|All Weld Programs Ed's Process Control Training Resources Who is Ed Craig?||
Please Refresh as many changes.
Why we need best weld practices &
Process Controls in all our plants.
Robot Welds & Management Decisions:
While the strength of a fillet weld can be measure across the the throat, THE FORD WELD SPEC REQUIRED THAT THE AXLE FILLET WELD SIZES BE MEASURE AT THE WELD SURFACE PROFILE:
To get the deep penetrating fillet welds to the 1/4 fillet size, the robot, pulsed weld travel rate would have to be reduced to a weld travel rate of 15 to 17 in./min. This would create approx. a 20 - 25% reduction in the robot weld travel rates and would have a huge impact on the annual axle production. With this in mind, I went through all the possible external Power Wave pulsed parameter program adjustments, however with the desired wire feed rate, I could not change the intensity or the narrow profile of the pulsed MIG weld plasma. I reluctantly contacted Lincoln. The reason I was reluctant was simple. I already knew what the weld problem was, and a life time of dealing with Lincoln weld issues had increased my hick skin and my attitude was minimal expectations.
As this job was for Ford, Lincoln responded rapidly with it's reputation on the line "again." Lincoln flew in one of it's brighter, weld engineers, and he arrived with his cell phone attached to his ear and a laptop in tow. I demonstrated with the robot and Power Wave settings to how at the required 0.052 production wire feed rate, the resulting pulsed plasma that was produced was "too narrow, too agitated and too intense for the desired welds.
The Lincoln young engineer who to me looked like he just graduated high school, smiled and told me not to worry. He informed me that one of the prime features of the PowerWave was that with the assistance of their unique lap top software, he could change the power source wave forms to suit any application. I smiled back at him, and said, good luck.
THE LINCOLN ENGINEER DID WHAT YOU WILL FIND THAT MANY ENGINEERS AND TECHNICIANS DO WITH WELD ISSUES, HE "PLAYED AROUND" WITH THE PULSED WELD SETTINGS, BUT IN THE SO CALLED SOPHISTICATED WORLD WE NOW LIVE IN, THOSE PULSED MIG WELD SETTINGS WERE NOW IN HIS LAP TOP.
To perform the test pulsed welds, I provided the Lincoln engineer with a long piece of 3/8 (9 mm) carbon steel plate. The plate had a ground surface. I told the Lincoln engineer that when his power source could place a simple robot butt weld on the surface of this 3/8 plate without the 0.052 wire providing an unacceptable digging undercut / crater effect, then his work would be done. Two days later, his over worked lap top had provided every possible combination of pulsed parameters and wave forms and the bottom line was that he told me what I already was aware of. With the large 0.052 wire feed rate set at 420 ipm, the high energy pulsed arc plasma was still too narrow and too intense for the axle welds.
The red faced Lincoln rep did what many do in this situation, he packed up his computer and left, and promised that "his people" would look into the situation and get back to me ASAP.
Over the years I have heard from companies like Lincoln, Miller and Panasonic, the "we will get back to you" canned response many times. Of course, "his people" never got back to us.
I hope that while trying to set those pulsed welds, the young Lincoln engineer had absorbed a weld fact that I had known while he was still in primary school.
PHYSICS AND WELD CURRENT LIMITS:
THERE IS A LIMIT TO THE AMOUNT OF ELECTRONS THAT CAN FLOW THROUGH A CONDUCTOR IN A MANNER THAT DOES NOT DISTURB THE MIG WELD ARC PLASMA. OPTIMUM MIG WELDS REQUIRE CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF THE WELD CURRENT THAT CAN BE USED FOR THE PART THICKNESS AND THE SELECTION OF THE WIRE SIZE SUITED TO THIS CURRENT OR WELD TRANSFER MODE.
The only bloody wave forms I want to see are the ocean waves when i dream about surfing. Pulsed MIG weld equipment can and does offer millions of Useless Wave Forms, however like spray transfer the pulsed mode provides a limited optimum weld parameter range for a specific wire diameter. The pulsed weld parameter range has wire feed, pulsed frequency and peak current limitations. For a given wire diameter the resulting weld current from the peak and back ground pulsed current cannot exceed the s maximum current that utilized for optimum, traditional spray transfer.
This is what an optimum 1/4 fillet MIG weld should look like and I produced
this weld with a power source that cost 75% less than the Power Wave.
Using an 0.045 or 0.052 wire, the typical maximum
automated weld speed for a 1/4 fillet is 20 to 22 inch/min.
IT'S BEEN MY EXPERIENCE OVER THE YEARS TO CONCLUDE THAT MANY OF THE GUYS THAT DESIGN MIG WELD EQUIPMENT, WER SIMPLY NOT AWARE OF AN OPTIMUM MIG PLASMA OR EVEN THE WELD ENERGY REQUIREMENTS NECESSARY TO AATAING OPTIMUM MIG WELD QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY:
With the MIG process, a stable, optimum "bell shaped" plasma is desirable. With this plasma profile, the less concentrated and less intense plasma distributes the arc energy over a wider area and provides good surface coverage of the weld. A plasma profile such as this will not result in an aggressive action digging weld.
Welding steels thicker than 6 mm. When using spray and large diameter MIG wires bigger than 0.045 and the requirement is high deposition rates > 14 lb/hr, a typical spray weld current range of "380- 400" amps is normal.
With the pulsed MIG mode, the weld plasma energy is influenced from both the peak and low back ground current that's required to produce distinct weld drops which serve little purpose for most steel welds. To compensate for that low back ground current that is usually around 80 - 120 amps and is 50% of the weld cycle, an extra high peak current of 400 - 450 amps would be typical. Large wire diameters and high wire feed rates require high pulsed frequency . Combine that high pulsed frequency with that vert high peak current and the electrons get more than a little agitated and therefor it should be easy to understand why the pulsed arc at specific high wire feed settings can get result in a narrow intense, digging pulsed plasma weld, which as in the AA axle case, had more in common with a plasma cutting arc, than it did with an optimum MIG welding arc.
YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT SOMEONE AT LINCOLN OR AT AMERICAN AXLE, OR AT THE ISOLATED ENGINEERING DEPT AT FORD WOULD HAVE SEEN / UNDERSTOOD THAT AT THE REQUIRED PULSED WELD CURRENT / WIRE FEED FOR THE TRUCK AXLE WELDS, THAT THE RESULTING ARC PLASMA FROM THE LINCOLN POWER WAVE MIG UNIT LOOKED MORE SUITABLE FOR A PLASMA CUTTING, THAN FOR A CONTROLLED, STABLE MIG WELD.
YOU MAY ALS0 WONDER WHY THIS POWER SOURCE WAS NOT EVALUATED BY THE AMERICAN AXLE WELD ENGINEER BEFORE HE SELECTED IT FOR THE AXLE ROBOT CELLS. PERHAPS THE WELD ENGINEER RESPONSIBLE WAS NOT QUALIFIED TO EVALUATE THIS PROCESS OR MAYBE HE SIMPLY BELIEVED WHAT THE LINCOLN SALES REP HAD TOLD HIM.
As the down cast Lincoln weld engineer walked towards our plant's exit, under his arm he cradled his lap top with it's unique, USELESS Power Wave Form software. I have little patience with idiots who create time wasting proposals that are not based on proven engineering or scientific facts, but are based on sales induced, bovine fecal weld matter. This BS unfortunately for decades has oozed out of too many weld equipment - consumable companies and their suppliers. Being a pragmatic thick skinned Manchurian born in the industrial heart land of Manchester, home of the industrial revolution, I of course decided to pour a little salt on the Lincoln's engineer's wounds as he headed to the exit.
I asked the Lincoln rep, "don't you think it's a little ridiculous that at the end of the day, your costly Power Wave pulsed equipment provides inferior weld results to your traditional DC 400 amp MIG power source which is more durable and can be purchased for 30% of the price of a Power Wave"? The Lincoln rep did not reply to my question, he just shrugged his sagging depredded shoulders and left looking like a wet blanket.
WELD SHOPS, WELD COSTS AND BENEFITS: If selected, the lower cost, traditional Lincoln CV. DC. 400 amp power source, or better still the superior Miller Delta Weld power source used on this axle application would have produced spray transfer welds with superior weld fusion profiles and reduce that robot pulsed weld cycle time by approx. 20 - 25%
THE LINCOLN POWER WAVE SAGA CONTINUED AND THINGS GOT MORE SERIOUS. THE MACRO ROBOT WELD EVALUATIONS REVEALED EXTENSIVE "WELD CRACKS" WERE BEING PRODUCED IN A GOOD PERCENTAGE OF THE AXLE WELDS.
The caption for this picture could be, "Holy Cow!. First the tires were disintergrating and now the bloody axle welds are cracking.
After the Lincoln rep left, I went back to using a lower wire feed, less digging pulsed setting for the 1/4 (6 mm) fillet welds. We then produced axle welds with the Power Wave, and I set a weld travel speed of 17 ipm to attain that 6 mm fillet.
After I got rid of the undercut and large end craters with the conservative pulsed settings, I then place my attention to the Ford weld evaluation requirements for the truck axles. The weld spec required a "macro cross section examination" of a specific amount of axle fillet welds. A measurement of the surface fillet weld cross section was also required to ensure the minimum weld size dimensions were being attained.
In evaluating the Lincoln Power Wave weld cross cut sections from the axle pulsed welds. I noticed even at the improved lower pulsed settings that from my point of view the weld penetration profiles were still too deep and too narrow. Evaluation of these cross sections revealed cracks as shown on sketch right. These hot weld cracks are typical for weld profiles like this on HS steels. The cracks occurred in more than 20 % of the axle weld samples that I evaluated.
Due to the narrow, pulsed deep weld penetration profiles and restrained high tensile steel weld joints, we were getting classic "Hot Weld Cracks" in the narrow root section of the deep penetrating axle welds.
As we had minimal weld evaluation / test equipment at the robot company, I had the University of Colorado metallurgy department verify that the axle weld cracks did result from the poor pulsed weld profiles. They quickly provided written confirmation that these were classic Hot Weld Cracks.
Remember the center weld cracks were not a surprise from these Lincoln Power Wave pulsed welds, as before we did the macros, I had complained and provided written report to American Axle management about the poor pulsed weld depth to width ratios, and my concerns for potential hot weld cracks.
Before we produced any more axles I notified my management, who then notified AA management of the pulsed production and weld crack issues. In my report. I informed AA that the use of the Lincoln Power Wave pulsed mode would continue to result in deep, narrow weld fusion, and this poor weld profile combined with the high strength steels and highly restrained weld joints provided a classic set of circumstance that contribute to Hot Center weld cracks. At this time I also requested to call a hold on this project.
The robot project manager and I flew to Michigan where we had a meeting with the American Axle company corporate management and the responsible engineers. I explained to these personnel that their choice of the Lincoln Pulsed Power Wave, and the pulsed weld parameters utilized were creating hot weld cracks which were verified by destructive weld tests performed by Colorado State University Engineering dept. Also the Pulsed MIG weld excess weld penetration was reducing the axle robot weld cycle times by approx. 25% .
I explained to the AA management that if they complained about the Power Wave weld equipment to Lincoln in Cleveland, I believed the Lincoln management would have no choice but to exchange the four Power Wave power sources for their conventional CV MIG equipment or something better suited. If the axle company would make the MIG power source change I could quickly get the desired robot weld cycle times for this application, and also eliminate future potential weld crack issues and reduce future liability concerns for Ford axle failures. The axle company management thanked me for the presentation and data and said they would consider the matter.
WITH MOST ROBOT WELD ISSUES, IT'S THE LACK OF PROCESS EXPERTISE OF THE HUMAN WELD DECISION MAKERS THAT TOO OFTEN IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF WELD QUALITY OR PRODUCTIVITY ISSUES.
The bottom line: The AA company employed a weld engineer who must have lacked weld process CONTROL expertise, (its not taught in weld engineer education programs). This weld engineer was no different from many of Detroit's engineers who when they require weld answers or solutions, reach out and seek advice from sales rep. The AA weld engineer was now in a difficult position as the Ford robot weld production schedule was being delayed, and like the Chrysler weld engineer he did not want to loose face in front of his management.
The AA weld engineer did not take long to decide that the Lincoln Power Wave was not the cause of the weld issues. By the way this engineer never came out to our Robot facility to view or participate in the thousands of weld tests we carried out, which was quite remarkable when you consider that Ford was his prime customer and the fact that these robots were going to produce more than a million axles each year.
The engineer would not back down from his Power Wave equipment selection. Shortly after we left his facility he convinced his we cannot make a rational weld engineering decision managers, that irrespective of the technical facts, the University of Colorado weld report and the numerous weld crack samples presented, that he had made the right weld equipment choice. The weld equipment decision was now cast in concrete and again Lincoln Electric was of the responsibility but not liability hook.
Meanwhile as the axle company could not take immediate delivery of the robots. The robot company I worked for was asked to weld five thousand axles. During this manufacturing period at our facility, I continued to evaluate the welds and the center weld cracks continued in about 30%. No one I discussed this with seemed to want to stop welding or take this issue to a higher level. I left this robot company a short time later and the axles weld cracks were still occurring. As it happens I have a conscience, so I sent a registered letter to Ford's lawyers in Detroit. In the letter I spelt out my concerns with the axle weld cracks for their trucks. I never received a reply from the Ford Legal department or from anyone at Ford.
Could it be that Ford management did not want to hear about it's robot axle weld issues. This was the time when tires were falling apart and killing people. Is it possible that Ford would rather wait to see how many axles fail on it's trucks and how many life's are lost before it decides what action should be taken". Or perhaps they hoped that Detroit's best selling trucks will die of rust before those axle weld cracks propagate to failure.
WITH ALL ENGINEERING DECISIONS, IT PAYS TO BE OPEN MINDED. IT ALSO PAYS TO TAKE OWNERSHIP AND KNOW THE PROCESSES THAT ARE CRITICAL IN YOUR MFG. I SHOULD WRITE ANOTHER BOOK AND CALL IT "IMAGINE A WELD SHOP THAT RUNS WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF SALESMEN."
Is the following related to the FORD AXLE WELD ISSUES?
2004 Ford Explorer: Rear Axle Problems.
Hi all. I wanted to know if anyone has any advice or if this problem has happened to you. We have a V8 2004 Ford Explorer that we bought in August of 2003 and we have to get a new rear axle put on which fortunately is covered under warranty. The mechanic told me the weld failed. I haul my bumper pull 2 horse trailer about 2x monthly (since Oct. 2003) with my 1200lb Quarter Horse loaded. How could this happen to a new vehicle? Is it my fault for expecting it to haul my trailer? I know other people who haul their horses with Explorer's and have never had any problems. Is this vehicle of ours a lemon? I would like to know what you all think! Thanks!!!
The following will tell you something about the general, global management and engineering lack of weld process ownership.
 Robot Weld FACT:
In over 90% of the global plants that use MIG or flux cored welding robots, you will find that the primary weld decision makers lack of MIG Best Weld Practice and Weld Process Control Expertise.
 Robot Weld FACT:
It's difficult in most plants, to find a manager who will accept full ownership, accountability and responsibility for the daily weld quality - productivity and costs attained
 Robot Weld FACT:
In most plants, the QA personnel may be very capable of finding weld defects, yet less than one in 10 will be aware of how to make manual or robot weld process changes that will prevent those weld defects.
 Robot Weld FACT:
It's too often a sad fact that persons such as QA managers and Inspectors who typically don't know how to optimize the robot weld quality - productivity will often get more respect and sometimes more pay than the robot technicians in the plant who with proper process control Training could readily prevent the costly weld defects and increase the weld productivity driving down the weld costs.
 Robot Weld FACT:
In most plants that use robots, the weld decision maker's job descriptions are either none existent, or poorly defined.
 Robot Weld FACT:
The ratio of engineers to employees is pretty respectable in auto - truck plants while the amount of qualified weld engineers and technicians in global weld facilities is extremely low. However when qualified engineers or technicians are hired in auto plants, perhaps 1 in 10 will be given the full responsibility, and accountability for the robot, operators and weld personnel that daily impact the companies robot weld quality and productivity.
1985 or 2015 WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?
CONSIDERING THE AGE & SIMPLICITY OF THE COMMON WELD PROCESSES USED, the lack of qualified weld managers, engineers, supervisors, technicians and trainers throughout the industrial world is staggering.
I was often requested by Fortune 500 companies to take the role as either a Plant or Corporate Weld Engineer. My response was always the same. I would inform the senior executives that I would only look at the position not as the Weld Engineer, but as the "Weld Manager." And in the role as the weld manager, I would be given full management responsibility, accountability and ownership, for all the weld processes, the weld equipment, the consumables and for any persons involved with the welds. That way I could quickly get the weld quality - productivity - cost results that the company desired.
GOOD WELD MANAGERS, ALWAYS A RARE SPECIES: If you want to know how few global companies are looking for weld managers, go to the some of world's largest job site, and in the keyword box, type in two words, "weld manager", and then for contrast type in the words "QA manager".
