power neous corrections to eliminate weld defects. Some typical
source and wire feeder systems were designed for sheet joint fitup tolerances that will generally be acceptable for
metal and autobody repair facilities. The voltage control automation and robotic welding are the material thickness
was directly coupled to the wire-feed speed motor, so any or 0.060 inch, whichever is less, for gas metal arc welding
variation in voltage would impact wire-feed speed in an and 10 percent of the thinnest material thickness for laser
attempt to keep the process in control. These types of all- beam welding. Another way of judging fitup tolerance is
in-one GMAW systems are still in use today. Adaptive to use ±1⁄2 the electrode diameter or in the case of l­asers,
control can be applied to manual welding applications by the focused laser beam diameter. If a 0.035-inch diam-
the welder’s ability to shape and control the output volt- eter GMAW electrode is being used, ±0.018 inch is a very
amp curve on certain constant current power sources. As tight tolerance.
Table 27-1, page 871 shows, the welder is capable of con- Primary issues that need to be dealt with when
trolling all the key factors required for depositing quality doing mechanized, automatic, or robotic welding a­ ppli-
weld metal. cations are:
Adaptive controls can be applied to semiautomatic
•• Overall dimensions of parts  These must be very
and mechanized application methods. An example of this
accurate. (See the previous paragraph for fitup
would be when using the GMAW-P mode of metal trans-
fer. Most equipment can be selected for adaptive versus
•• Parts that are formed or pressed  These must
nonadaptive. The adaptive mode generally has sensors,
be consistent in shape. [Spring-back from heat
which monitor arc length. If anything occurs that affects
­number to heat number on parts must be controlled,
the arc length, feedback circuits will attempt to correct
mechanical properties must be understood and
the situation to get the arc length back within proper
controlled, material test reports (MTRs) must be
parameters. As can be seen in Table 27-1, welders or
operators still have some key factors under their control.
•• Weldment design  This must be appropriate for
In some cases, especially in semiautomatic application
i­ntended welding operations and weld locations.
situations, the welder may want to control the heat, fusion,
•• Fixturing and weld tooling  These must be appropri-
and penetration by variations in electrode extension. In
ate for the application.
this case the adaptive control will react in the opposite
•• Welding process and mode of metal transfer These
manner than that desired by the welder. In order to pre-
must be appropriate in the case of GMAW.
vent these types of situations the adaptive control can be
set for nonadaptive allowing welders to use their skill and Cost considerations must be reviewed since the higher
understanding of the weld pool to correct deviations as the degree of accuracy and the more sophisticated the
they occur. fixtures, the more expensive the parts and the welding
In the automatic and robotic methods of applications, fixture system becomes.
welders or operators are not required to control the key
factors influencing the weld. This will require the high-
est level of adaptive control. Multiple sensors may be re- Arc Control Devices
quired to monitor various facets of the weld pool, weld
profile, penetration, and fusion patterns. Sampling can Magnetic Arc Control
occur much faster than welders or operators can possi- In certain situations it is more advantageous to move the
bly see and react to. Data can be collected and reacted to arc and thus the weld pool than it is to require the motion
thousands of times per second. These data are sent to a control device to change the torch or gun work or travel

872  Chapter 27 Automatic and Robotic Arc Welding Equipment

This orientation
This orientation This orientation provides preheating
provides control provides control and oscillation to:
across the parallel to
weld seam. the weld seam. Eliminate arc drag
Improve weld quality
Increase weld speed

Fig. 27-1  Probe orientation for weld pool control.  Source: ITW Jetline - Cyclomatic

angle. These motions may be required in a very rapid

fashion to correct deviations as they are forming. These
devices may also be used to change from stringer beads
to weave beads.
Magnetic arc blow is generally considered a nega-
tive action that prevents proper welding conditions and
reduces the ability of positioning the weld where it be-
longs. These same forces can be used to your advantage
if properly controlled with a magnetic arc control and
probe. These devices control welding at the point of its
greatest impact—the welding arc itself. By adding stabil-
ity and control over arc oscillation and positioning, mag-
netic arc control ensures a quality weld, even on exotic
metals. They are typically used with the GMAW, GTAW,
and PAW processes. These magnetic arc control systems
can be attached to present welding torches and guns that
are being used for mechanized and automatic applica- Fig. 27-2  This unit controls the sweep frequency, sweep
tions. The operating principles are simple in that magnetic amplitude, arc position, dwell time (on each toe), and shaping via
the magnetic probe.  © ITW Jetline - Cyclomatic
probes are positioned around the arc to position, oscillate,
and stabilize it. Magnetic probe orientation is shown in
Fig. 27-1.
Magnetic arc control systems require a control unit, mag-
netic probe, and interconnecting control cable, Figs. 27-2
and 27-3. Oscillation of the welding arc can be carried
out at frequencies up to 50 hertz. These devices provide
control over:
•• Heat distribution
•• Excessive undercut
•• Excessive porosity
Fig. 27-3  Magnetic probe used in conjunction with control
•• Incomplete penetration shown in Fig. 27-2. The probe mounts on the torch or gun and
•• Incomplete fusion creates a magnetic field that precisely positions, oscillates, and
•• Unwanted magnetic arc blow stabilizes the arc.  © ITW Jetline - Cyclomatic

