The Evolution of Robotic Welding -- A historical retrospective

Apr 17, 2013

Robotic welding has evolved over the years and each time the evolution has brought new and better tools for us on a production line. Robotic welding is able to consistently perform precise welds time and time again, with not breaks or vacations required.


From the time prim­i­tive man began mak­ing tools, man­u­fac­tur­ing has been an inte­gral part of every human’s life. Look around. Every­thing you see that doesn’t exist nat­u­ral­ly was man­u­fac­tured some­where in the world. From the cars we dri­ve to the chairs we sit in, many of these things have been touched by robot­ic weld­ing. But, how did we get from prim­i­tive man to weld­ing robotics?

Orig­i­nal­ly, items were made by indi­vid­u­als them­selves, and then in lat­er cen­turies, by crafts­men in small shops. Once the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion start­ed in the 18th cen­tu­ry, prod­ucts moved out of shops and into large fac­to­ries. Once Eli Whit­ney invent­ed the mech­a­nized assem­bly line in 1797, the begin­nings of mod­ern day man­u­fac­tur­ing were underway.

One of the key process­es in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of met­al items is weld­ing. Weld­ing, the process of join­ing two pieces of met­al using heat and pres­sure, has been around in some form or anoth­er since the ear­ly days of man. Egyp­tians used pres­sure weld­ing as far back as 3000 B.C.

It wasn’t until the 1860s that Hen­ry Wilde used the elec­tric sources avail­able and patent­ed the first form of elec­tric weld­ing. From there, the ear­ly to mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry was con­cerned with devel­op­ing dif­fer­ent types of weld­ing process­es – arc weld­ing, flux cored weld­ing, elec­tron beam weld­ing, etc. While the process of weld­ing put humans in haz­ardous envi­ron­ments of extreme heat and tox­ic fumes, the appli­ca­tion was nec­es­sary for manufacturing.

Then, in 1962, every­thing changed.

That year, robot­ic weld­ing began when Gen­er­al Motors start­ed using the first indus­tri­al robot in their auto­mo­bile fac­to­ry – the UNI­MATE, devel­oped by George Devol and Joseph Engel­berg­er. The UNI­MATE per­formed spot weld­ing on auto­mo­biles going through the assem­bly line.

While Uni­ma­tion was the first robot­ics com­pa­ny, start­ed by Devol and Engel­berg­er, dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s, many oth­er robot man­u­fac­tur­ers like KUKA, Fanuc and Motoman came on the scene.

Weld­ing robot­ics did not real­ly begin to take off until the 1980s, when oth­er auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies fol­lowed GM’s lead and start­ed using robots for spot weld­ing. It was then that the indus­tries began to grow and under­stand the ben­e­fits of weld­ing robots.

By 2005, over 60,000 robot­ic weld cells were work­ing through­out North Amer­i­ca. While com­pa­nies may have sti­fled their automa­tion goals ear­ly because of the high price tag, costs have now begun to come down as more and more com­pa­nies switch to weld­ing robot­ics automation.

In recent years, the arc weld­ing process has grown in pop­u­lar­i­ty, and as indus­tri­al robot­ic welders become more sophis­ti­cat­ed with more axes (for bet­ter move­ment) and 3‑D vision (for bet­ter weld­ing accu­ra­cy), many facil­i­ties use only robot­ic weld­ing cells for their weld­ing processes.

With man’s inter­nal fas­ci­na­tion with met­als and man­u­fac­tur­ing, it is easy to see why robot­ic weld­ing is the way of the future.

Robot welders cre­ate high-qual­i­ty, pre­cise welds, and they boost pro­duc­tiv­i­ty on an assem­bly line. These robots save man­u­fac­tur­ers mon­ey in pro­duc­tion in labor costs because of their speed, abil­i­ty to work with­out breaks, and their abil­i­ty to reduce errors.

They also raise the safe­ty lev­el of shops by get­ting human work­ers out of that haz­ardous weld­ing envi­ron­ment, away from the fumes and extreme heat. While humans are tak­en out of the dan­ger zone, robots still need humans to pro­gram and func­tion, show­ing that while man­u­al weld­ing may become obso­lete, humans will always be an impor­tant part of the weld­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing process.

Robots​.com, a cer­ti­fied inte­gra­tor for KUKA, Uni­ver­sal Robots, Motoman, ABB, and Fanuc robot­ics, works with man­u­fac­tur­ers to find the right robot­ic weld­ing solu­tion for their facil­i­ty. If you are a man­u­fac­tur­er look­ing to auto­mate your weld­ing process, con­tact Robots​.com today at 8777626881 and learn more about your robot­ic weld­ing options.

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