It does not matter if its robot or manual welds, you cannot separate people from the welds produced, and therefore it's important that Weld Managers be always responsible for the Supervisors that impact the robots and weld processes utilized. It's unfortunate that this rarely happens in most auto - truck plants, and this lack of logical people control, creates a huge disconnect in consistently getting the desired daily weld quality - productivity results.
In general, it's unfortunate that too many Weld Supervisors, view their role as simply bringing in the materials in the East door and getting the products shipped out of the West door on time. In reality most weld supervisors are simply "Product Expediters".
Plants that are interested in attaining consistent, optimum weld quality and productivity should hire a "HANDS ON Weld Manager" who understands the concept about process ownership, weld accountability, weld responsibility, weld process controls and best weld practices..
2008: For decades the engineering solution to MIG and Flux Cored weld problems has been;
DAM IT, MORE WELD PROBLEMS, GET THAT BLOODY DISTRIBUTOR SALESMAN IN HERE RIGHT NOW:
In those industries which daily drown from their costly, unnecessary weld quality - productivity issues, a frequent management - engineer crutch for solving the weld problems, would be to call the robot integrator, or the weld equipment mfg., or a weld sales rep, none has typically ever run a sucessful weld shop and more likely they will have a degree in English or History.
Chatting with the sales person over a nice lunch of course will lead to a recommendation from the rep on the possible purchase of of his companies, costly, and usually unnecessary "Pulsed MIG weld equipment". The pulsed MIG equipment will sound like an impressive solution, however the weld reality as it's been for three decades, is this equipment will be loaded with many useless, electronic bells and whistles that cannot compensate for weld process control ignorance.
Of course once the company has purchased the costly pulsed MIG power source, and most of the daily weld issues remain, over another nice lunch and more wasteful meetings, that same salesman may try and convince your company that what you really need is his companies unique three - four part gas mix, or a new metal cored or MIG wire.
2015. SIMPLE AND LOW COST IS USUALLY WELD REALITY: As a process control expert, over five decades, I was requested by over 1000 companies in 13 countries, to provide weld quality - productivity improvements. On numerous weld applications, I made manual & robot, MIG Flux Cored welds that always produced the highest possible weld quality at the lowest possible weld costs.
I made the optimum MIG welds with traditional, durable, low cost CV MIG equipment that typically costs $3000 to $4000. With this equipment I would use a simple, low cost, two component, Argon 2 to 20% CO2 gas mix along with a low cost but well made MIG wire. These are products available today in 2015, and the low cost MIG products purchased today are little different from those that were available to me in the 1960s.
Anyone managing a weld shop would do well to remember that the global MIG and flux cored weld industry, is in general a "Self Taught Industry." This is an industry that evolved from using two simple manual weld processes, SMAW (Stick) and GTAW (TIG). These two weld processes have a common denominator. Both processes operate with only a single primary weld current control, and therefore minimal weld shop focus was typically placed on TIG and stick weld "process controls." With these processes when you need more weld heat you simply turned up the weld current control. With these two processes the weld shop focus was typically placed on the "welders skills".
In contrast to Stick and TIG welds, the MIG process and equipment offers a variety of MIG weld transfer modes and the parameters change with the different consumables utilized. Also the MIG equipment can be used for the flux cored process that utilizes a wide variety of consumables. The bottom line, manual or robot MIG - FCA process optimization has never required the purchase of bells and whistles or ridiculous three part gas mixes. MIG process optimization simply requires "MIG Process Control Expertise and Best Weld Practices knowledge.
A SAD SOLUTION FOR MANY MANAGERS TO INCREASE THEIR ROBOT WELD PRODUCTIVITY, IS PURCHASE MORE ROBOTS:
It's ironic over the last three decades, that the majority of the companies that purchase more robots have rarely attained the best possible weld quality - productivity with the robots they already have.
Surely before purchasing costly robot cells, company management would want to provide their personnel with the Weld Best Practices - Process Control Training program. This program is the missing link in most weld shops and is essential to consistently attain optimum robot and manual weld quality and productivity at the lowest possible weld costs.
For those that work in a weld shop and are thinking, "our welders are experienced and most have been welding for more than 20 years". I will repeat that weld skills has nothing to do with weld process control and best weld practices expertise.
If you believe your key weld personnel have the weld process control expertise they need, take a look at the following weld tests and then ask your self, how well would I do, or how well would my weld personnel do with either this MIG or flux cored weld test, and would this type of type process expertise benefit our organization?
 Fundamental MIG Process Control Weld Test.
 Fundamental Flux Cored Process Control Weld Test.
Weld Process Control - Best Weld Practice training solutions for any manual or robot MIG and flux cored welds, available here.
This web site started in the 1990s is the only global web site that without advertising revenue has promoted the management / engineering ownership message.
2004. For decades, lack of effective robot weld management was
the norm, with the world' best selling Truck Frames.
There were numerous, well paid managers - engineers at the plant that made the above robot welded truck frames, and daily these guys were walking by welds such as this, and yet they did not see a problem. And if they did, they most would not have known the weld resolutions required.
ROBOTS AND FORD FRAME WELDS:
When a company cannot control their robot MIG welds,
you know there are manual MIG weld issues.
I have provided weld process advice and improvements for most of the primary car - truck producers and their tier one suppliers. The following information summary is from one of my many reports. This report dealt with the root causes of the numerous robot & manual weld quality - productivity issues that occured on a Ford Truck Frame robot line.
The reason Ford management requested my input was their new robot multi-million dollar lines were creating dramatic weld quality concerns and cost consequence.
 At the time of the report, the Ford robot weld productivity was only 50 % of the very conservative daily production goal.
 Each day,100% of the MIG welded robot frames required extensive weld rework,
and of the approx. 140 robot welds on each frame, typically 80 - 90 required manual weld rework.
 The manual weld repair rework comprised of unqualifed workers simply covering up the poor robot welds with poor quality manual welds.
 Of the few, so called critical welds on the frames that were sectioned daily, macro examination of the welds, revealed on average, that 40% of the welds revealed lack of weld fusion, a defect that should have rejected both the welds and the frames.
The numerous, manual MIG weld repairs to the robot frame welds provided a patched, third world looking product which provided no solution to the unnaceptable robot welds and also the excess weld heat from the repair welds that passed through the HAZ of the HSS steels, could not have helped the frames integrity.
Note: From my experience, most Auto - Truck companies should be thankful that most of their customers that purchase a car or a truck, will never get to view the welds.
Many of the management and engineering personnel that I had weld discussions with at the Ford facility, seemed disinterested or apathetic about their robot weld issues. I used to believe this attitude was simply a result of their weld process ignorance..
Also adding to the robot weld problems was the use of inappropriate, over size weld MIG wire consumable, along with the selection of poor performance, over priced pulsed MIG equipment. The pulsed MIG equipment was unable to deliver optimum, consistent, pulsed weld transfer. For the rest of the Ford Quality is Job One story, click here
The blatant lack of weld management - engineer responsibility - accountability for the robot weld issues at the Ford frame plant was obviously a problem that should have been addressed at the Ford Corporate level.
Ford would definately benefit from my Robot Process Controls - Best Practice Program.
FOR FIVE DECADES THIS INDUSTRY HAS HAD GLOBAL MIG - FCA WELD PROCESS COMTROL EDUCATION FAILURE:
A lack of MIG - FCA weld Process Control - Best Weld Practice Education and expertise, has for decades, been the root cause of MIG manual - robot weld issues:
An important role for any weld decision maker is to understand the weld process control - best weld practices requirements for the process - optimization. With this expertise the weld decision maker would recognize the expertise that's missing from the weld shop or from the robot cells.
Many USA Colleges and Universities offer weld programs for both weld and mechanical engineers, however I am not aware of any education facility that ever placed emphasis on teaching the future, potential weld managers, engineers, supervisors, technicians or weld personnel, the Weld Process Control & Best Weld Practice Expertise that's necessary with the world's two most widely utilized weld processes, MIG and Flux Cored.
Note:These two processes typically account for 80 to 90% of the welds produced daily.
IN THE 13 COUNTRIES THAT I ASSISTED FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES WITH THEIR ROBOT OR MANUAL WELD ISSUES, I NEVER MET A MANAGER OR ENGINEER THAT HAD RECIEVED THE WELD PROCESS CONTROL EDUCATION THAT IS REQUIRED TO CONSISTENTLY, OPTIMIZE THE WELD QUALITY & PRODUCTIVITY.
I believe that it's common at the Universities and Colleges that taught welding, that in the classes you would find inexperienced professors that would use up many course hours teaching metallurgy or what I call the "Text Book Process Courses" The focus was often on processes such as Laser or Electron-Beam. So while the students did not correctly learn the process control - best practice requirements for the weld processes that account for > 80 % of the daily welds produced, they would spend extensive time on the laser and EB process, two processes that account for less than one tenth of one percent of the global welds produced daily. By the way Laser and EB process are two processes in which the process operation and process control experience is greatly influenced from working with the specific unique equipment and applications thats found in the plants.
Note: In the five decades that I have been in a 1000 plus companies, only once was i asked to resolve an EB weld problem, and in that application I discovered that the welds could have been done with a process and equip that costs $350.000.00 less
If all weld students and engineering students spent more practical and real world classroom time on learning the manual - automated, Best Weld Practices - Process Control Data required with the MIG, Flux Cored and Resistance Weld processes, the global weld industry, and especially the large industries such as construction equipment, automotive and ship building, would have the potential to generate savings of hundreds of millions of dollars daily..
THE GLOBAL "MANUAL WELDER" EDUCATION FAILURE:
The majority (not all) of the global, community colleges that provide manual welder training programs in 2015, are simply stuck in a 1960's time warp.
The weld reality in 2015, as it was in 1975, is that the MIG - Flux Cored processes are still responsible for the great majority of welds produced daily and the demand for MIG and flux cored welders is always healthy and the lack of welders is often a concern with management that simply don't know better.
WELD REALITY: If tomorrow, a company had to hire MIG or flux cored weld personnel, and the individuals interviewed had "ZERO weld expertise", it would require less than 10 days with my Training Program to make a MIG - Flux Cored welder, and unlike the experienced welders in the plant, the new guys would not have to "play around" with their weld controls. By the way the new guy would be capable of providing optimum weld quality - productivity with any all position, code application.
Note: As for the "hands on skills" that are taught in most weld schools with the MIG - Flux Cored process, lets face it, if the weld instructors don't fully understand the MIG and Flux Cored weld controls and best weld practices, how can they teach the correct required weld skills? For decades the majority of weld educators were much more comfortable with SMAW process than with the MIG or Flux Cored process. And in numerous plants I visited, I witnessed the MIG - FCA welders using inappropriate STICK weld techniques, and their reason was that's the way they were taught by the local community trade school,
Note: These comments also apply to the welder training schools and programs provided in most global ship yards and by large corporations. While this information may upset many, please remember that if the fundamental MIG and flux cored weld tests provided at this web site were given to the weld educators and professors who teach these courses, few would pass the tests.
MIG WELD PROCESS CONTROL & BEST WELD PRACTICE APATHY HAS ALWAYS BEEN "INTERNATIONAL IN SCOPE":
MIG and Flux Cored weld process education apathy is not just a USA issue. European and Asian engineers still get much of their weld advice from weld product salesmen. Its also a fact that Asia and Europe has a greater propensity to purchase weld equipment loaded with useless electronic welding bells and whistles. Of course the bells and whistles provided more toys for them to play with
I believe strongly that with the Japanese, If these guys cannot saturate a robot cell and weld power source with useless electronic bells and whistles, they will end up with a migraine.
DONT GET UPSET WITH THE MESSAGE: If you are a young university trained engineer rather than get upset about the above comments and get mad at the messenger, do something about it. Lets face it, the global weld industry needs "hands on" managers, engineers, technicians and supervisors who are Process Control - Best Practice experts, perhaps you could become one, after all its not a bad way to get a better paying job.
This is what the Weld Industry Needs;
a] Engineers, technicians and supervisors that can "without playing around with MIG - flux cored weld controls" instantly provide weld settings and practices that produce cost effective, optimum, manual quality welds for any ferrous or none ferrous weld application.
b] Engineers, technicians and supervisors that can walk into a robot cell and instantly recognize the root cause of the robot down time or the weld issues, and immediately if required, optimize the welds using any MIG weld transfer mode.
c] Engineers, technicians and supervisors that can provide effective weld process control training programs so that all weld personnel or plants weld as one. .
d] Managers, engineers, technicians and supervisors that can look at a wire feed control and in less than 2 minutes tell you the weld cost of any weld.
e] Managers, engineers, technicians and supervisors that can separate weld product = consumables salesmanship from weld reality. It's especially important that weld decision makers are aware of the unnecessary costly bells and and whistles with MIG equipment.
f] Weld decision makers that feel comfortable with the common bread - butter processes such as MIG, flux cored, SAW, SMAW, GTAW.
Aluminum, Panasonic Robot Weld issues:
IN MY EXPERIENCES PANASONIC MADE SOME OF THE WORST PULSED MIG EQUIPMENT SOLD IN THE USA.
Over the years, I was involved in numerous issues with Panasonic robots and their sad excuse for weld equipment, and those issues were on what should have been easy to weld steel parts. I cringed when a company calls me up and asks me to resolve it's Panasoni robot weld issues, and my weld ulcer gets really agitated when that customer tells its having many issues with it's new Panasonic robot cells that are welding aluminum parts.
One company that requested my process control expertise, was one of North America's largest producer of extruded aluminum parts for the auto - truck industry. They had purchased a Panasonic, VR. OOGAL. 11 robot, and a Panasonic 350 amp, Panastar RA 350 pulsed MIG power source. For the 6XXX series gage welds they used an 0.046, (1.3 mm), 4043 MIG wire with argon gas. The alum MIG wire spool was mounted on the robot, and they used a regular four-drive roll feeder with a standard water-cooled gun.
The problem Panasonic robot welds were short weld lengths 5/8 to ¾ long. The short weld length robot welds were made on aluminum square tubes 0.070 thick. The 6xxx tubes were welded to a thicker alum part that was 3/16 thick. Since they purchased the robot, the completed welds were poor quality. Also weld consistency had been impossible to attain. The result was the parts never look uniform with irregular inconsistent and dirty (oxide reaction soot) weld appearence on each part. The forehand push gun angle was used which is supposed to eliminate the oxide result. These welds caused so many issues the company was ready to give up the robot MIG welds and go back to manual GTAW on the alum parts.
The reason the company purchased this robot, is the owner of the company took some sample alum parts to the AWS weld show. At the show a Panasonic rep impressed the owner by producing some manual welds". On these samples the welds were approx. four to six inches in length. In the 12 months since this company purchased the robot, they have never produced a part with welds that look as good as those weld show samples.
NORM: The Panasonic experts and the robot integrator personnel spent many weeks at this company, they did not resolve the weld issues and they did not provide an analysis of the root cause of the weld issues.
THE FRUSTRATED CUSTOMER ASKED ME TO REVIEW HIS PANASONIC ALUM APPLICATION.
After evaluating the equipment, the robot, the process and application, I quickly optimized the weld data and then found the primary problem to be with the Panasonic Panastar, RA 350, pulsed power source. It had a major response time issues with the robot commands.
A factor few power source manufacturers rarely give consideration to is response time with the weld power source commads. This is especially critical on robot welds in which the weld cycle times are less than 3 seconds.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME - RESPONSE. IMPORTANT ROBOT / POWER SOURCE ATTRIBUTES:
It takes time for a robot interface to communicate to a MIG power source. The robot interface has to inform the power source of the required, Weld Start data, which then needs time to change to the Weld Data, and then time is required to stabilize the pulsed data, after which time is required for a diagnostic check and then time to change to the Weld End data.
In the years when Panasonic was struggling to make a decent pulsed MIG power source that could actually provide consistent pulsed welds, (I never experienced this, see the pulsed MIG equipment / robot sections), the response times of communication between the power source and robot was certainly not given consideration by the Panasonic weld equipment designers.
From the weld perspective, aluminum is unique in that time is also required with the weld for the MIG arc plasma to break the aluminum surface oxides and provide an oxide free area for the weld. Also because of the conductivity of aluminum it takes a specific amount of time for each weld (depending on the heat in the part) for the aluminum to become fluid so the weld can proceed.
The pulsed aluminum weld issues were also influenced by the short weld lengths that resulted in very short weld cycle times, and also the gage range welded which was 0.070 to 3/16. The robot weld cycle time was lower than the time that was required for this Panasonic robot / interface power source to respond. Also there was not sufficient weld energy being generated in the thin to thick parts to remove the aluminum surface oxides.
Note: The longer weld lengths produced manually by the Panasonic tech at the weld show, simply did not address the short weld length / time issues that would result on these robot welds..
This was one of those applications that was very frustrating for me as I quickly diagnosed the root cause of the problems, however as I knew before even arriving at this plant, that the existing Panasonic weld equipment would simply not be capable of meeting the optimum quality uniform welds without a change to this weld equipment. With most weld problems a change in weld parameters and weld practices will typically fix the weld issues, with the Panasonic equipment I could make some weld quality improvements however there was no solution to the irregular weld results.