Automatic and Robotic Arc Welding Equipment   Chapter 27  873

Mechanical Oscillators
The arc can be moved by other means than magnet-
ics, but this necessitates a mechanical oscillator. This
mechanical device grips the welding head, torch, and/
or gun and physically moves them in much the same
manner as a welder doing manual or semiautomatic
applications would. These mechanical devices have
less dexterity than the welder, as the motion is usually
simply side to side, pendulum in shape, or triangular.
It is set up in a predetermined fashion and does not
receive any direct feedback or sensing from the arc or
weld pool.
Mechanical oscillators consist of a control unit and Fig. 27-4  A pendulum-type weld oscillator and control system.
The 5⁄8-inch diameter shaft is for attachment of gun or torch
slide- or pendulum-type oscillator mechanism. They are
mounting assembly. This WOC-1000TM system features Thru-ArcTM
generally rated in load-carrying capacity of the oscilla- tracking technology that allows automatic torch ­centering and width
tor mechanism, such as 120 pounds. The capacity must control.  © Computer Weld Tech., Inc.
be capable of carrying the welding head, gun, and/or
torch. They are generally powered by a stepper motor
driving the pendulum or slide mechanism. The control simple power source interface. An RS-232 serial port is
provides full remote control of the movement of the provided for off-line programming and system configu-
oscillator. ration. This port can also be used to remotely control
A control unit for a cross slide oscillator would gener- this particular unit, Fig. 27-4.
ally have the following specifications:
•• Leftward speed (0–100 inches per minute) Seam Trackers and Arc Length Controls
•• Rightward speed (0–100 inches per minute) In some situations multiple powered cross slides can be
•• Stroke width (0–4 inches) incorporated. This allows the operator to simply use a
•• Center adjustment (0–4 inches) joystick to control the torch position rather than having
•• Left dwell time (0.03–3 seconds) to manually turn all the hand wheels on the various
•• Right dwell time (0.03–3 seconds) cross slides, Fig. 27-5. Once the cross slides are pow-
More sophisticated mechanical oscillators are avail- ered by the stepper motor, they can be signaled with
able such as the microprocessor-controlled pendulum. sensors through a monitor and controller for adaptive
This system provides independent control of all torch control of the torch or gun p­ ositions. Figure 27-6 shows
movements in the horizontal plane and provides auto- a seam tracker set up on a side beam carriage. The
matic torch centering using patented Thru-ArcTM sensing T-joint fillet weld has been purposely set up out of
technology. The Thru-ArcTM sensor provides four modes alignment to demonstrate the seam tracker’s capabil-
of operation. The first mode provides a constant width ity. As the probe starts to lose contact with one surface
oscillation with automatic torch centering. The second of the joint, it sends a signal to the controller which
mode provides variable width and center line control in turn activates the proper combination of motorized
using a depth-of-penetration parameter to control the cross slide movements to get the gun back into the
width. The third mode provides for single right-side proper position.
tracking with constant width, and the final mode pro- A similar system would be able to control the arc
vides for single left-side tracking with constant width. length when using the GTAW or PAW processes. Arc
The entire seam tracking information is derived from the length control with these processes is done by moving
welding arc and oscillator position. The arc voltage and the torch up and down by use of a motorized slide to
welding current are measured with an external voltage maintain the arc voltage (arc length). These arc volt-
probe and Hall-effect sensing devices provided as part age control systems are capable of maintaining the
of this system. This particular manufacturer’s control arc within ±1 percent or 0.1 volt, whichever is greater.
unit provides a user definable 50 sequence program- Most codes only require voltage tolerances of ±7 per-
mable logic controller (PLC) with four 24-volt d.c. in- cent, which may not be accurate enough for high preci-
puts and two normally open (N.O.) relay contacts. Using sion GTAW and PAW. They are able to compensate for
the PLC you can provide external program control and arc length variation up to travel speeds of 24 inches per

