Cobot-assisted 'handheld' laser welding solution to be shown at Fabtech 2022

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Wielding a handheld laser welder with a cobot enables highly precise, automated welds to be made when needed. (Image: Cobot Systems)

This year at the US metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing show Fabtech, automation firm Universal Robots will be showcasing a ‘Cobot Laser Welding Package’ featuring IPG Photonics’ handheld LightWELD system.

The package, developed by CoBot Systems – one of Universal Robotics’ Certified Systems Integrators – represents the first commercially available LightWELD system to be guided and controlled by a cobot, according to the firm.

Handheld laser welding is a relatively new branch of laser processing that has rapidly risen in popularity across the globe.

As an application it promises: low running costs; minimal set up requirements; ease of use; highly efficient, fast and flexible processing in spatially challenging environments; minimal consumables and post-processing requirements; and high-quality welds of both similar and dissimilar materials of different types and thicknesses.

Laser Systems Europe approached CoBot Systems to identify the benefits a manufacturer could gain from purchasing a cobot-wielded handheld laser welding system – rather than one of the many robotic laser welding systems already available on the market.

“Handheld laser welding is a revolutionary technology, it really is a game changer for the welding industry,” remarked Brian Knopp, founder and CEO of CoBot Systems. “However, one of its challenges is that due to it being so fast and efficient, in certain situations a human isn’t able to control it accurately enough.”

He explained that it's already fairly standard practice for a human operator to clamp a straight edge guide alongside the workpiece to ensure they can perform a straight weld with high quality using a handheld system.

“So by adding a cobot, it's possible to automate this handheld application when higher precision is needed, with the user still having the flexibility to use the handheld system as normal for the rest of the time,” Knopp continued.

He added that traditional automated laser welding systems can be both extremely expensive and complex to program. “They can often be north of a million dollars, while our Cobot Welding Package can be offered for just a fraction of that price,” he said.

The new package is particularly suited towards high-variety, low-volume, production runs, and can be used for both seam and spot welding.

“What we're gearing towards with this package is anything that's currently being done with TIG welding – this is an excellent alternative,” Knopp concluded. “While it's really not suited for structural steel and arc welding or MIG welding applications, it can be used effectively for sheet metal or thinner gauge materials that are around six millimetres and below.”

The Cobot Laser Welding Package will be displayed on Universal Robot's booth (C11045) at Fabtech on 8-10 November in Atlanta, Georgia.

For Universal Robotswelding is now its fastest growing application segment, which grew more than 80% during the first nine months of 2022 compared with last year. The firm expects to ship well over 1,200 cobots in the welding vertical this year.

IPG itself was at EuroBLECH in Hannover this year demonstrating the advantages of its LightWELD system

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