 One could ask why did the managers in this organization purchase a robot without first having test parts welded with the recommended robot and power souce?.
 One could ask why did the Panasonic experts not immediately recognize that the issue was with their equipment and offer to change the power source to one that would meet the weld requirements?
I know the answer to this, it was because they did not have one.
Alum Weld process note: When welding with a robot, if possible do not use a small spool of aluminum wire when you can use a large reel that provides a wider cast and less helix issues. This is really important on small weld sizes and small weld lengths. The Alco Tec de-reeler or similar product is the most practical method of feeding wire to a robot. Alco Tec is also a premium quality aluminum MIG weld wire. For many applications the dee-reeler, and >0.046 wire can be used without a Push Pull Gun. Also you do not need to purchase a water cooled gun for any welds less than 25 mm in length
ROBOTS AND GM BUMPER WELD ISSUES:
GM WAS READY TO SHUT DOWN THIS TIER ONE PLANT DUE TO THE ROBOT WELD SPATTER ISSUES ON IT'S BUMPERS. WHILE AT THE PLANT, I COULD NOT FIND ANYONE IN THE FRONT OFFICE THAT APPEARED INTERESTED IN THE ROBOT WELD OWNERSHIP, WELD RESPONSIBILITY OR WELD ACCOUNTABILITY..
When I got this call, AG Simpson a Canadian, Tier One supplier was making bumpers for GM trucks. I was asked by the confused AG management to resolve their robot MIG weld issues which were causing costly part rejection penalties from GM. The bottom line, GM was ready to shut the AG production plant down due to bumper weld spatter problems around the bumper mount holes.
When I got into the plant, before I could enter the robot cell area, I was asked by the plant manager to first have a chat with the plant's union rep. It seems I had to get his blessing to work with the robots and robot personnel before i could make changes in the robot cells. I have to admit at this point I started to wonder who I should invoice for my consulting services, the plant union rep or to the AG manager. Thankfully Imn a pragmatic Englishman with Scotts and Irish blood and the plant's union rep was a wee hairy Scotsman who had more sense than his management. I quickly explained the changes required and the rep understood the value of what I would achieve for AG and he also knew the robot workers in the required more Robot Weld Process Control Expertise.
In a few hour I reprogrammed the required parameter and and resolved the robot bumper spatter weld problems. I then arranged to have a training program commence the next day which would ensure the robot weld issues would not be repeated on the GM parts.
To ensure all three shifts received the robot MIG process control training, I provided the training over a four day period. Now keep in mind, this robot weld problem at the tier one supplier was a major concern for General Motors Truck Div, and with this in mind I invited all the appropriate managers, engineers, supervisors and programmers to attend the training. The next day and the following training days, It was no surprise to me that none of the plant's managers or engineers attended the robot process control work shop, and yes I invited them several times.
The AG plants was another mfg. plant in which the apathetic management / engineers plant management showed no interest in robot weld ownership and like many other auto - truck plants they ended up allowing the TAIL TO WAG THE DOG.
Management needed to grow some balls and get back control of their weld shop and get their front office and weld shop floor personnel educated with robot weld process controls.
The management - engineering weld process apathy at the AG Simpson plant is common in the auto - truck industry. Managers involved with welding robots need to get the expertise they require for weld quality - productivity optimization. Then send a strong message to their engineers and supervisors about the importance of weld process controls expertise and the implementation of best robot weld practices.
With Ed's 7 Steps to Robot Weld Process Controls weld decision makers will quickly and effectively take ownership with the equipment that daily generates their salaries.
POOR MANAGEMENT DECISIONS BY ONE OF THE
WORLD'S LARGEST PRODUCERS OF LAMP POSTS.
THE ENGINEERS AT FANUC AND LINCOLN COULD NOT SHED
ANY LIGHT ON THIS ROBOT WELD APPLICATION:
One customer I assisted around 2005, manufactured carbon steel street lamps. These steel lamps were approve. 11 to 7 gage in thickness. It should have been a simple manual weld application. On the end of the lamps a flange is welded to the mount on the the lamp that's anchored to the ground. The steel flanges were heavy duty, approx. 13 mm thick. On this application they also weld around an access box, (gage material) located on the post surface near the flange.
This street lamp application became unnecessarily complex the day the enlightened management on the advice of a salesman, decided these easy to manual weld parts should now be welded with a robot. The company ordered a Fanuc ArcMate 100 robot. The robot came with the Lincoln Power Wave, 450-amp, pulsed MIG power source. The robot system was sold by AGA who got its robot technical support of Lincoln / Fanuc. Almost two years after the robot was installed the robot had never come close to its daily weld production quota.
When the robot was installed it was placed on the lamp production line, however numerous weld issues occurred and the management moved the robot to another part of the plant. The robot was moved to a location where the plant personnel could play around with the lamp weld settings.
Once the new robot was installed, the robot lamp weld issues generated daily were numerous and the production produced was way below the management' expectations. At this time those enlightened managers now viewed the robot as a costly liability that was not capable of meeting the simple, daily MIG weld quality or production goals. In the 24-month playing around period, AGA, Fanuc and Lincoln engineering personnel made numerous visits to the plant to try and fix the welds without any success. This is when I usually get the call.
I was requested by the senior plant management to come to this plant to see if I could spread some "light" on the subject. The following are some of the issues I noted and resolved
PRODUCTION TIME: THIS APPLICATION USED EXCESSIVE, UNECESSARY ROBOTIC GUN TOUCH SENSING.
To locate the two primary welded parts, the robot used it's Touch Sense feature. The robot was programmed to use 28 touch points for one simple square flange and one rectangle part. The touch sensing took approx. 20% of the 4 minutes 10 seconds robot cycle time. The amount of touch-sensing used was way beyond excessive and was an indication of the lack of expertise that had been used on this application.
THE ENGINEERS SELECTED THE WRONG WELD PROCESS.
Two years previously, when the first robot welds were made, someone recommended the pulsed MIG process, using an 0.045 (1.2mm) wire. The so called optimum pulsed MIG settings recommended by the Lincoln engineers, resulting in Power Wave pulsed welds that were TOO HOT for the application. Someone then on the Lincoln / Fanuc / AGA weld team, for some strange crazy reason recommended that they change to an 045, (1.2mm) E71T-1, All Position, Gas Shielded, flux cored wire. When i look at the organizations involved in this ridiculous weld process recommendation I have to go back to my medicine cabinet and swallow another ant-acid pill.
The following daily Weld Issues were occurring with the robot flux cored welds. Keep in mind the weld and production issues had nothing to do with the weld process used.
[a] Inconsistent daily weld results, requiring constant robot down time for program changes.
[b] excessive weld burn through every shift,
[c] lack of weld fusion on the majority of parts, caused so many issues would need to write a book on that circus.
[d] excessive undercut,
[e] slag entrapment.
The bottom line, the manual welders were spending more time on the robot weld repairs, than the time they used to spend manually welding the finished product..
MY WELD CHANGES COMMENCED AND THE COST SAVINGS BEGAN.
As in too many weld applications, variable weld gaps were an issue for the robot, and this was only partially addressed by the robot touch sensing. The weld gaps were also influenced by the assemblers of the lamps. When these guys tacked the parts often they would not evenly distribute the gaps. (a management issue). So I took on the role of the plant's managers - supervisors and provided instructions and gages to the assemblers so that the gaps presented to the robot would be even and had to be a max. of 0.060 (1.6mm), which I considered acceptable for these robot welds.
The next thing I checked was the reliability of the Fanuc robot touch sensing equipment. It worked fine. We then re-programmed the robot to touch the parts only six times instead of the 28 times used previously. I tested the repeatability, it was OK. The touch time cycle per part was reduced from approx. a minute to 10 seconds.
REPLACED THE WELD WIRE TYPE AND SIZE:
Lincoln - Fanuc and AGA had selected the WRONG PROCESS FOR THESE ROBOT WELDS. Some engineer at one of these companies had recommending the deeper penetrating 0.045 E71T-1, all position flux cored wire for use with a very costly pulsed MIG power source. Even a grade nine kid in a weld class would question this process logic. The more costly E71T-1 wire is first and foremost not required, and definitely it's not suited for any welds that have gaps. Also some of the robot flux-cored welds were being made in the Vertical Down position, with these wires slag entrapment occurs. Also for this flux cored wire to function on the thin gage lamp post, low weld settings would have to be used. The low flux cored weld parameters not only reduced the potential weld speeds that could be attained with MIG, the vertical down
E71T-1 wire weld positions ensured slag entrapment and lack of fusion especially on the thicker flange side of the weld. Also when the repair welds were made the slag and spatter were issues.
Any one who has read my Robotic Management Guide to MIG Welding book or used my process control training program would be aware of the fundamental fact that with traditional MIG, the most superior MIG wire size for parts less than 3/16 (4.8 mm) is an 0.035 or 0.040 wire, especially when the parts have weld gaps.
I RESET THE ROBOT WELDS BACK TO MIG AND THEN DID A COMPARISON OF REGULAR MIG V PULSED.
I replaced the E71T-1 0.045 (1.2mm) flux cored wire, with an 0.035 (1mm) E70S-3 MIG wire. I then had an argon 10% CO2 mix put in the cell. I welded the parts first using a combination of both short circuit and spray transfer. I then set the Power Wave to produce pulse welds on the parts. All the welds produced were optimum from a quality and deposition rate perspective. Proponents of the costly pulsed process note. The differences between the pulsed and traditional short circuit and spray mode welds were simply not measurable.
In contrast to the 0.045 E71T-1 wires, the 0.035 MIG wire provided many weld benefits. This part never required the pulsed MIG transfer mode, however as the company had unnecessarily spent thousands of dollars more than it needed to with the purchase of the PowerWave, I did not put salt in the engineers wounds and left the settings in the pulsed mode. Remember Lincoln - Fanuc and AGA had been unsuccessful with pulsed MIG.
I SIMPLIFIED THE ROBOT MOVES AND OPTIMIZED THE ROBOT MIG GUN POSITIONS.
For the robot to weld all the way around the square end flange weld joint, which by the way was in a fixed position. The robot made two welds, one each side, each move wrapping halfway around the square joint. The robot moves were complex, stretching all 6 axis of the robot to it's limits. In stretching the robot's reach limits, many of the welds did not have the weld gun positioned for optimum weld control. From a programmer perspective, when robot program points become complex, they eventually will require correction. In these circumstances the robot operator may find it difficult to duplicate the initial program moves. I had the flange weld reprogrammed and produced four simple straight welds that could use optimum robot movement and optimum gun angles.
AFTER 3 DAYS AT THE PLANT, MY WORK PAYS OFF.
With the new robot program in place, the 0.035 MIG wire and the new weld procedures, I reduced the lamp total cycle time by 50%. We welded 20 lamps and did not have an issue with a single weld. The bottom line, the customer now had a stable robot weld process and could now produce in two shifts what they were going to produce in three shifts.
Even tho the management had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in that 2 year period of process chaos, being a good Catholic, I only charged them approx. i$3000 for the elimination of their robot weld problems. I eliminated their weld rework, and as mentioned provided a 50% increase in their robot weld production. It saddens me that I don't recall getting a Hall Mark Thank You card from Lincoln, AGA or Fanuc. Some people or is it companies, simply have no manners.
CONCLUSION" With engineering functions if you don't know the best way to do something you should ask someone who does, or you should simply keep your mouth shut.
Why the management and engineers failed at this lamp facility.
 A management should never purchase a robot unless the integrator or robot supplier first proves that they can produce the weld quality - production promised with a run of at least 2 hrs weld production without weld quality - productivity concerns.
 You don't run a plant in which welding is a key function and know very little about the weld processes that you are using in the plant. Train yourselves and your employees with process control training on the common processes utilized at your facility.
 You don't waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on a robot you did not need.
 You dont allow two years to pass before you resolve the costly weld issues.
 Managers need to take ownership of the important mfg. processes in their plants. The front office personnel at this lamp plant are supposed to be experts in what they build, so why did they rely on sales advice and weld advice from some rep who likely has minimal process control expertise and who typically has never run a weld shop.
 And last but not least. When someone saves you thousands of dollars and pulls you out of the swamp that you built for your self you offer them more than 3K and a handshake.
There are many things this plant's management and engineers could have done, however the first thing they should have done was spent $400 and given themselves and their employees a robot weld process control education.
IT'S A PITY THAT FEW MANAGERS GET THIS?
"PEOPLE EXPERTISE & MANAGEMENT CONTROL ARE THE MOST
CRITICAL PARTS OF ANY MIG ROBOT WELD OPTIMIZATION".
It's ironic in the auto - truck industry, that when they do manage to hire that rare robot programmer who at least has a small amount of MIG weld process control expertise, the management that typically will not understand this subject will rarely allow the guy with the expertise to manage the operators that daily run the robot cells.
Most auto - truck companies will not think twice about letting maintenance personnel make changes to the so called pre-qualified robot MIG welds, yet in the hundreds of plants that i visited, I never met a maintenance person who understood the required MIG process controls and best weld practices:
You may be familiar with this scenario. The robots have many shut downs during each shift, ( 30 to 45 min/shift is the norm). The plant robot shut downs are controlled quite often by a maintenance person that will play around with the weld settings. The bottom line is each shift there are guys that are typically making unqualified weld process changes and the person making the weld changes is reporting each shift to a maintenance supervisor, another individual that knows nothing about MIG weld process controls - best practice.
IS THERE A REASON WHY THE SUPERVISORS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION CANNOT GET A LITTLE WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST PRACTICE EDUCATION?
Lets face it, the prime responsibility of most supervisors and lead hands in the manufacturing plants that use robots, is to meet the "shift production demands" and get the just in time delivered parts out of the lean mfg. doors.
An important step for management, and supervisors is to recognize the weld process control expertise that the company requires, and It takes typically less than 20 hours to learn that expertise with this program.
A WELL RUN WELD SHOP WILL
HAVE LEARNT FROM PAST EXPERIENCES.
WHEN THIS CORPORATE MANAGEMENT FAILED TO RECOGNIZE THE TECHNICAL EXPERTISE REQUIRED FOR IT'S EMPLOYEES, ONE OF THE WORLDS LARGEST USERS OF MIG WELDING ROBOTS FAILED .
In the 1990s, there was a USA based auto - truck frame mfg. called A.O.Smith. A.O. was a Wisconsin based company which started to make frames for Cadilac vehicles in 1904.
By the mid 1990's, A.O.SMITH was the world's largest auto - truck frame mfgs, and at that time they were using more than 1200, ABB, MIG weld robots.
In contrast to Japanese MIG welding robots with their too often useless bells and whistles, the A.O. robot cells had mostly traditional, Miller Delta, 450. CV. MIG power sources ABB Swedish built robots, and for consumables they utilized 0.045 (1.2 mm) MIG wires with a two part argon - CO2 gas mix.
THE FRAMES WERE MIG WELDED WITH THE CONVENTIONAL MIG SPRAY MODE AND THE HOURLY WELD DEPOSITION RATE AVERAGE WAS 12 LB/HR.
In the early 1990s, while in my position as North American Weld Mgr for ABB robots, I believe I was the only person in the world at that time that was providing Robot MIG Weld Process Control - Best Weld Practice Training. And as far as i know, A.O.SMITH was the only global company that had implemented Robot Best Weld Practices.
TWENTY PLUS YEARS, IN 1995, THE A.O. SMITH DAILY ROBOT WELD REWORK WAS BY TODAY'S AUTO - TRUCK STANDARDS, MINISCULE, AND THEIR AVERAGE ROBOT MIG WELD PRODUCTION WAS SUPERIOR THAN THAT ATTAINED BY ANY GLOBAL AUTO - TRUCK PLANT IN 2015.
A O Smith weld management worked on the simple philosophy that you get the best robot weld results from utilizing good weld engineers, the best robots and highly trained, well paid robot technicians . A.O had selected ABB robots with its Swedish logic, and they also selected the world's best MIG power source which was and still is the Miller Delta Weld. This MIG equipment has the best possible slope out put, it was extremely durable and did not encompass a single useless bell or whistle.
It's a fact, that the 1990s, A O Smith engineers and technicians were likely the highest paid in the auto - truck industry, and likely better paid then most in the same business today in 2015. However with the high production attained and with the minimum weld rework required, the bottom line, the robot technicians and engineers salary was not really relevant to the company profits achieved.
This company as mentioned was unique . It employed weld decision makers that actually owned and took full responsibility for their robots and primary weld processes. This was a company that employed key weld personnel and these guys did not need advice from a weld salesman. Continue this story below..
2015. I DON'T BELIEVE THERE IS AN AUTO - TRUCK COMPANY ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, THAT HAS EVER COME CLOSE TO ATTAINING THE SAME DAILY ROBOT MIG WELD QUALITY - PRODUCTIVITY, THAT WAS ACHIEVED BY A.O.SMITH 25 YRS AGO.
IN THE MID 1990s, TOO IMPROVE THEIR LEVEL OF WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST WELD PRACTICE EXPERTISE, I WAS REQUESTED BY A. O. SMITH, (world's largest frame mfg.) MANAGEMENT TO PROVIDE MY MIG ROBOT WELD PROCESS CONTROL TRAINING PROGRAM FOR THEIR ROBOT TECHNICIANS.
