Wolf Robotics now offers robotic arc welding cells featuring FANUC ARC Mate Robots and Wolf SmartPositioners. The SmartPositioners are available in single- and multiaxis configurations with capacities ranging from 2,000 to 100,000 kilograms. The motion of the positioner can be fully coordinated with the robot.

Some 25,000 engineers, welders and other manufacturing professionals from more than 90 countries visited this year’s FabTech show last week at McCormick Place in Chicago. Filling nearly 400,000 square feet of booth space, the four-day show included 1,083 exhibitors displaying the latest equipment and services for forming, stamping, fabricating and welding metal.

I walked the show for two days and saw many impressive technologies. One that really knocked me off my feet was at the ABB Robotics booth. In a daring display of robotic programming agility, path accuracy and speed, an IRB 1600ID six-axis robot moved a large pin at varying speeds within a tightly aligned grid of light bulbs. That alone would have been impressive, but to add to the technical difficulty, the grid itself was being moved rapidly by a massive IRB 6600 six-axis robot! Even the slightest deviation from the thin path between the bulbs would have resulted in a mess of broken glass. The demo highlights the accurate coordination of complex motion patterns enabled by the ABB’s IRC5 controller. (To see a similar demonstration using cans of Fanta soda, click here.)

Also on display at the ABB booth was the new Universal Small Cell, a preconfigured robotic cell that can be easily adapted for numerous metal fabrication applications, such as welding, cutting and finishing. The cell is equipped with standard elements common to all robotic applications, which simplifies the installation of wiring and the indvidual components for a specific application. The cell can be used independently or as part of a multicell assembly line. Some of the cell’s standard features include:
An IRB 1410, 1600 or 2400 robot with an IRC 5 controller and graphical HMI teach pendant.
* A manually indexed, two-station positioner.
* Fully compliant safety equipment and perimeter guarding.
* A metal mounting base.
* Dual cell doors with interlock device.

Preconfigured robotic cells were a recurring theme in the welding technology portion of the show. Similar cells were being shown by Cloos Robotic Welding, FANUC Robotics, Kawasaki Robotics, Kuka Robotics, Motoman, Reis Robotics, and Wolf Robotics.

Another interesting technology was the Flangeform fastener from BAS Components Inc. The Flangeform is a high-strength captive fastener for thin gauge sheet metal. The fastener is installed with a press. A prepierced component and the fastener are located over a small die. As the punch moves downwards, the fastener forms a flange in the component. This process actually strengthens the attachment point, particularly in thin material. As the punch completes its blow, the collar on the fastener is formed around the flange, becoming an integral part of the component. The top of the fastener is pressed flush into the component, and the fastener’s splines are bedded into the component, providing exceptional torsional strength. It can be inserted manually or automatically.

Some of the new technologies on display at FabTech didn’t directly form or assemble parts, but rather were geared toward improving those processes. A case in point is a Turck Inc.’s new magnetic-inductive sensor for detecting weld nuts. The sensor ensures that ferromagnetic components such as nuts, bushings and spacer sleeves are present before a robot welds them into place. The sensor is an alternative to optical sensors or vision systems, which can malfunction due to contamination from weld-spatter and frequently changing lighting conditions.

Hopefully, the show’s positive attendance figures and the technological innovations on display are a signal that the manufacturing, construction and energy sectors are ready to invest.