874  Chapter 27 Automatic and Robotic Arc Welding Equipment

Vertical Cross
Slide Adjustment

Horizontal Cross
Slide Adjustment

Swivel Control for Gun Wire Drive

Work or Travel Angle Head
Fig. 27-7  Arc voltage control helps maintain
Fig. 27-5  Manually adjusted cross slides. This setup utilizes two cross slides the proper arc length at high speed on material with
and a swivel for accurate manual alignment and proper gun work or travel uneven surfaces, or when total adaptive control of this
angle in the joint. This type of system is used for ­mechanized welding.  important variable is required for ­automatic welding. 
© Computer Weld Tech., Inc. © ITW Jetline - Cyclomatic

minute. A control along with a drive unit are

Scam Tracker
Microprocessor required, Figs. 27-7 and 27-8, page 876. The
Weld Control
Vertical and Horizontal Control Wire Drive torch and cable carrying capacity of this unit
Powered Slides Head totals 20 pounds. If excessive melt-through
is encountered, the system will automatically
shut off power and retract the welding torch to
Side Beam protect the operator and equipment. Excessive
melt-through would cause the arc voltage to
rapidly go up. If the control cannot recognize
this, the reaction of the drive unit would be to
rapidly direct the torch toward the weldment
Scam Tracker
Probe in an attempt to reduce the overvoltage condi-
tion. In this case the weldment has not moved;
Remote Welding Gun only a burn-through hole has been created, so
the control must be programmed to recognize
these types of situations and not overreact.

Arc Monitoring
When doing manual, semiautomatic, and mech-
Coolant Recirculator
anized welding applications, welders or opera-
300 amp Inverter tors do the monitoring. They must be highly
Power Source
skilled and trained to monitor and control all
the key factors influencing the weld in order
Fig. 27-6  Side beam carriage setup for GMAW with seam tracker and to maintain weld quality. Refer to Table 27-1,
microprocessor weld control. It is using a tactile probe seam tracking page 871 for a review of these key factors. On
system.  © Miller Electric Mfg. Co. routine high production work there is a desire to

Automatic and Robotic Arc Welding Equipment   Chapter 27  875

relieve the human welder or op- welding operation. Examples of the variables that may
erator from this tedious type of require changing are:
work. The safety of the welder
•• Welding current
or operator if the work has to •• Wire-feed speed
be done on materials that are •• Voltage
extremely hot, radioactive, or •• Arc length
explosive in nature would ne- •• Time and force (for resistance welding)
cessitate automation or robotics •• Travel speed
with adaptive controls. Issues •• Electrode extension (arc welding processes)
dealing with productivity, qual- •• Electrode position (arc welding processes)
ity, and a projected smaller •• Electrode angle (arc welding processes)
workforce must be factored
into how a welding process is The disturbing input variables are, of course, undesirable
going to be applied. and generally are unavoidable. They will have an effect
As you are aware, welding on the process but are not controlled. Some examples of
processes are complex. There disturbing input variables are:
are many variables that must be •• Weld current fluctuations (due to variation in input
dealt with that may adversely line voltage to the power source)
affect the completed weldment. •• Irregular material thickness (especially for resistance
These variables are in a con- welding)
stant state of change, and they •• Variation in joint geometry and location (primarily
Fig. 27-8  Automatic have to be observed even in a when arc welding)
voltage control drive very harsh environment. It is • • Variation in joint gap (in brazing and soldering)
unit. It features a stepper analogous to a situation where
motor driving a precision The following process response variables are the result
lead screw to provide the you want to get from point A to
motion. It is filtered against B on a trip. While you can read of the welding process being used:
high frequency and has the road numbers on your map, •• Current
minimal play and backlash. you are having trouble seeing •• Voltage
Manual up and down jog the road signs along the side of
buttons are provided on •• Travel speed
the road due to a blizzard going •• Cooling rate (time and temperature)
the side of the unit. 
© ITW Jetline - Cyclomatic on outside your car. This is a
very uncomfortable position to The above process response variables will produce the
be in. Yet in welding, the work following required weld properties:
must be dealt with at the required quality level even in •• Weld size
the harsh environment of high temperatures, intense elec- •• Weld profile
tromagnetic radiation, high electric and magnetic fields, •• Microstructure
molten metal spatter, and fumes as found during a high •• Soundness
production weld.
There are four basic control elements that must be
dealt with. They are the welding process itself,
manipulation of the input variables, what is
Disturbing Input Variables
happening with the disturbing input variables,
and what process response variables need Joint Location
to be manipulated to get it back in control, Etc.
Fig. 27-9. The manipulated input variables are
those that directly affect the process response Manipulated Input Variables Process Response Variables
variables. For example, increasing the energy Energy Input Process Geometry
will result in an increase in the penetration Mass Input Mechanical Properties
Energy Orientation
level. The variable affecting this energy may Energy Distribution
be preset and not changed during the welding
operation; however, it is very advantageous to Fig. 27-9  Flow diagram of the welding process as it relates to monitoring
be able to change these as required during the and control.  Source: American Welding Society (AWS) Welding Handbook

876  Chapter 27 Automatic and Robotic Arc Welding Equipment