A few years after I provided the training, I think it was around 1997, the A.O.SMITH company was purchased by Tower Automotive. At that time, I had been in many Tower plants assisting them with their robot weld issues. I knew from these visits, that the Tower corporate management and the majority of their senior plant management and engineers had never comprehended or appreciated the technical and process expertise required to run the robots and attain optimum, consistent robot weld quality and productivity.
NOTE: FROM THE MID 1990s TO THE PRESENT, THROUGH NO FAULT OF THE WORKERS, I WATCHED AS MANY USA PLANTS MOVED SOUTH TO MEXICO OR EAST TO CHINA. I WATCHED THE WORKERS PAY - BENEFITS SLOWLY RECEDE AND WATCHED THE SLOW DISSAPEARANCE OF AMERICAS MIDDLE CLASS
For me, it was was sad in this USA shrinking mfg environment, to watch a poorly managed company like Tower, with its "hands off," we do not own, we are not responsible managers - engineers, add to the employment misery.
HOW DID TOWER CONTRIBUTE TO THE USA EMPLOYMENT WOES?
TOWER TOOK THE VERY WELL MANAGED 90 YEAR OLD, A.O.SMITH COMPANY, AND IN LESS THAN A DECADE THE TOWER MANAGEMENT WHO WERE INCAPABLE OF DOING WHAT A. O. SMITH HAD DELIVERED, ENDED UP IN THAT GREAT CLOUD IN THE SKY THEY CALL CHAPTER 11.
When you think of Texas, whats your image?
In that forever sinking manufacturing American quagmire that today they call Detroit, there has for decades been a strange relationship between Cars - Trucks - Robots & Deer.
In contrast to the excellant robot frame results at A.O Smith, many years later at the Ford Frame plant in Detroit, you would have found the real world, required robot MIG weld rework on the truck frames would daily be in the 70 to 100% range. And if the manual welders at the Ford plant were not hunting on the weekends, the management response was to the poor weld quality was to invite their workers to come in on the weekend and provide always very poor, always unqualified, Stick or MIG weld repairs on top of those bad or missing robot welds.
ANYONE WITH A GRADE NINE EDUCATION WOULD KNOW THAT WELD CRAP ON TOP OF WELD CRAP WOULD RESULT IN OVER HEATED PARTS THAT UNFORTUNATELY ARE FULL OF WELD CRAP.
Another sad reality fact that would exite the legal proffesion. The majority of the robot frames that were considered to have acceptable welds, would not be accepted outside this plant by any engineer that undesrtood the fundamental simple requirements of a weld.
MOST OF THE ISO APPROVED, BLACK BELT. FRAME MANAGERS AND ENGINEERS THAT I MET AT THE FORD PLANTS HAD SHOWN THAT THEY HAD MINIMAL WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE, AND THEY HAD LITTLE INTEREST IN THE PROCESS THAT WAS USED ON THEIR CARS AND TRUCKS.
NOTE: You may wonder what it takes, apart fron the annual billions of dollars lost to auto - truck recalls, and to the occasional hundred million dollar liability law suites, to shake up the senior management and engineers in the Auto - Truck industry.
Cars and trucks are too often like a fancy box of chocolates, once the fancy wrapping is removed there is often disappointment with the chocolate
IF THE PURCHASER OF ANY VEHICAL COULD EXAMINE THE QUALITY OF THE PARTS THAT THEY DON'T NORMALLY SEE ON THAT VEHICAL, AND EXAMINE THE DAILY MFG. PRACTICES AND LACK OF CONTROLS IN THE PLANTS, IT'S LIKELY THAT LIKE THE AMISH, THEY WOULD STICK TO A HORSE AND BUGGY.
Ed: I have been the VP of the HR department now for 20 years. When I think back, the weld department and it's personnel have always been the area in which we have had most manufacturing and the most people issues. I know in the last 10 years we have likely gone through 4 people who have supervised the weld department.
A Question from HR. dept:
My question is why is this area of industry the cause of so many mfg. issues?
In reality all your weld - and weld related manufacturing issues have worked their way down from the plant managers and engineering manager's office.
At too many companies, inexperienced management has never correctly identified the root cause of their common daily manual or robot weld issues. These managers are simply not aware of the "process expertise" (not skills) requirements necessary for individuals to run a highly efficient weld shop or robot cell. In this enviroment the captain blames the crew, and the ship never gets to be as efficient as it could be.
From my perspective in 2014, a "qualified weld or manufacturing manager" is maybe as rare as a bird on the edge of distinction and I would speculate today, that no more than two in twenty individuals who claim they have the necessary management MIG weld expertise to optimize robot or manual weld production, have the real capability.
My advice to any manufacturing company who relies on manual or weld automation, is have these individuals spend 15 - 20 hrs with these important process control resources.
Also when a company has employed a good weld "hands on" mgr, supervisor or technician, look carefully at their compensation. How logical is it when you find a "Mr. Right weld person, that this individual should be paid less or no more than some of the ineffective, engineers you already employ, engineers who typically spend too much time in front of the computors in their air conditioned office, engineers that are unable to resolve manufacturing process issues?
If a company employs a technician with extensive expertise in both robotics and welding, any management recruiting company would tell you that this individual will be much harder to replace than an engineer or your corporate bean counter accountant. In companies that utilize many robots, when the robot weld quality and productivity is optimized the costs benefits should be substantial, therefore the remuneration for these services should be easy to justify.
If you are one of the unique, few individuals experienced in both weld process controls and robot programming and you are looking for a job, remember with the dramatic growth of robots in the weld industry, the manufacturing industry will for a long time need you much more than you need them. Even tho most companies that try to hire you, don't understand the process expertise required for optimum robot weld quality - productivity, don't sell yourself short.
If at the facility where you work, you find the management and supervision are ignorant to the responsibilities of optimizing weld productivity and quality, then make it your responsibility to first try to educate them with cost saving facts. Print out appropriate parts of this site and place them, (without finger prints) in the managers mail box. If the manager is a logical and honest individual, they will get the message. If the management is unresponsive to you, then visit some of the top career web sites. Use the keyword "welding" and go and find a company who understands and appreciates your talents.
If you are a manger that wants process control expertise in your organization,
The following Add shows why many plant managers and
HR personnel are out of touch with weld reality.
A similar job advert such as the following, could be found at most career web sites. This tongue in cheek add spoof, is simply another an indication of the global robot management expertise.
2008: Wanted engineer or experienced technician to work for a Fortune 500 company that has annual product sales of over 1 billion dollars.
Major global automotive company requires a multi-talented person to manage and resolve their weld, paint and press shop "production - quality issues". This person will have responsibility to;
 Optimize the robot weld quality and production at four USA plants that have over 600 robots. (Must understand Panasonic - ABB robot software).
 Provide expertise and guideance for our Laser, Plasma and Resistance equipment.
 Trouble shoot and ensure the metal forming, press & paint processes are optimized.
 Be responsible for capital expenditure equipment / training budget of approx, five million dollars.
 Provide training programs for 500 personnel.
This high exposure position requires a high energy person that will work 60 - 80 hrs hour a week, (overtime not paid).
Working Conditions: We are sorry that we will only be paying the same as we did twenty years ago, $55K - $65K. Relocation is not provided because we don't think you are that important. We will fund your continuing education because we know you will never have time to attend educational courses. We appreciate the fact that you will be here working on the weekends when we are home with our familiies. Promotional prospects are not likely, because there is no one else around here with a white shirt and a tie that could replace you.
While I exaggerated the above want add just a little, this add is typical and it reveals the common management, weld process / manufacturing expertise naivety and ignorance from those that should be better informed.
I believe one lesson that the Big 3 companies learnt decades ago was how specialized the expertise and skills are for automated process optimization in metal forming, steel joining and painting, and I believe that this is one of the prime reasons the Big 3 executives pulled the plug on those applications in their plants, and out sourced the applications to global part suppliers, who ironically typically had the same mfg. problems.
The majority of auto and truck welded part tier supply companies have daily lived with numerous quality and productivity issues that occurred with their stamping, painting and robot MIG weld process. The tier one companies would do a BIG 3 and out source some of their problem parts to others down the food chain.
Another resolution for the auto - truck companies who's managers - engineers were not up to par to optimize their processes, was to hire large global engineering companies and their consultants. For example they may hire ABB to take over the robot paint lines or other processes in their plants. With this in mind, it's ironic that today in 2015, you can visit the web and see numerous want adds (as above) in which the manufacturing company management wants to hire a "Multi-Talented Engineer with expertise in welding, robots, painting and the press shop. You have to laugh at the process ignorace that prevails.
The naive mfg. company that trys to hire a "Multi-Talented Engineer - Technician" will often end up with an individual that will has limited expertise in one process, and his experiences with the other processes was attained as he walked by them on his way to his office.
Manufacturing managers and those HR department VP's should always remember, each of the prime processes mentioned is unique, and to consistently get the highest possible quality - productivity at the lowest costs, each process can take years to master. As a weld process control engineer I still learn important facts after 50 years on the job.
Again we see how management ignorance and perception can have a great influence on why their plants do not get the skills, expertise and most important the required training that's necessary for their process optimization. It's also a sad cooment, that few of the people who will make the management weld decisions will visit this site, or review my robot weld process control resources.
THIS COMPANY MADE SOME OF THE WORLD'S BEST SHOCKS, BUT THEIR MANAGEMENT / ENGINEERS DID NOT HAVE A CLUE ABOUT ROBOT MIG WELD BEST PRACTICES AND PROCESS CONTROLS:
WHEN I ASSISTED MONROE, IT WAS A COMPANY THAT HAD A REPUTATION FOR QUALITY, DURABLE PRODUCTS, UNFORTUNATELY AT THAT TIME OF MY VISIT THEY LACKED SENIOR MANAGERS AND ENGINEERS WITH ROBOT MIG WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE. ALSO THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH A CHRYSLER WELD SPEC, A THAT COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN IN DISNEYLAND:
Monroe is a USA tier one manufacturer of car - truck shocks. Monroe engineers could not get the robot welded shock brackets to qualify for a Chrysler "weld bracket load test" and they contacted me to get to the root cause of the robot weld issues.
The Chrysler load test weld specification required that the robot MIG bracket welds on the shocks absorb a minimum 13,000 lb test load. After welding with their robots and using the spray transfer mode, the Monroe bracket welds on the 2 to 3mm gage steel shocks, would typically fail in the 7000 to 9000 lb load range.
On evaluating the Monroe shock robot welds, I then took two days with the manual MIG process making the same welds and doing macros and load tests with the parts. My manual weld test results revealed that any test load of less than 19,000 lbs was an indication of lack of weld fusion in the shock bracket welds. Remember the Chrysler weld spec for the parts required a minimum test load of only 13,000 pounds on the shock bracket welds.
The reasons that the Monroe engineers could not meet the Chrysler test load requirements were;
[1 The robot MIG spray weld deposition was too high for the small welds. This resulted in robot "weld speeds that were simply too high" for the small brkt welds that were made on the round, cold rolled steel parts. When weld speeds are too fast, there will be insufficient time for the required side wall weld fusion. By the way this is a common issue on with small MIG welds on round parts in which the the weld fusion profile is always changing. Dealing with robot welds such as this is found in my Robot Process Control Training Resource.
 The required shock bracket "weld lengths" were also "too small in LENGTH". Small weld lengths < 25 mm, typically have three sets of robot MIG data, weld start - weld - weld end. With this situation the welds are typically erratic and inconsistent and lack of weld fusion is common.
After I identified the prime robot weld issues, I made the following robot weld changes;
[a] I lowered the spray Wire Feed speed which allowed a slightly slower weld speed.
[b] I changed the gun angles, (less fore hand) and more focus on the tube.
[c] I reduced the wire stick out which increased the weld energy.
[d] I slightly increased the weld lengths to their max length which meant 3 to 4 more mm of weld.
With my changes the robot Monroe shock bracket welds on average then failed the load test at an average load of 21,000 lbs. By the way, the slight decrease in the robot weld speed did not impact the weld production, as I compensated with an increase in the robot speeds between the welds.
Note: Over the years. I have found that robot MIG weld specs produced by Toyota - Honda - GM - Chrysler and Ford had more to do with FICTION than with weld reality.
Question from the "its WELDING, we don't have not got a clue, HR. dept".
Ed we have had robots for at least a decade and I don't think my department or my manufacturing managers - engineers are aware of many of the issues you bring up at this site.
Ed's Answer: Its a primary role of management and engineers to figure out the expertise, resources, training and equipment that will ensure the best possible results on the mfg. plant floor. Ignorance of the weld process resolutions that are required for both manual - robot weld issues, are the reasons why so many managers spend a great portion of their time in useless meetings, or fighting fires without ever quenching the flames
Unfortunately at this time throughout the auto - truck industry, too many managers are happy just to see the robots running and the weld sparks flying. The solution to your problem is robot / manual MIG - FCA weld process control - best practice education / training, and this has been simplified and its found here.
My preference for MIG welding robots based on performance and value
would be based on the appication, Daihen OTC and ABB.
My preference for pulsed MIG equipment is for Daihen OTC.
Robot MIG Weld Reality
PRODUCTION & QUALITY GOALS:
Robot MIG WELD REJECTS & REWORK:
In high volume weld applications, a company does not have robot weld issues If the robot weld reject / rework rate is no more than TWO PARTS PER-SHIFT. This was attained with every robot cell that I made improvements in, and with my robot weld process control training program, this could easily be every companies weld reject / rework goal.
Robot MIG WELD PRODUCTION POTENTIAL:
Anyone can set a MIG welding robot to run at 40 to 75% of it's weld production efficiency capability and most do. Few programmers have optimized the robot so that it consistently achieves optimum weld quality with weld productivity that's at least 97% of the robots full weld production efficiency potential. To recognize and attain the robot's true weld production potential I suggest that robot weld decision makers use my training resources.
The weld reality is that less than 10% of the global robots are operating at their peak weld quality - productivity performance, and that's good news for those managers and engineers looking to reduce their weld costs. The solution is in my Seven Steps to Robot Weld Process Controls.
Who is qualified to Run the MIG welding Robots?
Question from another frustrated HR manager.
Ed, at our company we normally take production welders and let them run the robots. Is it necessary to use welders as robot operators, and what is the criteria for a good robot operator?
Why would you use the skills of a manual welder. when the robot provides the weld skills. When hiring a MIG welding robot operator, it's more logical to get a worker that is drug free and looks like they will have good work ethic. You want a person who will stay at the robot station, a team player with a good work attitude. You want a person who will follow posted process control instructions, a person who will take pride in maintaining their work area, and take pride in achieving the required weld quality and production each shift.
The operator should be given basic MIG process training that enables them to recognize what a change in an arc sound means. You can do this with manual MIG equipment. They should also receive training on how to inspect a weld, and understand what an acceptable and rejectable weld looks like.
In contrast, that robot programmer should be an individual that likes working with computers, CNC or electronic controls. An individual who has an interest in welding. Provide my robot MIG weld process training program which they can use as a self teaching resource. As for programming the "robot companies training program" will provide that.
Why are there so many weld issues in Auto/ Truck plants?
Question from an HR manger that likes to get to the root cause of their issues:
Ed. why are so many robot weld issues found in plants that produce auto / truck parts?
Eds Reply. First we have to keep in mind that many of the managers in this industry are more driven and focussed on daily production quota's rather than product quality conformance. The MIG and flux cored weld process issues discussed here are also prevalent throughout the weld industry, even in plants that work with stringent code specifications. However automotive plants also deal with more robots than most other industries and work with high volume applications on stamped parts that change with the wear and the quality of the dies used to make them. Also it's a sad fact, that for decades in contrast to other metal manufacturing industries, when it comes to welding the auto - truck industry management has been notorious for not hiring experienced, qualified weld personnel, (it's difficult to hire an expertise when you are not aware of the expertise required).
It's common in the plants to find the auto mfg managers tied up with controlling just in time inventory, ISO requirement and spread sheet issues and spending much time in team meetings that simply go round in circles. It's a sad weld reality that few managers get involved with weld issues will get to the root cause and provide the correct resolutions.
Poor MIG Weld quality, boy that an old problem.
If before you purchased a truck or car, and you asked to inspect the welds on the underside of the vehical, you likely would not want to purchase that vehicle.
THE PANASONIC ROBOT WELD FIASCO:
There is always a price to pay for management - engineering incompetence.
For at least six weeks, the frustrated, experienced PANASONIC ROBOT WELD TEAM COULD NOT GET THEIR ROBOTS TO PRODUCE TWO SIMPLE EXHAUST WELDS.
For me it was another one of those annoying Japanese, Panasonic robot applications. Thanks to the Panasonic engineers who did not have a clue about MIG welds, we had another simple weld application that was now made unnecessarily complex.
