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8 Reasons to Harness the Power of Cobots for Superior Welding Automation

Industrial welding robots have been around for quite some time. Now, collaborative robots (cobots) offer a middle ground between entirely automated and entirely manual workflows. While conventional robots have several advantages, welding with cobots is often the better choice.

Whereas conventional robotics replaces workers, cobots work alongside employees. This human-robot collaboration yields better results than either people or machines can achieve separately. Here are eight reasons why that matters in welding.

1. More Accuracy

Welding automation as a whole produces more accurate welds, as it prevents human error. Geometry-sensitive parts and processes like welding have the highest risk of mistakes in assembly, making them an ideal application for robotics.

While conventional robots address these human errors, mistakes from machines are still possible. They may not get distracted, but they’re less adaptable, so any abnormalities like misaligned parts are more likely to produce errors. Welding with cobots instead minimizes these risks.

Cobot-based workflows benefit from both the precision of robots and the adaptability of humans. Staff can prepare parts before welding and monitor the cobots’ performance to prevent error-producing abnormalities. As a result, cobot welding creates fewer mistakes than conventional robots, reducing material waste.

2. Higher Efficiency

Similarly, cobot welding processes are more efficient. Part of this efficiency comes from the fact that robots can move faster than people. Fewer mistakes and the removal of injury risks further increase their ability to weld more quickly.

Once again, though, robots by themselves are far from perfect. Any process deviations can lead to significant disruption and downtime in a conventional mechanized setup. Cobots, by contrast, are more adaptable, thanks to their close collaboration with human workers.

This adaptability means cobot workflows can maintain peak efficiency for longer stretches despite changing circumstances. As a result, some manufacturers have experienced 300% increases in throughput after implementation.

3. Improved Safety

Welding with cobots is also safer than either manual welding or conventional robotics. The machines handle the most dangerous parts of the task — the actual welding — to distance crew members from burn risks and other hazards. They may also prevent musculoskeletal disorders, as workers won’t perform as much fine movement.

Conventional robots can produce similar advantages but are hazardous themselves. Large, fast-moving machines may run into employees, fail to sense nearby workers burn them accidentally, or create pinch points. Because cobots are designed to work alongside humans, they feature more safety measures, like sensors to detect workers and less sudden movements.

4. Increased Uptime

Another reason why cobots are the superior automated welding technology is they enable more uptime. These machines are often easier to program than conventional systems and require minimal accompanying equipment or space. As a result, manufacturers can implement them without much disruption.

Cobots extend uptime throughout their service life, as their collaboration with human workers enables more preventive measures. Wire feed issues in a fully automated system result in downtime and waste materials. With cobots, teams can monitor wire feeding to ensure it goes smoothly, preventing these accidents.

Similarly, employees can reprogram or otherwise adjust cobots fairly quickly as conditions change. That way, the production line can adapt to evolving needs without lengthy downtime.

5. Offset Labor Challenges

Manufacturers can mitigate labor challenges by welding with cobots. Facilities can maintain high output levels without additional help when robots take care of the most repetitive, time-consuming tasks. As a result, the persistent struggle to retain staff isn’t as impactful.

Cobots can improve retention compared to conventional robots, too. Because cobots don’t replace employees, they’re not a threat to perceived job security. They also automate the parts of the job people typically don’t enjoy but leave room for people to perform more engaging and dynamic roles. These factors lead to higher job satisfaction, preventing turnover.

6. More Cost Efficiency

In many cases, cobots are more cost-efficient than conventional automation in the long run. Part of that affordability stems from the fact that cobots don’t require any supplementary infrastructure. Consequently, while the robot itself may be more expensive, that’s the only purchase manufacturers must make to implement them.

Cobots are also flexible by design, so programming them doesn’t take as long, leading to a quicker ROI. Similarly, they can adapt if manufacturers must change their workflow to meet shifting consumer demands or optimize their operations. This lack of disruption minimizes ongoing costs.

7. Increased Flexibility

That adaptability is a key advantage of cobots in its own right. It’s not enough for manufacturers today to be efficient — they must also be flexible, as disruptions are common and trends shift with increasing frequency. There were more than 11,500 supply chain disruptions in 2021 alone, so conventional robots’ inflexibility can quickly become a hindrance.

Reprograming cobots is relatively straightforward, as many feature plug-and-play functionality. Not needing any surrounding equipment or as much floor space also means they’re easier to move around a facility to accommodate new layouts and workflows.

This flexibility improves on entirely manual processes. Cobots are more adaptable than conventional robots and more efficient than humans. Consequently, they can get up to speed faster after a shift than a manual workflow.

8. Job Security

Finally, welding with cobots instead of conventional robots helps prevent social issues concerning job security. Even though automation creates more positions than it takes, it can cause an uneasy sentiment around workers. It’s also worth noting that the opportunities it creates differ from those it takes, so some displacement still happens.

Cobots are different because they complement humans by design. Reskilling is still possible but not mandatory and there’s no threat of layoffs when implementing these machines.

This increased sense of job security improves workforce sentiment and boosts a company’s public image. Manufacturers can enjoy the efficiency and reliability of automation without drawing skepticism over displacing workers.

Welding With Cobots Is Better Than Robots or Humans Alone

Automation is essential to remaining competitive in today’s manufacturing sector, but robots alone aren’t perfect. Welding with cobots helps organizations capitalize on this technology’s benefits while managing its shortcomings.

Entirely manual workflows are slow and error-prone. Conventional robots are inflexible and potentially unsafe. Cobots provide a happy medium between the two for maximum gains.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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