Robotic welding began in the 1980s and has steadily grown to become the dominant application for industrial robots. Of the many different welding processes, tungsten inert gas welding, or TIG welding, is the most common. TIG welding involves using an electric arc between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the metal being welded, all while protected in an inert gas environment.
TIG welding robots have recently made great strides in control precision, repeatability, speed, and range of motion. These improvements allow unit costs to be kept low without sacrificing quality, which is key to thriving in the modern ultra-competitive marketplace.
Among the makers of robotic TIG welders, FANUC Robotics, Kuka, and Motoman Robotics stand out as the industry leaders. All three companies have continually improved their offerings in the TIG welding robot market, leading to cutting edge designs like the FANUC Arc Mate 100i, the Kuka KR-6 and KR-16-L8-3, and the Motoman MA1400 and VA1400.
The FANUC Arc Mate 100i TIG welding robot incorporates desirable features like a reduced wrist size to allow it to reach and weld more areas. It also features internal routing of electric cabling and gas lines inside the robot arm. The Arc Mate 100i’s patented TurboMove advanced servo controls allow it to move more quickly and smoothly to different areas on the product, further reducing product cycle time without sacrificing quality.
Kuka has also developed multiple options in TIG welding robots. Options range from the reliable yet compact and economical KR-5 ARC to the top-of-the-line KR-16 L8-3 ARC with outstanding .04mm repeatability and large 8kg payload capacity. The KR-16 L8-3 TIG welding robot also features a hollow-wrist design, allowing the TIG welding tooling to be housed inside the robot arm, protecting it from damage and reducing undesirable “whiplash” effect from the robot moving.
In Motoman Robotics line of TIG robotic welders, the most notable are the MA1400 and VA1400 models. Like their competitors’ models, both of these Motoman TIG welding robots feature internal electrical cabling and gas lines as well as industry-leading payload and repeatability specs. However, only the VA1400 features a unique elbow-like joint, allowing 7-axis mobility as opposed to the 6 axes offered in all other competing TIG welding robots. The increased mobility of Motoman’s VA1400 welding robot allows it to reach more areas, reducing the number of robots needed to complete a specific TIG welding application.