After six weeks of the usual "playing around," the Panasonic team and robot integrator could not get their new robot to consistently place two small welds that were approx. 15 mm in length. The welds were made on a carbon steel rod that was welded to a thin gage galvanealed exhaust hanger bracket. As with many auto - truck parts, the exhaust bracket was "poorly designed" by the engineers at Honda.
Still producing erratic welds, the Panasonic robot personnel had given up on the robot weld project and left the plant. The Honda part supplier had five days left before the robot weld production was supposed begin on the part, and as usual that's typically when I get the call.
The exhaust hanger bracket was designed by engineers at Honda. I am sure the Honda engineers who designed the part had no idea how their MIG weld process ignorance contributed to many of of the robot weld issues generated.
The round carbon steel rod was 5/16 diameter, and the thin gage galvanealed bracket that the rod was welded to was very thin, 0.047. Think about it the lack of fusion concerns for the 5/16 rod and then the weld burn through concerns for the thin part 0.047.
As I must have mentioned at least a 1000 times, poor weld design is common in the auto / truck industry and I have yet to meet a designer in this industry who had bothered to learn the MIG weld process requirements, issues and limitations.
With this rod to brkt weld, after six weeks of the usual "playing around" with the weld and robot settings, both the Panasonic team and the robot integrator produced the following;
 inconsistent, irregular weld profiles,
 welds with excess porosity,
 welds with excess burn through
 welds with excess lack of weld fusion.
After the plant wasted thousands of dollars on the loss of productivity and the weld rework, the Panasonic people gave up and left the plant. The exhaust company was very concerned as they had five days left before the full production had to begin and thats when the very frustrated plant manager gave me a call.
When I arrived at the plant I spent few hours reviewing the robot welds. I made the following observations.
The welds produced by the Panasonic personnel were "too small", and the short circuit, "fast freeze" undersize welds were one of the cause of the excess weld porosity and also weld irregularity.
ACTION: I increased the weld size, this change resulted in more forgiving welds that had less opportunity for weld porosity, however I noted that the Panasonic robot welds that were useing a Panasonic MIG power source was still producing welds that were erratic and inconsistent from one part to the next
 Weld burnthrouh on the 0.046 brkt. part was common even tho the short circuit mode was in use.
ACTION. I avoided the burn through by actually increasing and redirecting the weld heat. I used the higher energy spray mode which required higher wire feed rates enabling faster weld speeds which reduced burn through potential. With this poorly designed Panasonic power source the spray mode was also more stable.
 As with many Panasonic robot / power source weld applications, the erratic welds would be readily noted in the resulting weld arc sounds which are always a good indicaction of the MIG equipment performance capabilty.The Panasonic power source provided two outputs, one developed for use with straight CO2, and the other for use with argon mixes.
With short weld lengths that have an arc on time of less than 5 seconds, it's important that the weld equipment used has the capability of providing "consistent out put" for the three sets of robot weld data provided,
 The robot weld start data,
 The robot weld data.
 The weld end data.
However with all the bells and whistles in this Panasonic power source, the power source could not provide this basic function with weld parameters utilized.
ACTION: I changed the weld transfer mode and the settings on the equipment, and was able to find settings that although were not recommended by Panasonic proved to provide a more consistent weld transfer. It was not a 100%, however the new data improved the consistency and stability of the weld transfer for the small weld lengths.
 The fixture designed by the integrator did not allow for ideal positioning (gun angles) of the MIG gun for the welds.
ACTION: As the Panasonic integrator had given up on his responsibility to this customer, I made fixture cahnge recommendations and the fixture was altered by the customer's maintenance department. The improved gun angles improved the fusion into the rod and reduced the burn through in the thin brkt.
 The Panasonic MIG gun contact tip (made in Japan) bore was on the minus size, while the USA made MIG wire diameter was on the plus size but still within spec. Occasionally the MIG wire was restricted by the gun contact tip bore which caused poor arc starts and added to the robot down time.
ACTION: I relieved this situation by drilling and increasing the tip bore diameter on the Panasonic tips. I thought it was ridiculous to use the Panasonic MIG guns and contact tips in a North American plant so I recommended my client change to a USA mfg. Tregaskis gun.
 Small welds require a higher degree of weld accuracy and that accuracy was not being achieved with the Panasonic robot. This resulted in lack of fusion into the rod and caused weld rejects and rework. The robot did not use touch sensing or arc tracking and there was no automated TCP control for the robot.
ACTION: I implemented a practice in which the robot TCP was checked twice a shift, and trained the programmer on with the best practices that would maintain the weld position consistency.
My changes took about approx. 20 hours to complete. After the changes were made and the weld process data was recorded, the company recognized that the daily success of this operation required no deviation from my recommendations. To ensure consistent acceptable weld results, I implemented my Seven Step robot process control training program. Finally the robot attained daily acceptable weld quality and productivity. I charged the company for a weeks work, about $5000, and I am still waiting for Panasonic, Honda and Integrator to send me a thank you card.
There were many that were responsible (but took no ownership) of the above, costly, Panasonic robot weld fiasco.
 The Honda engineers that did not think about the welds on their designed the parts.
 The Panasonic engineers who designed the Panasonic robots and married the robots to poor weld equipment.
The Panasonic weld equip mfg. engineers who designed their erratic, poor performing weld equipment.
 The management and engineers at the robot Integrator who could not provide a product to meet the weld task.
 The management and engineers who purchased the poor performing robot / power source, without the necessary plant expertise, and without first ensuring that the robot cell was capable of meeting their weld quality & production needs.
JUST A BABY BOOMER POINT OF VIEW: In 2015, I believe that many of the engineers and managers throughout the auto & truck industry, have a common denominator. Those that were born after 1970 are often part of a generation, which I call the the No Depth (ND) Generation.
This ND generation frequently likes to skim the surface of the subjects they deal with. For example if they were asked to study the history of Rome, the ND generation would spend about two hours on the subject. It's a sad fact that too many that work in engineering will typically lack the depth required for controlling their processes, and implementing best practices. The ND engineers typically will do a good job in avoiding "Hands On" work and will look for a quick, often sales influenced resolution from Google.
When it comes to welding, the ND engineers and managers typically lack depth with the weld processes, weld transfer modes, consumables and equipment that are providing their weekly pay checks. I am hopeful that as the next generation comes along, that when it comes to the weld profession, those responsible will strive to be different, and in contrast to their predecessors will have no wish to play around with weld controls or get their weld advice from weld sales people. I hope the next generation will strive to have the ability to make a weld mfg.. decisions without a team or without a two hour waste of time meeting. And when it comes to managing the robot weld cells, the next generation will understand the importance and the expertise for the implementation of Robot Weld Process Controls and Best Weld Practices.
From my simple life perspective, in manufacturing;
[a] If you design it, you own it.
[b] If you build it, you manage it and are accountable for it.
[c] If you work with it, you are a professional that can both control and optimize it.
FIVE INEXPERIENCED HEADS IS NEVER AS GOOD AS ONE EXPERIENCED HEAD: As for that "TEAM approach. If those that are paid a salary, did what they are paid to do, and learnt what they are supposed to learn, then a company would not require a team to figure out how to optimize their weld equipment and processes. However in 2015, in the too common, poorly run plants in which managers daily allow many variables to impact their robot weld quality and production, it would be beneficial for this ineffective management to use the team approach for the root cause and resolutions.
When salesmanship has extensive influence on a technical
industry, that industry can expect to pay a high price.
IT'S HELPFUL WHEN WELD DECISION MAKERS UNDERSTAND THE WELD PROCESS CONTROLS - BEST WELD PRACTICE EXPERTISE REQUIRED BY THOSE IN THE WELD SHOP.
TO GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE WELD ISSUES THAT NEVER SEEM TO GO AWAY, MANAGEMENT HAS TO FIRST UNDERSTAND THE WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST PRACTICE EXPERTISE THAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE EMPLOYEES THAT CONTROL THE WELDS.
LACK OF MIG WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE STARTED WITH THE GLOBAL WELD EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS:
For more than forty years, the primary global MIG weld equipment manufactures have been and still are, MIG weld process control - best practices impotent.
Why do I make a strong statement like this about global MIG equipment manufactures such as Miller, ESAB, Hobart and Lincoln? The answer is found in most weld shops, where you are bound to find some weld personnel playing around with their MIG controls.
Much of the regular CV MIG equipment sold in 2014 has hardly changed from the MIG power sources sold in 1960. And in 1960 while it was logical that MIG weld personnel would play around with the new process weld controls, its completely illogical that in 50 years later, over 90% of manual MIG weld personnel are still "playing around" with the two control CV MIG weld process.
So while I place blame on the universities and community colleges for not providing appropriate MIG process control education and training, most of the blame for the MIG process ignorance should lie with the MIG equipment manufactures.
The weld reality is all the companies that for decades have designed and manufactured MIG equipment have dramatically failed in terms of educating their customers so they can attain optimum results from the equipment and processes used.
OVER THIRTY YEARS AGO, IN THE NINETEEN EIGHTIES I MADE LAMINANTED STICK ON LABELS THAT YOU COULD PLACE ON A GAS CYLINDER, A WIRE FEED CONTROL OR CV MIG POWER SOURCE. THE LABELS SHOWED WELDERS WHERE THEY SHOULD SET THEIR MIG OR FLUX CORED WIRE FEED - VOLTAGE SETTINGS FOR OPTIMUM WELDS ON ANY APPLICATION.
I ALSO ENSURED THAT THE MIG GAS CYLINDERS SOLD BY THE THE COMPANIES I WORKED FOR (AIRGAS - AGA - CARBONIC) WERE EASY TO IDENTIFY. I GOT RID OF THE MAJORITY OF THE MIG MIXES WHICH IN REALITY PROVIDED NO WELD SHOP VALUE, AND GAVE THE REMAINING GAS MIXES NAMES LIKE STEELMIX, STAINMIX OR ALUMMIX.
TAKE A LOOK AT THE MIG CYLINDERS AND MIG EQUIPMENT IN YOUR SHOP. ITS USUALLY DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT'S IN THE GAS MIX AND WHAT WELDS SHOULD THE MIX BE USED ON.
ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR MIG EQUIPMENT, APART FROM THE USUAL PEN OR SCRATCH MARKS THAT WERE PLACED THERE BY WELDERS WHO PLAYING AROUND WITH THE MIG CONTROLS, WHAT ELSE DO YOU SEE..
WHEN AN INDUSTRY LACKS CONFIDENCE, PROCESS EVOLUTION IS SLOW:
For thirty plus years, global weld sales reps from the major flux cored consumable manufacturers, had a difficult time trying to get across the board weld shop acceptance of the simple to operate, two control, all position, small diameter, gas shielded flux cored wires.
The reason for the slow flux cored evolution, was the weld sales personnel who demonstrated the product, rarely understood what the optimum flux cored weld parameters were, the bottom line with this product most sales people were like a fish out of water. The gas shielded flux cored wires went through a ridiculous slow growth that took decades when it should have taken a year or two. And the sad reality is in 2015, the FCAW wires are still poorly understood, few FCA welds are optimized, and the process is still poorly understood. The solution to this is a simple one, consider my FCA weld process control - best practice training resource.
MIG WELDING GAS MIXES: For more thirty years the major industrial gas manufacturers have been promoting useless, overpriced three parts gas mixes for carbon and low alloy steel welds. As sales reps continue to play the MIG gas con game in 2015 weld shop managers - engineers and supervisors that should know better, keep buying them.
To add to the global MIG gas mix confusion, for more than three decades we have had more than 40 two - three part MIG gas mixes available in North America. The weld reality for both steel and stainless MIG welds is this. Typically four two part gas mixes will attain optimum MIG weld results.. As for those three part mixes, If for the weld application, the correct weld transfer mode is utilized with the correct size wire and parameters, then not one single weld benefit is attained from any three part gas mix. And just so you know how screwed this subject is, be aware that to increase those already high gas mix profits, the industrial gas mfgs. will ensure that soon four part gas mixes will be heading to your shop soon.
For those interested, I developed 4 of the top 10 selling global MIG gas mixes..I was also on the AWS committee that wrote the USA MIG gas mix specs, and what a joke that was. Years of committee meetings in which i would often get into heated discussions about trying to keep the "sales influence" out of a so called technical document. For more MIG gas info, visit my MIG gas Section. where you will find out what the four optimum MIG gas mixes required for all steels and alloy steel welds.
USELESS PULSED MIG EQUIPMENT BELLS AND WHISTLES:
For almost thirty years, the major weld equipment manufacturers have promoted costly, electronic pulsed MIG equipment for carbon steel welds. For at least 25 yrs, it's was part of my job to evalute this equipment in contrast to conventional MIG equipment, and particually look for feature benefits that could make a real world contribution to welding shops. In all this time this electronically sensitive, costly to purchase and costly to maintain MIG equipment has shown on the majority of the world's carbon steel applications that pulsed MIG provides no practical welding quality, production or cost benefits. Click here.
Ed teaching his grandson, so that one day he won't have
to ask a salesman from Lincoln "how to make a MIG weld"
So as some of you will now be aware, we are all part of one screwed up industry, and for the sake of sanity keep your skin thick and welll lubricated and please keep a sense of humor.
How the senior management and engineers influenced the Pulsed MIG weld cracking issues with the Ford Truck Axles:
If as a key weld decision maker, you wanted to make your weld manufacturing life more expensive, more complex and less meaningful than it needs to be, you could listen to a weld salesman and then order their costly pulsed MIG power source for your carbon steel weld applications.
1999 - 2000: My weld task appeared simple. A tier one, axle manufacturer, American Axle (AA) was located in Michigan. AA ordered two robot systems to weld Ford truck axles. The company I worked for supplied the robots, American Axle's weld engineer specified the Lincoln Power Wave for the two robot cells.
As the robot supplier, we were responsible for buiding the robot cells and ensuring the axle weld quality was in accordance with the quality guidelines as specified by Ford.
The robot MIG weld production quota was approx. one million axles annually. When the robot cells were complete, as part of the contract, we were also required to provide a few thousand welded axles as part of the robot cell run off. Little did I know about the extensive pulsed MIG weld cracking issues that were about to occur as a result of the Lincoln equipment and the AA apathetic management. For the rest of the story click here.
Many global companies will benefit, if they redefine the weld accountability, responsibility and ownership of all those that make weld decisions..
Correctly defined, weld personnel job descriptions,
in the weld industry are as rare as an honest politican.
Can you relate to this common management issue?
" JOE, WE HAVE SO MANY MIG WELD ISSUES AT THE PLANT, YOU TELL ME, WHO THE HELL IS IN CONTROL OF THE ROBOTS"?
Who's in charge or who should be in charge of the robot welds? Two simple questions, yet questions that would cause controversy for most global managers, engineers and supervisors, especially those in the auto - truck industry.
The MIG process has been around for more than five decades, and the flux cored process for more than three decades. When the MIG or flux cored welding was carried out by manual welders, management involvement was typically none existent and supervision meant little. Why should the managers get involved? After all most managers thought that all MIG welders "played around" with MIG controls. and as long as the welders had their shields down and sparks were being generated, that's all that counts. As for controlling those MIG or FCA weld costs. For many managers and supervisors, it was a simple function, you simply keep you eye on on the distributor prices paid for the weld wires and gas mixes.
You can live with as much BS as you can absorb on the weld shop floor, but that BS has to stop, once the robots march in.
Hy Doc. This paitent used to be a Manual MIG welder, and now his weld shop is bringing in robots, we are going to have to cut off his "play around organ".
2000. THE PLANT, "WELD BLAME GAME": It's no surprise that when management, engineers and the supervisors are not familer with the process control - best practice requirements of the process attached to their robots, that they will look to others for the root cause of their daily robot MIG weld quality - productivity issues
The responsibility for the never ending global robot weld quality and productivity issues is too often laid on the back
of the frustrated, under-trained and over worked robot technicians, or also too often on the shouldrs of maintenance personnel who unfortunately like the robot technicians, have have never received the required Robot MIG Process Control - Best Weld Practice Training.
THE ROBOT WELD LIABILITY POTENTIAL INCREASES DRAMATICALLY WHEN MANAGEMENT ALLOW UNQUALIFIED PERSONNEL TO MAKE UNQUALIFIED WELD CHANGES TO IN MANY INSTANCES UNQUALIFIED WELDS:
It makes no sense that management would daily allow unqualified robot technicians, electricians or the millwrights in the maintenance department to make unqualified weld changes and therefore produce parts with unqualified welds.
Note: Lawyers should love this.
WHEN IT COMES TO RESOLVING ROBOT WELD ISSUES, MANY AUTO - TRUCK PLANTS FOUND OUT THAT PICKING FIVE GUYS THAT LACKED WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE AND CALLING THEM THE "WELD TEAM", DID NOT PROVIDE THE WELD QUALITY - PRODUCTIVITY RESOLUTIONS THAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR.
The ratio of engineers to shop floor workers is usually the highest in the auto - truck plants that each day produce high volume production. In these facilities the majority of the mfg. issues are usually found in "three process areas".
Common areas in manufacturing plants "where process control expertise is lacking";
 The weld shop.
 The paint shop.
 The press shop.
The common manufacturing process issues that result daily in most plants, is an indication that the responsible managers, engineer and supervisors do not understand the fundamental process control & best practices.
