You can get a good perspective of new capabilities coming to robotic welding by standing on a just a few of the more than 1 million square feet of space in FANUC’s facilities in Michigan. In this case, you’re with Fifth Wave Manufacturing, standing in the basement laboratory of the company’s modern, roomy U.S. headquarters in Rochester Hills, MI.
Nearby are a couple of cobots anchored to welding fixture tables. The one that grabs our interest is the CRX-10iA, a very popular cobot that was launched in December 2019, and has gained capabilities along the way, including new control software. We’re looking at the CRX-10iA in its December 2021 iteration with FANUC America’s Engineer in the Material Joining Group, Ian Chaykowski.
First, let’s get acquainted with our cobot. The “10” in its name means it can handle a load of up to 10 kilograms (about 22 lbs.). It has a reach of 1,249 mm, or a shade over four feet. The cobot weighs about 39 kilos or 86 lbs., meaning two people can very easily lift and move it, and you do not have to be an Olympics qualifier to move it yourself.
(The CRX-10iA has a slightly bigger brother called the CRX-10iA/L which has a longer arm, longer reach, and can move at the elbow both over and under itself, reducing motion and increasing efficiency while still utilizing a compact space. Everything in this Under the Hood segment is done with the CRX-10iA.)
The aim of this cobot is to give even inexperienced customers the ability to do setup straight out of the box. The compact R-30iB Plus mini-controller is as the name implies, and a new tablet interface, a touchscreen pendant, makes programming easy. We’ll see in the videos that no programming experience is required. The end game is to bring welding excellence to welders with little to no experience, solving a problem for fabricating firms still looking for people.
Let’s get to work
It’s exciting just to be in this out-of-the-way laboratory, but we have work to do. Our job today is to weld together two pieces of mild steel. We’re doing a tee weld, and we want to add a fraction of a second at the start and finish of the weld to make sure we get good penetration and fill.
Before we start, we asked Chaykowski to give us an introduction to the cobot and the job at hand. He was happy to show us how it works, including the teaching portion, which includes a mix of detailed manual motion and recording same on the tablet. He demonstrates how you can achieve different movement by using buttons on the cobot.
You program by literally taking the robot through the motions. When you get to the initial point of the weld, you press a button and that means “weld start.” That command immediately shows up in the tablet’s timeline. Take the wire to the “weld stop” point, hit the button again, and your weld program is ready. It makes a straight line between the two points, so if you go way off track moving to the “weld stop” point during the teaching phase, it does not matter.
The only thing left to do is select the weld size needed for the part. In this case, we will make a 3/16-inch weld. Here’s a look at the setup:
One more quick item before we get down to business. In this short video, Chaykowski gives us an idea of how large an item can be welded by the CRX-10iA:
Now comes the fun part—we get to use the CRX-10iA to do real work. Our program calls for one pass in the tee weld. We then release the assembly and turn it around, repeating the operation on the opposite side. We’ve seen the short programming time, now we experience the fast weld time:
Why turn the assembly around? Why not just continue after the first bead and move to the rear of the assembly and weld? That’s exactly what we do in the next video, and we can even preserve the programming (and thus the timeline) we’ve already completed. (Chaykowski says that you can load up to 90 different weld procedures if need be.) As you watch this next video, keep in mind how much time is being saved:
We did one more video showing only the weld, so it becomes very apparent just how fast these welds occur, and how much time is being saved by welding both sides. Pay careful attention to the miniscule time between steps, a key savings area in manufacturing:
If cobots are new to you, or you don’t know enough about the CRX-10iA, FANUC offers free online courses to registered users on setting up the cobot, programming, manual operation, teaching, and much more. The link appears below.
More information: www.fanucamerica.com/welding-cobot
Free CRX training videos available at: https://crx.fanucamerica.com/cobot-crx-training/