Blog - 3 things to realize when robotizing in heavy steel

Jan Kranendonk
– Updated
Dec 7, 2015

Robotizing in the heavy steel industry comes with certain challenges. When implementing robotics, there are 3 topics that deserve attention: programming of robots (1), compensation for steel tolerances (2) and the implication on the total production flow (3). 

Robot welding beams

1. Programming of robots

When you start looking into robotics, programming is one of the first challenges that arises. As heavy steel production often features unique and complex designs, programming can be a time-consuming process. Telling the robot what to do for each product individually will take too much time. A solution lies in intelligent software. By establishing a link between design and production through 3D CAD or a CAD/CAM connection, programming can be automated to a large extent. Advanced production software (e.g. RinasWeld) can automatically generate robot paths for complex and non-repetitive welding tasks. This kind of software automation drastically reduces robot programming time in terms of work preparation.

Programming of robots in heavy steel

2. Compensation for material tolerances

Another challenge is dealing with tolerances in heavy steel. Profiles, beams and tubes can deviate from their theoretical dimension as a result of their fabrication process. This can bring up serious problems when automating (or robotizing) the production. In fact, we have to adapt the machine to the actual product at the shop floor. To achieve high accuracy and prevent gaps, modern production lines can be equipped with smart sensors to make better fitting parts. When cutting steel for example, products are measured and calculated to adapt the cutting path accordingly. Also, accurate welding can be achieved with seam tracking technology such as ABB WeldGuide (thru the arc sensing).

Compensation for material tolerances

3. Production flow

When robotizing heavy steel, there is more to consider than a single production cell or application. The production flow has to be taken into account. Efficient automation is not about replacing individual tasks by machines, but rather by taking a bird's-eye-view on the production plant. How can production be smarter? By linking machines and logistics as well as aligning with planning and stock, fabricators are able to utilize a highly efficient flow. All systems can be controlled centrally to monitor each product individually at the shop floor. To see how this can be done in the shipbuilding process, you can read a blog about profile production in shipbuilding.

If you would like to obtain more information about implementing robotics in your business, we are glad to advice you (contact us).