Note: In the 1990s, as the weld mgr. at one of the world's largest robot manufactures, I would request that customers send their personnel for both our robot progamming and robot MIG weld process control training programs. I remember one session when the General Motors management at one plant, sent personnel for the training, and my impression with the guys that they sent, was that they could barely read. This again to me was simply another indication of the ignorance and lack of respect that the inexperienced GM management had for the unique requirements for Robot weld optimization through robot Weld Process Controls.
IF THE WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE IS LACKING IN THE PLANT, THAT LACK OF EXPERTISE IS TYPICALLY COVERED UP BY BS, APATHY, EGO OR ATTITUDE.
Managers such as below, are often a prime reason for the daily robot weld quality - productivity and cost issues
Since the introduction of robots into the auto -truck industry, you could readily measure the robot MIG weld quality - productivity cost consequences in "billions" of dollars. The bottom line is most of those weld issues were generated by unqualified managers and engineers who seem to show little interest in resolving their lack of process control expertise.
ESAB / ABB Arcitec, Aluminum,
robot weld Issues with Ford parts.
VAW - FORD ALUMINUM CAR SEAT ISSUES: During 2000, I was requested by an engineer at VAW a USA tier one supplier to analyze the welding performance of their ABB robots and the ESAB, European built Arcitec MIG weld equipment. VAW produced high quality, extruded aluminum parts. The aluminum MIG welded car seats were for Ford. The car seats and parts required many small welds (short arc cycles) which were made on thin gage 6061 aluminum.
Criterion Machinery was the robot system integrator for the Ford seats. Two ABB robot cells were ordered. ABB had advised Criterion (who would not know a good MIG power source if they sat on it) had advised VAW that the "Swedish ESAB Arcitec" MIG power source was the MIG power source of choice for the thin gage aluminum weld requirements. The Arcitec power source claim to fame at that time was, it was unique, as it was the likely the first MIG power source that was fully integrated with a robot control.
Two ABB robot cells containing the Arcitec power sources were shipped to Criterion for initial fixture and weld tests. The weld tests carried out at this time were minimal as Criterion simply did not have the weld process control expertise necessary to evaluate the Arcitec, or for that matter any MIG power source. The two robot cells were completed and then shipped to VAW.
Since the installation of the ABB / ESAB Arcitec robot cells, continuous production of optimum weld quality parts had been impossible due to the issues documented in this report. The robot cell weld reject rates averaged sixty percent, and the robot down time per-hour averaged 20 to 30 minutes.
Many issues are documented in my report to VAW and I have not included them all this condensed version of the report, however the primary cause of the extensive VAW robot weld quality and productivity issues was the ESAB Arcitec power source. This weld equipment had extensive electronic problems that affected the weld output and produced poor erratic weld transfer. The bottom line is the weld results were very inconsistent and unsuited to the needs for the high volume, small welds that were required on the thin aluminum parts.
Arcitec Power source History. The Arcitec power source was manufactured by ESAB in Sweden in the late 1990s. The Arcitec was an inverter pulsed GMAW power source. This power source was integrated into the ABB S4/S4C robot controls. This was done to improve the communication "response commands and time" between the robot controller and welding power source.
I have extensive knowledge of Arcitec power source issues, as I was previously employed by ABB, the Swedish manufacturer of robots. My position with ABB was weld manager / senior weld process engineer. Part of my responsibility was to evaluate the application performance of new welding equipment which included the Arcitec. I have evaluated many power sources in the previous three decades and cannot recall any welding power source that even came close to the amount of weld Issues generated by the Arcitec. The bottom line, with insufficient testing this equipment was introduced by ESAB to the market place for use with a robot, without concern for it's weldability capability with common weld transfer modes and welds wires.
The German marketing manager at ABB Fort Collins, made the mistake of believing the Swedish sales spiel about the capability of the Arcitec. The ESAB BS was fed to him from an inexperienced weld equip marketing manager at ESAB / Sweden . ABB placed an order for approx, 100 units that were to be installed on the ABB robots in North America. It was my job as weld manager to test these power sources when they arrived in the USA. While weld testing the Arcitec units at ABB, I and found the Arcitech performance highly erratic and I found too many issues to discuss here. I documented all the power source faults and the demonstrated the issues to the appropriate ABB managers. As the ABB marketing manager had foolishly ordered and committed to approx one million dollars worth of Arcitec power source inventory, he was not happy with my weld reality and therefore he convinced his boss to ignore my Arcitec weld test results and turn a blind eye to the info in my reports.
As a result of the never ending software / hardware issues and erratic performance from the ESAB Arcitec power source even when welding simple steel applications, eventually the ABB arc weld Div did reduce it's focus and promotion of this poor European power source. The Arcitec was placed on the failure pedestal, and instead ABB focused on promoting with it's robots either the slightly less inconsistent Miller Invision or another poor performing power source called the Lincoln Power Wave.
VAW - FORD ALUMINUM CAR SEAT ISSUES CONT: Four years after the introduction of the erratic Arcitec with ABB robots, I could only take so much of the ABB - BS and I was now working as a consultant. I was requested by the alum extruder company VAW to evaluate their new, poor performing robot weld installations. I knew the VAW, ABB robot installation was using the EASB Arcitech power source, however I was under the impression that at this time the poor performing Arcitecs had been taken out of service and were no longer sold. I was under the impression when I arrived at VAW that I would be examining robot cells with new ESAB Arcitech units. I hoped that these units would have at least evolved electronically from the original equipment I had evaluated four years previously.
What I saw while welding at VAW with the robots was the same as what i saw with the Arcitech power sources which were manufactured four years earlier. The power source units I tested at VAW certainly had the same unique electronic glitches that were causing extensive wire burn backs, erratic arcs and many other weld issues which I was familiar with.
The bottom line was four years had passed since I made ABB aware of the ESAB power source issues, and yet ABB was still selling with it's robots, a power source that they knew was generating weld issues, a power source that simply was incapable of providing consistent weld performance output. I gave the VAW management the info and I recommended that VAW immediately change the MIG units.
BEFORE I ARRIVED AT VAW, THIS IS WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE ABB ROBOTS AND THE ARCITECH EQUIPEMENT?
 Three months after VAW accepted the ABB robot cells with the ESAB Arcitec power source, "the Arcitec power sources were replaced by ABB. Keep in mind, the typical life of a traditional MIG power source is approx. 10 - 15 years without requiring repairs..
 Five months after the robots were installed with the new Arcitech equipment, the robot cells were still unable to produce consistent, acceptable robot weld production or quality. The VAW Ford part weld reject rates were in the 60-70%% range, and the robot weld production cycle efficiency rarely attained more than40%.
A Primary Arcitec Weld Issue. "Wire Burn Backs"
From a weld production perspective a serious issue apart from the poor arc stability was the numerous weld wire burn backs which were generated during the arc starts. This had a dramatic impact on robot down time.,
VAW, ABB, ESAB, CRITERION, & FORD MANAGEMENT, WHERE WAS THE ENGINEERING, ACCOUNTABILITY & OWNERSHIP?
I could (and did) fill many pages of the problems that I knew about the Arcitech MIG power source, however, this is old news that simply points out how the worlds largest engineering companies such as ABB and ESAB will not accept the responsibility for their own induced issues and simply palm them off to their customers like VAW and Ford who simply did not have a clue, yet they should have had the expertise to know when they were being presented with BS and a rabbit out of a hat..
Its now 2015, and I would like the reader to think about the responsibility roles the mangers and Engineers at ABB - ESAB - VAW - Criterion Machinery and Ford. At the least, VAW and Ford had ample evidence to sue ABB and ESAB about not revealing issues with their equipment which they know will impact their customers weld quality / productivity, however it takes enlightened knowledgable mfg. managers to have the knowledge and balls required to take legal action.. By the way most of the issues would not have occurred if all those involved in the equipment purchase had spent a few dollars and purchased my 7 Steps to Robot Weld Process Controls.
Robot programming is one expertise and robot MIG weld
process controls and best weld practice is another.
POOR MANAGEMENT MENTORING, WITH INNEFECTIVE PROCESS TRAINING COMBINED WITH UNWARRANTED INFLATED YOUNG EGOS, SIMPLY MEANS THE ROBOT MIG WELD COSTS, QUALITY & PRODUCTIVITY POTENTIAL WILL NEVER BE WHAT IT COULD BE.
When the robot welded carbon steel parts are typically >2 mm, there should be low weld burn through risks and the robot MIG welds should be a simple task. That task becomes easier when companies such as Magna who I think is the world's largest tier one supplier, utilizes a combination of good part design, stamped parts that actually meet design dimension specifications, good fixtures and good manufacturing practices. With these robot welds, the weld quality and productivity potential is often at a reasonable, but sometime not optimum level.
At one Magna plant I visited, I tried to pass MIG process control information to the robot technicians that were having a specific weld problem. On average these technicians had two - three years robot programming experience. Now keep in mind, that at that time I had been doing MIG process control for approx. 40 years and I also had been the robot weld mgr. for the company that made the robots that were being used by Magna. The "just out of school" Magna technicians, let me know they had nothing to learn from an old fart like me, who by the was was being paid well by their management to solve the problems that the technicians could not resolve.
The sad reality for the "you cant teach us anything" technicians was they were not getting the training they required from the Magna management. The first thing you teach young people in this buisness is "keep an open mind" The reality is these robot weld technicians had in there twenties stopped learning and by the way, at this plant, the average robot weld speeds were 20 - 40 inch/min. I had made the similar welds in the 1990s, and I attained robot weld travel rates at 60 to 80 inch/min.
Note: The readers at this site should be aware that in most automotive - truck plants, >90% of the welds produced are not subject to a macro (internal) weld evaluations. If NDT was applied, typically a great portion of the welds would reveal serous defects like lack of fusion, undercut, excess porosity and crater issues.
IF YOU EVER FEEL IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU HAVE NO MORE TO LEARN, YOU DON'T BELONG IN THE ENGINEERING OR SCIENCE FIELDS, YOU WOULD LIKELY BE BETTER SUITED TO WORKING IN A DONUT SHOP. E Craig 2013.
I have great respect for the founder and owner of Magna who I believe at one time was a very goodt tool maker and likely the reason Magna consistently produces good stampings. However it's been my experience from the 1000 plus companies that I've provided weld production - quality improvements for, that when that large manufacturing corporations allow hands off, middle management who usually don't understand the meaning of process ownership, to enable their workers, supervisors, technicians and engineers to get by with minimal process control expertise such as that found around the MIG process, then it's not rocket science to figure out that Magna, as with many of it's tier one predecessors, (Tower) eventually will pay an unnecessary premium for the parts it produces. Those manufacturing premiums which take a chunck out of the profits may be derived from;
[a] Paying for overpriced automated and weld equipment that provides costly, unnecessary bells and whistles, as found on overpriced pulsed MIG equipment. These are the products which are usually influenced by someone in sales.
[b] The general lack of understanding of weld process controls and the lack of best practices expertise means the welds will not always be established to achieve a robot's full weld or quality production potential. In too many auto plants it takes two robots to do the work of one. If a robot spends more than 10 minutes downtime each shift it's under utilized.
[c] Weld rework may be generated that increases the part costs. Anything above one percent rework is not acceptable.
[d] Weld quality issues could involve future recall and liability cost consequences.
Lets face it, and this logic applies to any weld shop, if a company purchases a robot and there is not one person on the weld shop floor or one supervisor or manager can tell the deposition rate potential for a common weld or the cost of a simple, yet common 3/16 (4.8mm) fillet weld, how can that costly e equipment or process be maximized?
We all know there are a few good robot technicians that have extensive MIG weld process controls and best practices expertise, (I have trained many), however and managers don't like to hear this, these guys are the minority. For those robot weld programmers, technicians, supervisors, engineers or managers that figure they don't need robot process or best practice expertise, try the following fundamental, yet important MIG process control test, and after the test ask your self, "is this info important to my company and to my career.
ENGINEERS - SUPERVISORS AND TECHNICIANS, TO AVOID ROBOT WELD PROBLEMS AND OPTIMIZE THE WELD PRODUCTIVITY, IT'S LOGICAL THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO TAKE OWNERSHIP FOR THE PROCESSES AND EQUIPMENT USED THE WELD CELLS.
BEFORE ORDERING A ROBOT WHAT WILL BE YOUR DELIVERY DEMANDS?
REMEMBER MANY PLANT'S ROBOT WELD QUALITY & PRODUCTIVITY ISSUES FREQUENTLY COMMENCE WITH THE ROBOT INTEGRATOR OR THE MIG POWER SOURCE MFG: THEREFORE MANY WELD PROBLEMS WILL COMMENCE BEFORE THE ROBOTS ARE DELEIVERED.
WHY WOULD ANYONE IN THE AUTO - TRUCK INDUSTRY ORDER A ROBOT WITHOUT FIRST HAVING THE ROBOT AND FIXTURE SUPPLIERS PROVE THAT THEIR RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS, PROCESSES AND CONSUMABLES CAN CONSISTENTLY PRODUCE THE DESIRED QUALITY - PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS;
[a] INTERGRATORS SHOULD BE ABLE TO PRODUCE AT MINIMUM, FOUR HOURS OF ROBOT WELD PRODUCTION, MEETING THE WELD PRODUCTION CYCLE TIME, WITH NO MORE THAN 5 MINUTES DOWN TIME,
[b] INTEGRATORS SHOULD BE ABLE TO PRODUCE AT MINIMUM, FOUR HOURS OF ROBOT WELD PRODUCTION WITH NO MORE THAN 1% WELD REWORK.
[c] INTEGRATORS SHOULD BE ABLE TO PRODUCE ALL THE PARTS WITH 100% QUALITY WELDS, AND SUPPLY EVIDENCE PROVIDED THAT SHOWS ALL WELDS ARE FULLY FUSED WITH ACCEPTABLE POROSITY AND PART DISTORTION.
As mentioned, it's not uncommon to find the robot weld issues that result from the selection of oversized MIG weld consumables and poor performing weld equipment and fixtures. Many times the new robots will not be calibrated correctly, or lack essential equipment options which are necessary to deal with the parts.
The robots, weld equipment, fixtures and consumable selection is often influenced by project engineers who are frequently mechanical or electrical engineers, or by other inexperienced purchasing individuals that don't understand the MIG process and it's automated needs. Other issues will arise from those project managers who have to ask a salesmen for advice
Combine the above issues, and and then throw into the pot manufacturing engineers that lack the ability to provide stamped or formed parts that meet the design dimensional specifications. Finally add to the mix, inexperienced, hands off manufacturing managers who do not believe or understand process and equipment ownership and you have a city called Detroit, with global plants that will never know the cost of a weld, will never figure out their real robot weld production potential, and certainly will never attain their real weld cost, quality and productivity potential.
The solution is a simple one.
THE FRUSTRATED, BEHIND THE GLASS WALL VP OF MANUFACTURING, SPELLS IT OUT FOR ONE OF HIS BEHIND THE GLASS WALL PLANT MANUFACTURING MANAGERS:
DAM IT JOE. IF YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE ROBOT WELDS WITH THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT WE SPENT, AND WITH ALL OUR ENGINEERING EXPERTISE, MAYBE WE SHOULD SHIP THE ROBOTS AND THE PARTS DOWN TO MEXICO, AT LEAST THERE WE CAN BURY THE WELD ISSUES WITH A CHEAP LABOR FIX.
LETS FACE IT IF THE MAJOR AUTO & TRUCK COMPANIES COULD PRODUCE THE PART IN A COST EFFECTIVE, PROFITABLE MANNNER, THEY WOULD NOT REQUIRE THE TIER SUPPLIERS.
If GM, Chrysler and Ford and the other major auto - truck manufacturers were capable of managing essential mfg.. processes such as robot MIG welding, painting and stamping cost efficiently, then there would be no need for tier suppliers.
With auto - truck company management, controlling mfg. costs will often mean cutting people, reducing wages, slashing benefits, shutting plants or requesting more state loans. And an extensive portion of the profits they will generate will be derived from decreasing the prices made for their parts from their tier suppliers.
In contrast, with the primary tier suppliers, profits are made when daily productivity and quality goals are consistently attained within the budget. If those suppliers cannot bring their process costs down annually, unlike the big three, the suppliers will eventually be driven out of business or possibly move their plant to Mexico.
Volvo. Management & Engineer Weld Process Control Awareness.
At the Volvo heavy construction equipment manufacturing facility near my home in Asheville, North Carolina, the plant weld manager ran an add in the local paper looking for "skilled MIG welders" to run his plant's welding robots. As I live in Asheville and I was bored, I phoned the Volvo plant manager and asked;
"Why are you looking to hire skilled welders, when the robots that you have purchased are supposed to provide the welding skills"? We had a good chat and the manager invited me to visit his plant.
When I got to the Volvo plant, and while walking past the many large robot cells on the way to the managers office, I instantly became aware from the surrounding robot MIG arc sounds, and with the thickness of the steels being welded, (most welds on parts >8 mm), that this plant should be having lack of weld fusion issues with their robot welds. By the way the welds were all picture perfect.
As we sat down, over some pretty poor Southern coffee, I told the plant manager about my MIG weld fusion concerns for his good looking welds. My concern about weld fusion startled the plant manager, I suppose it was because I had spent no more than two minutes walking through his plant. The reason the Volvo plant mar gave me a strange look, was that a few day previous, the manager had received a letter from the Volvo corporate testing facilities in Sweden. The letter stated that the latest NDT robot weld tests of the Asheville plants products revealed extensive lack of weld fusion issues.
The mar asked how I knew he had weld problems, I explained that anyone who is trained in MIG weld process controls would understand the relationship of the intensity of an arc sound with the weld fusion attained for a specific thickness.
When we got back to why he wanted to hire "skilled MIG weld personnel" to run the Volvo MIG weld robots, I explained that the optimization of the robots will not come from skilled welders who typically lack process control - best practice expertise, and also its the robots that provide the skills.
What this Volvo plant mar required as evident with the lack of fusion issues that was daily being generated, was robot programmers and weld decision makers who are trained in Robot MIG weld process control and best practices expertise.
With a few dollars spent on my robot and manual MIG and flux cored weld process control training program, a company would not need NDT to tell them when the welds are not going to meet the weld quality requirements or their welds are cost effective.
Note: Ed when Volvo had robot weld quality - productivity issues. on their W. Virginia robot Truck Cab welds, Ed optimized the weld quality - production, and then trained the Volvo employees.
Ed also provided his MIG process control - best practice training program to Mack Truck - Fruehauf and to Freight Liner.
A COMMON DENOMINATOR THAT IS PART OF
THE GLOBAL MIG WELDING INDUSTRY
you CHICKLETSMIGLETS, we have to
depend on him, after all he is a "salesman".
When a robot technician or weld shop supervisor requires weld process advice for a robot MIG weld issue, they know that good advice will be rare from either the manufacturing managers or the engineer's office.
The weld advice for many weld shops unfortunately too often comes through the door in the form of a local weld distributor sales rep.
The weld salesmen is typically an individual who has never run or even worked in a weld shop, Out of the six thousand weld salesman employed in North America in 2015, I doubt if you could find six that could walk into a robot cell and instantly apply the data and practices that would consistently attain the highest robot weld quality with the lowest possible weld costs.
The sales rep is also often an individual that will have bias for the weld product lines he sells. Of course I know there are exceptions to this, and I also know weld salesman. As the training mgr. for Airgas, AGA, Liquid Carbonic and Praxair, at one time or another in the 1990's, I trained over a 1500 weld sales reps.
WHEN THE LATEST CONSUMABLES OR STATE OF THE ART ROBOTS AND WELD EQUIPMENT PROVIDE DISSAPOINTING WELD RESULTS....When that new robot, the new weld wire, the magic three part gas mix, or the new pulsed weld equipment loaded with another bells and whistles to create a band does not attain the desired weld results, the next step many managers will take, is seek advice from the companies who make the robots, the weld equipment or the consumables.
There are two types of sales reps that you will find in the weld industry. The ones that I respect are few in numbers. These guys are those who decide to test what they are told with hands on welding, they never stop learning and will always let their customer know when asked a question that they cannot answer, "that they don't know." In contrast I am sure you have met the other guys.
As in most instances, once the sales bovine fecal matter has been spooned out over lunch, the sales influenced weld results are often costly and disappointing. In this manufacturing industrial environment, those that took the advice from the sales rep will either bury their head in the sand or slowly withdraw from the weld shop floor and spend more time with their computer.
I WROTE THIS IN 1999 TO GM MANAGEMENT. WITH TOO MANY MANUFACTURING MANAGERS, ENGINEERS AND SUPERVISORS INVOLVED WITH WELDS, THE ROBOT WELD QUALITY - REWORK AND PRODUCTION ISSUES ARE ALWAYS THE FAULT OF SOMEONE ELSE.
I COULD SAY THIS IN 1985, AND I CAN SAY THIS TODAY 30 YEARS LATER IN 2015.
"DAM IT JOE WE HAVE OVER TWO MILLION DOLLARS INVESTED IN THAT NEW ROBOT LINE. WE HAVE SPENT TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ON TRAINING AND YET THE ROBOT WELD REWORK RATE IS OVER FIFTY PERCENT, THE ROBOT DOWN TIME IS PATHETIC AND OUR WELD PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY AND CONSISTENCY STINKS. NOW JOE, LOOK ME IN THE EYE, AND TRY TO TELL ME AGAIN, THAT THE ROBOT PROBLEMS ARE CAUSED BY THE PEOPLE ON THE SHOP FLOOR".
With the introduction of sophisticated robots into a traditional manual weld facility, it's logical to assume that the robots would be influenced by the "play around" weld shop culture.
You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that MIG welding robots require a unique approach to manufacturing. And the rare progressive individuals that visit this site would be aware that the introduction of the robots would be an excellent opportunity to be the catalyst for the long over due changes that are required in the play around with the controls, manual weld shop.
Many of you will be aware, that few weld personnel are happy when change is required in the weld shop. It's also logical to assume that the manual weld shop environment with it's self taught, play around ingrained culture could negatively influence the weld quality - productivity performance potential of those new MIG welding robots. In this normal manual weld manufacturing environment, it does not make much sense to purchase robots and then let the weld personnel play around with the robot weld controls.
A ship could readily go round in circles or get into trouble without the leadership of an experienced captain and his highly qualified, "hands on" engineering crew. Robot MIG weld optimization does not require a "hands on" mar. however its very beneficial if the weld decision makers at least understand the importance of Robot MIG weld process controls - and robot MIG weld best practices.
If you are a manager, engineer, supervisor or technician involved in robot weld decisions and have not acquired the process control expertise, please note.
I have developed a Seven Steps to Optimum Robot MIG weld program over a three decade period, its a few hundred dollars, and its so simple that you do not require a weld back ground to present this self teaching or training program.
JOE, IT'S TIME WE CHANGED
THIS BLOODY WELD SHOP CULTURE:
IF THIS WEB SITE COULD SIMPLY STOP WELD SHOP PERSONNEL FROM PLAYING AROUND WITH THEIR MIG - FCA WELD CONTROLS, AND MOTIVATE MANGERS, ENGINEERS AND SUPERVISORS TO TAKE OWNERSHIP OF ESSENTIAL WELD PROCESSES, IT WOULD HAVE SERVED ITS PURPOPSE.
Don't you get fed up hearing this in a weld shop?
Joe I will need some time to "PLAY AROUND" with the MIG weld data.
Another popular global weld saying that tells you who's in charge..
WHY CHANGE the way we have always done it?
THE BAD NEWS: As a manager, engineer or supervisor, you will likely be aware that every MIG - FCA weld shop has it's unique pecking order, it's personnel cliques and ingrained culture, and why not? after all the weld industry is one in which it's environment has been influenced by the combination of;
self taught weld skills,
lack of effective process management,
lack of process control - best practice expertise and training,
too many weld shop process - application myths,
too much weld sales influence.
Throw this lot in a large pot, boil for five decades and out pops an industry with an extremely fragile ego and slow weld process evolution.
THE GOODS NEWS: IS. With In the above environment, it should be no surprise to find that their is typically great opportunity for dramatic weld quality improvements and weld cost reductions.
Take a trip with me to the USA, automotive exhaust manufacturing plant, where for more than a decade, the plant Management and Engineers did not know that the whole plant was using the wrong MIG Weld Polarity on all it's EXHAUST welds?
Project: Freight Liner Truck Parts.
Robot Weld Process Optimization.
I charged Freight Liner a miniscule $5000 to improve their robot welds, you can get the same results from my process control resources for an approx weld cost of $300.
Once in a while, I would walk into a manufacturing plant and be impressed by the mfg, managements practices in place to build their products to their actual design specifications. Freight Liner is one of those rare companies, and because of this, it's also a company that can provide one of the world's most extensive and highest milage truck warranty programs. Another indication of effective plant mangement, is management that does not effect the daily staus quo and rather than ask a salesman, looks to the right source for it's weld process solutions.
I was requested by the Freight Liner senior management to apply my robot weld process controls - best weld practices to one of it's critical MIG welded parts. I made major weld quality - productivity changes to your existing ABB robot weld programs.
The process changes were developed to improve the robot weld fusion on critical parts and also to reduce the weld cycle times of both their HD and LD parts.
Project Required: Robot Process Improvements:
The following is a condensed version
of my weld report to Freight Liner.
Part of the robot data I provided in my Freight Liner report follows.
During my short visit i made the following robot changes at your Gastonia facility. The changes were made to the existing weld programs of the ABB 2400 series robots. The robot program changes took two to three days and were completed in the first week of Aug. The changes were developed to improve the weld fusion potential, reduce the weld porosity and also to reduce the robot weld cycle times on both your high warranty HD and LD parts. My new robot weld programs were saved on discs and I delivered the discs and report to your Mgr. of Engineering.
MIG GUNS AND CONTACT TIP POSITIONS:
You were having contact tip issues that was effective robot down time and the weld quality. The contact tips were positioned so they were outside the gun nozzles. I changed this so that the robot contact tips were receddsed 3 mm inside the nozzle.. The benefits of this were proven with the following robot test welds that were then made.
The recessed contact tip greatly extended the tip life, reduced the wire burn back potential. Both benefits increased the robot uptime. The recessed contact tip provides an extended wire extension which lowered the weld current . The reduction in current enabled me to increase the wire feed rate increasing the weld travel rate and decreasing the robot weld time.
Note: Instead of purchasing new tips and longer gun nozzles, I had 3 mm spacer O ring sleeves machined, which were when placed behind the nozzle. This provided the correct contact tip position and allowed the use of existing tips and nozzles.
MIG GAS SELECTION. INFLUENCE ON WELD FUSION, POROSITY & WELD SPEED:
The argon 2% oxygen mix used at this facility is a low energy oxidizing mix. To enhance the opportunity for superior weld fusion, less porosity and with my higher speed welds, I changed the robot MIG gas to a mix to a mix that i developed and introduced to the USA, This mix is an Argon + 15% CO2 mix. As I expected, this mix provided improved weld fusion profiles and less porosity in all the weld tests that I carried out. Also as this mix required slightly higher weld voltage, the arc stability with the increased weld speeds was improved.
YOUR REQUEST TO EVALUATE THE GAS DELIVERY & USE OF A BULK GAS SYSTEM:
As each robot is only using the equivalent of a gas cylinder per shift, per week, I would recommend that at this time you do not make changes to a bulk system, and stay withcylinders for the present.
However when I evaluated your MIG gas delivery sustem I found that there was a restriction to the gas flow in the 2400 robot cells. This restriction caused the gas flow rate to be reduced by fifty percent from the cylinder flowmeters to the gun nozzle. This affected weld quality and the arc stability. We eliminated the restricting brass hose fittings. It should be part of the robot operators daily function to ensure that 35 to 40 cuft/hr is available at the gun nozzle exit. A simple low cost flow measurement device as shown is all that the cell operators require.
THE WELD POROSITY ISSUES:
The weld porosity in your welds was influenced by the low energy oxidizing argon oxy gas, the low gas flow rates and also by the automated anti-spatter lubricant. The anti-spatter system was set poorly and putting excess lubricant into the nozzles. During the welds the lubricant was dripping into the weld. More focus is required on providing cleaner parts .
THE AUTOMATED, ANTI-SPATTER ROBOT SYSTEM:
This equipment in the robot cell should be checked by maintenance weekly, especially when one considers the importance of the high weld quality required and the influence of anti-spatter lubricant on the weld quality attained. On my initial visit, the anti-spatter system was set too frequent and to high in the robot cells. Anti spatter can be greatly reduced when operators are trained on how to minimize spatter. The anti-spatter compounds will add to both weld porosity and with these high strength steels can be the root cause of weld crackingl.
Your operators should not be allowed to set the anti-spatter unit which has now been reset to a much lower amount. The anti spatter liquid should deliver a minuscule amount of compound after each nozzle clean cycle. The small amount of anti spatter compound does assist in the easy removal of the spatter in the nozzle automated ream cycle. The new welding program I produced provides much less spatter and therfore I reduced the nozzle cleaning requirements, which THEN enabled less anti spatter compound is used.
THE ROBOT MIG WIRE:
Your MIG wire was sometimes out of spec. As each drum of wire is replaced, the operator should be trained to examine the wire cast and helix after the wire is cold fed from the MIG gun. If required, adjustments should be made to the wire straightner. Please note I recommend you change from the E70S-6 wire you are using to an E70S-3 wire. This wire will produce slightly less surface slag islands and reduce your undercut potential.
INCREASED PRODUCTION. THE ROBOT WELD CYCLE TIMES:
As you are aware I have decreased the robot weld cycle time by 2 minutes per part resulting in a saving of over 3300 hrs robot weld time per-100.000 parts for this one application. The same savings will also be generated on the LD parts. The weld time reduction is primary a result of changing the weld sequence, improving the weld deposition rates, improving the efficiency of the robot manipulations, removing the nozzle cleaning from every part and programming the cleaning action to occur for only one in five parts.
THE ROBOT WELD DATA:
Consistent weld quality from each shift is only achieved when all those involved in the robot application are aware of the variables that can effect consistent weld fusion. As you are aware, attaining consistent weld fusion for this critical, high milage warranty application is a sensitive issue, and any changes outside my recommendations will effect your weld fusion. The same weld process control - best practices logic also applies to attaining consistent weld productivity from each shift. It would be beneficial for weld process control data that I provided, if the data was placed on a poster size board outside each of the robot cells involved with this application.
Note" The most critical locations on your welds are the first and last 20 mm of weld. It will be notable that when you cut and etch your weld samples you may note that one side of the weld indicates superior fusion than the other side, this results from the tendency of MIG towards lack of weld fusion on cold starts. Lack of weld fusion is also common at the completion of the weld at the weld tie-ins. I recommend that the weld speed be slowed down by 10% in the r these two small but critical areas. Please ensure this data is reviewed and understood by the operators.
THE LACK OF A ROBOT CELL LOG :If wire, equipment, part, fixture or weld problems, occur during the shift there is no robot cell documentation being produced. Ensure that each operator document all problems in the robot cell log. These logs should be reviewed by the weld team at least once a week.
ROBOT PROGRAM TRAINING:
Your ABB 2400 series robots, with the S4 control, provides your organization with the ability to utilize unique tools which will have significant practical weld benefits. As you are aware, few of your programmers or operators are proficient in the ABB programming, and when training is provided much of it will be quickly forgotten when an operator does little more than operate the existing programming. These factors unfortunately add greatly to the underutilization of the robots at your facility and also add extensive time required for the programming when a prototype part is presented. I would recommend the selection of your most experienced operator and make him your robot technician. Send this person for training at the ABB robot school till he feels fully confident in his programming ability.
ROBOT WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST PRACTICES TRAINING: The most important step in maintaining consistent robot weld quality and productivity is to train the operators with my unique, weld process control training program. It's extremely important that the robot operators be aware of what they can change and what they must not touch. It's also important that these individuals have the ability to recognize the arc sounds, as this is an excellent diagnostic tool for a robot cell. At the start of the shift and after lunch the first parts welded by the robots should be carefully examined before production fully starts.
I wish to thank your management and engineers for their full cooperation and look forward to working with your organization in the future.
Why should there be management weld cost
confusion with a 50 year old, two control process?
WELD COSTS CAN BE SIMPLE, THAT IS WHEN THE WELD DECISION MAKERS UNDERSTAND THE WELD PROCESS AND CONSUMABLES UTILIZED:
In my visits to over 1000 plants in 13 countries, it was rare event for me to chat with weld shop management that understood the "real costs" of the common MIG - FCA welds they daily produced.
Managers who want control of their weld costs should be less concerned with the cost of their weld wires and gas mixes. Weld consumables typically account for around 14 - 18% of the weld costs. Instead managers and supervisors should be more concerned and knowledgeable about the MIG weld process controls, deposition potential and the daily weld deposition rates that are being attained.
Over the decades, I have simplied MIG and Flux Cored Weld Cost Calculations, in my books and weld process control training and self teaching resources.
BEFORE INVESTING IN A ROBOT CELL, MANAGEMENT SHOULD ENSURE SOMEONE IN THE COMPANY
HAS THE PROCESS EXPERTISE NECESSARY TO OPTIMIZE THE ROBOT WELD QUALITY - PRODUCTIVITY.
IF YOUR MANUAL WELDERS OR ROBOT TECHNICIANS ARE PLAYING AROUND WITH THE MIG WELD CONTROLS, WHY NOT CONSIDER THIS WELD PROCESS CONTROL / BEST PRACTICE RESOURCE TO ENSURE THE ROBOTS ATTAIN THEIR FULL WELD QUALITY - PRODUCTION POTENTIAL?
Advice for Managers & Engineers considering a MIG Robot PURCHASE?
For those job shops that want to do low to medium weld shop or production volume, or they weld ever changing, common, steel - stainless robot weld applications, (not pipe or cladding), please give serious consideration when evaluating different robots.
 When you examine each robot manufacture's robots, don't get caught up with the common uselesss bells and whistles.
 When you examine the robot try not to get caught up in that fancy pulsed MIG power source with it's useless 1 trillion Wave Forms. When the robot integrator advises you to use an expensive, 10 to 25K, pulsed MIG power source, for your carbon or alloy steel applications, remember this sophisticated electronic MIG equipment is simply not necessary.
 Examine the weld logic of the robot program Swede Robots are much more logical than Aisian Robots. Apart from the weld logic and simplicity in programming also examine the "length of time" required to program different parts.
Note. For example you will find it easier and faster to program an ABB robot welded part, than if you were using a Panasonic robot.
 Examine in the robot program the ease in which the CV or Pulsed MIG weld data, wire feed, and voltage can be changed. If using pulsed MIG, examine how easy it is to change the pulsed parameters and what are the pulsed limitations.
Note: Ensure with your robot that you are changing wire feed rather than weld amps as this allows greater contol of the MIG welds.
 Examine the logic layout of the welding programs, and make sure it's easy to switch from the pulsed mode to the CV weld modes.
 When welding, wxamine the calibration accuracy between the weld data indicated in the robot pendant, to that shown on the power source.
 Examine the automated TCP capability and repeatability. Check how easy it is to use this important function that maintains the torch accuracy.
 Examine the requirement for Through the Arc Tracking. or Touch Sensing to locate the weld joint. With these important options, examine the ease of programing and examine their repeatabilty and accuracy.
 Examine the weld Weave program, especially the logic of the program.
 Examine the accuracy and repeatability of the robot with the Positioner utilized.
 Examine the complexity of programming the robot to work with secondary equipment such as the Torch Cleaning Stations.
 Don't even consider buying a robot unless it can show that it will attain 100% weld quality - productivity success with the intended parts. To ensure this, before you sign on the dotted line to purchase the robot, make sure the integrator shows he can at least produce two hour's weld production, meeting the weld quality, with zero % weld rework. And also provide the weld production required without zero % robot down time.
 Examine the robot instruction literature, the training provided, the technical support and service. And with that initial discussion with the integrators or equipment reps, figure out who's' supplying the most bovine fecal matter.
THAT ROBOT YOU ARE CONSIDERING, MAY BE USED IN AN AUTO OR TRUCK PLANT WHERE THEY RARELY CHANGE THE WELD PROGRAMS, AND THE DAILY ROBOT WELD PROBLEMS AND POOR INCONSISTENT WELD QUALITY AND ROBOT PRODUCTIVITY IS ADDRESSED BY MANAGEMENT ADDING MANUAL WORKERS TO THE END OF THE ROBOT LINE. HOWEVER THESE ROBOTS AND THEIR EQUIPMENT MAY NOT MAKE THE GRADE WHEN PURCHASED FOR A JOB SHOP THAT WANTS THE HIGHEST WELD QUALITY AND THEY WELD A VARIETY OF APPLICATIONS AND ALLOYS.
ROBOTS, MANAGEMENT AND HIGH TECH WORKERS:
Instead of just managing manual skilled or semi-skilled welders, weld managers, supervisors and engineers may also have to manage welding / cutting robots, lasers and plasma equipment. These applications require high tech individuals for the set up and support that this complex equipment requires. With this in mind, it's therefore logical that the front office responsible managers and engineers should give extensive consideration to the process / equipment training necessary to optimize the robot weld - cut quality and productivity.
MANAGERS, consider the "technical expertise" necessary in your organization for those shop floor technicians responsible for setting and operating the arc welding robots. That few day robot training at best is just a start point for the technicians and the weld information often provided may as well just come of the mouth of a salesman. A wise manager, supervisor, technician or engineer would consider the benefits of my effective, unique robot or manual "weld process control - best weld practice training program.
MANAGERS, consider the floor management, engineering technician and supervisor expertise that's necessary for the implementation of automated weld best practices and weld process controls.
MANAGERS, evaluate your robot engineers, supervisors, technicians and robot operators "JOB Descriptions". Fill in the missing links that are in those job descriptions for your company to have the required robot weld process controls and best practices expertise. If someone opens their mouth in your plant with a robot weld opinion ensure they have been provided with the necessary training.
MANAGERS, consider your corporate "product liability consequences" from those robot weld quality issues, and the consequences that can arise from the lack of good weld practices or the simple fact that daily your company likely allows unqualified robot weld changes to be made by unqualified weld personnel.
Throughout the weld world, for every MIG weld robot that
is not welding at peak performance, there will be at least
20 Resistance welding robots that are OUT OF CONTROL.
ROBOT - RESISTANCE WELDS. THIS IS SIMPLY ANOTHER WELD PROCESS THAT TOO MANY MANAGERS / ENGINEERS HAVE FOR DECADES ALLOWED TO RUN DAILY IN A STATE OF CHAOS:
A walk through many automotive plant's robot resistance weld department, would likely reveal that the resistance spot weld data monitors and electronic process controls which have been available since the seventies, are typically none existent, none functional or simply turned off.
Some of the resistance welding robots when striking the cars and truck steel bodies will give of great showers of weld sparks showing excess data. Other robots will clamp their weld jaws together with barely an electrical whimper. You would be amazed to find out how many of the welds will miss the specified locations or simply not provide any welds.
The bottom line, the resistant spot weld quality in many plants is typically so inconsistent that for every spot weld required on a car or truck, engineers are now in the habit of requesting three or four extra welds be applied and there is no guarantee with the quality of these welds.
USE MY PROCESS TRAINING OR SELF TEACHING PROGRAMS TO;
 INCREASE ROBOT WELD PRODUCTIVITY:
This training will immediately enable the majority of robot cells to dramatically reduce down time related to weld issues and increase the robot welding productivity typically in the 20 to 50% range.
 IMPROVE WELDING QUALITY:
The training is the only program available that shows robot weld defects and then shows how to ensure weld defects are minized. With this program a company should from a weld perspective to attain a goal of less than 2% robot weld rework
 IMPLEMENT ROBOT WELD PROCESS CONTROLS:
The training provides the tools a company requires to implement effective robot weld process controls which are a necessity to attain "consistent" weld quality and productivity.
 ESTABLISH GLOBAL BEST MANUFACTURING PRACTICES: The training or self teaching program will be a companies key to setting practical realistic global manufacturing - weld standards for any welded parts.
Let Ed's process control (PC) training resource be the the catalyst required for process improvements in your company. PC.
TO ATTAIN OPTIMUM ROBOT MIG WELD QUALITY HAS NEVER REQUIRED A BLACK BELT, A WHITE SHIRT A UNIVERSITY TIE, THE ASSISTANCE OF A SALESMAN OR AN UNDERSTANDING OF CONFUSED JAPANESE MANUFACTURING PRACTICES:
WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE ISO AS A TOOL ON YOUR WELD SHOP FLOOR FOR ROBOT WELD OPTIMIZATION, OR WOULD YO BENEFIT MORE FROM TRAINING SOMEONE TO BE A MANUAL - ROBOT WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST WELD PRACTICE EXPERT?
Today, there is a common theme in many manufacturing plants that "if you can control the plant's often useless, Bureaucratic, European induced ISO paper work, you should be able to get control of your manufacturing processes".
With weld manufacturing, the use of common sense, best weld practices and weld process controls by personnel who have received the necessary training, and by managers and engineers who will roll up their sleeves and actually get involved with processes such as welding and painting were all that was necessary in 1960, and quite frankly all that is required today in 2015.
After 50 years in this business, all I have seen is large corporations like the major USA and Japanese auto - truck companies tout their ISO and Black Belt qualifications, yet daily these companies pay an unnecessary mfg. premium for their paint and weld quality - productivity issues.
From my WELD perspective, all I saw that ISO achieved for most North American plants, was that it has drained organizations of valuable engineering resources and man hours that could be better utilized.
I suppose apart from building up the QA department's empire, many North American managers appreciate ISO as this ineffective bureaucratic, specification nightmare, often masks the role and responsibility of inexperienced managers and engineers, personnel who simply don't have the manufacturing process expertise necessary to implement effective process controls and best practices, yet always seem to be very busy with the ISO compliance requirements..
When it comes to establishing optimum weld proess controls and best weld practices, it's the fundamentals such as:
 The management's leadership role, and their involvement in weld process and equipment ownership.
 The management's recognition of it's engineers, technicians, supervisiors qualifications, and the process expertise necessary for the implementation of process controls and best weld practices.
ANOTHER POINT ON MANUAL - ROBOT "WELD OWNERSHIP".
THE PROCESS CONTROLS - BEST PRACTICE GLOBAL ISSUE.
In general, and of course there are always exceptions, MIG Welding Best Practices or effective Manual - Robot Weld Process Controls have not been implemented at the majority of most ISO and major global manufacturing plants that produce manual - robot MIG weld. Also in general, these programs are not taught at the global institutions that train engineers - technicians and welders
- WHO IS SUPPOSED TO DRIVE THE PROCESS CONTROL TRAIN IN THE MFG.PLANT?
Weld process controls and best weld practice will not be derived from those mostly ineffective AWS weld specs or from the latest lean manufacturing methods. They also will not be derived from the QA department personnel that typically know how to find but not prevent weld issues. It will not come from the maintenance department personnel that usually know very little about MIG process controls, and it will rarely come from the advice of weld salesmen,
- WHO IS RESPONSIBLE TO PROVIDE THE PROCESS CONTROL TRAINING PROGRAMS?
Effective weld process controls - best weld practice requires that engineers and workers be trained in the weld process and consumable requirements. This is not the conventional training provided by colleges or your local community weld school, this is the easy to learn training programs presented at this site.
- WHO PROVIDES THE DAILY WELD PROCESS CONTROL, BEST WELD PRACTICE DISIPLINE?
This should always be driven from the front office. The implementation of cost effective manual - robot weld practice controls requires that management, supervisors engineers and technicians ensure that the optimum pre-qualified MIG - FCA weld data is implemented and maintained daily.
- WHO ENSURES THE WELDED PARTS ARE MADE TO THE SPECIFIED DIMENSIONS.
Producing parts to the design dimensions and tolerances is becoming an almost rare event in the auto industry, and its a sad statement that that this question has to be asked.
- WHO ENSURES THAT EFFECTIVE WELL DESIGNED ROBOT FIXTURES ARE BUILT AND MAINTAINED.
Process Control trained managers / engineers / technicians will ensure that the robot fixtures will be durable, cost effective and built to enable both the highest weld quality - productivity. These costly items always need good preventive maintainance programs.
THE REALITY OF WELD PROCESS OWNERSHIP.
2008: OFTEN HEARD FROM THE FRONT OFFICE,
"WHY CAN'T THAT WELD TEAM GET THE JOB DONE"?
Too often, managers and engineers were under the impression that they had carried out their weld shop responsibility, when they approved the budgets for the robots. weld equipment and consumable expenditures. In many instances the daily weld production was left to the so called "Weld Team". From my perspective, when a Weld Team is required to deal with weld issues, that simply reveals the company has in place, UNQUALIFIED Weld Managers, Engineers, Supervisors and Technicians.
Please always remember that MIG - FCA weld Process Control - Best Practice Training is not only essential for weld shop floor personnel, but also necessary for the front office personnel that have any role with the weld processes utilized.
To achieve partially acceptable robot welds, many companies especially in auto - truck plants placed a maintenance person or "mechanical or electrical engineer in charge of the welding robot weld lines. This individual often ends up as the Weld Team Leader," (unqualifed). The company may also wastes resources by placing so called skilled welders in the robot cells to operate a robot that provides the skills. Since the 1980s till the present (2014), most of robot programmers have had minimal weld process control expertise and in this manufacturing environment it's not unusual to find the maintenance electricians, millwrights or robot operators will be the individuals that daily make the unqualified robot weld changes to so called pre-qualified welds.
EVERY DAY, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF ROBOT WELDS ON CAR - TRUCKS WILL HAVE INEXPERIENCED MILL WRIGHTS, ELECTRICIANS, OPERATORS, TECHNICIANS AND MECHANICAL - ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS MAKING ROBOT WELD DECISIONS AND UNQUALIFIED WELD CHANGES, AND 99% OF THESE GUYS WILL NEVER HAVE HAD A WELD PROCESS CONTROL - BEST PRACTICE EDUCATION:
LASERS AND MIG WELD TRACKING?
When lower cost, more simple solutions are available to meet the weld production and quality demands, it's a management mistake to bring complex costly equipment or processes into any high volume mfg. environment.
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT WHAT YOU WILL READ
IN ENGINEERING MAGAZINES.
"I HAVE BEEN IN MORE AUTO - TRUCK PLANTS THAN MOST ENGINEERS, AND I NEVER SAW A LASER CUTTING OR LASER WELD APPLICATION THAT WAS IN REALITY EVER JUSTIFIED.
In the auto-truck industry, as a result of poor management / engineering practices, the simple fact is that anually this industry will annually waste billions of dollars on rejects, rework, recalls and also on lost robot productivity.
In the large plants that supply this industry its not hard to find executive that are easily impressed by sales people who offer the the latest, costly equipment / process solution. Its harder in these plants to find technicians / engineers and managers who can make the argument why the bells and whistles are not necessary.
This brings us to use use of costly, >250K lasers. Lasers are products typically promoted by a laser reps, and yet while these high tech reps will be able to set and operate their complex lasers, however, typically they would be unable to optimize the two simple controls on the 60 yr old MIG equipment. And the laser rep tells the I LIVE IN AN IVORY TOWER corporate exec why robot laser welding is better than robot MIG welding or robot laser cutting is better than robot plasma cutting.
IF YOU LIKE "HIGH WELD / CUTTING SPEEDS" FROM THAT ROBOT- LASER APPLICATION, SIMPLY CONSIDER THE LOWER COST TRADITIONAL PROCESSES. SPEND A FEW HRS AND LEARN HOW TO OPTIMIZE THOSE PROCESSES AND THEN CONSIDER THE USE OF THESE PROCESSES WITH "TWO ROBOTS". IN GENERAL YOU WILL GET THE SAME PRODUCTION RESULTS AND SAVE HUNDERDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON YOUR EQUIP PURCHASE. ALSO D BY THE WAY, THE MAINTENACE DEPT AND PRODUCTION MGR. WILL LIKELY GIVE YOU A HUG.
I've seen laser cutting applications that I could have easily done with $20K plasma equipment. . I've seen laser welds that I could again with the addition of another robot and the use of MIG or TIPTIG, again create dramatic reductions complexity for the plant and in capitol expenditure.
When management struggles with a fabrication process it's not difficult to understand why they should like for a crutch and give consideration to the often useless bells and whistles that are promoted daily. Lets face it, they are too many managers and engineers who believe that the more money you spend on the fabrication / mfg equipment, the less production / quality problems you will have..
IF YOU MANAGE A PLANT AND BELIEVE YOU NEED A LASER FOR YOUR AUTO / TRUCK PART WELD, YOU SHOULD SPEND A LOT OF TIME AT THIS SITE. UNFORTUNATELY GM - FORD - CHRYSLER - HONDA - TOYOTA AND OTHER CORPORATE EXECS WILL RARELY VISIT THIS SITE. AND THATS WHY OVER PRICED, OVER COMPLEX EQUIPMENT GETS ONTO WELD SHOP FLOORS. THIS IS ALSO A PRIME REASON WHY THE AUTO / TRUCK COMPANIES ARE MAKING THE RIDICULOUS DECISIONS TO USE LASERS TO WELD THEIR ALUM APPLICATIONS.
This company needed to SHINE MORE THAN A LIGHT ON THIS LASER PURCHASE.
One laser weld application that I was asked to optimize was outside the auto industry. This company had purchased a laser and robot that travelled the length of a track to weld the longitudinal seams on LAMP POSTS. This laser / robot cell cost a fortune and six months after installation there was more down time than up time. The down time was a result of many laser / robot issues that the engineers and technicians could not handle. I looked at this application for an hour, and figured I could have given them the same weld production with better quality (MIG less sensitive to fit). Using two instead of one robot, with two MIG units. my production times would have been similar, yet my down time would enable a dramatic increase in their daily weld product)ion. Also the operator skills and maintenance dept. concerns would be dramatically reduced. By the way they would have likely saved about $300K on the equipment purchase. I fixed the laser situation but knew that the next day would present more issues. I walked away from that plant again frustrated at the stupidity of the people in the front office. Please remember it's decisions such as this why people loose jobs and plants close,
LASERS AND WELD TRACKING: I remember in Detroit, assisting Ford with it's robot weld issues at one of it's truck plants. The Ford management had purchased a multi-million dollar robot MIG welding line, they also had purchased every possible robot bell and whistle including a very costly Laser Weld Vision Tracking system for each robot on the lines. The Ford engineers responsible for the robot weld at the truck plant, figured they needed the laser tracking systems for their MIG welds because the other Ford managers / engineers were simply not capable of producing parts with the correct dimensions.
Within twelve weeks of the new robot purchase, all the laser tracking devices were removed from the robot lines. I could be wrong, but believe the approx. total cost of these lasers was over $250K - $300K. The high tech, weld joint tracking lasers were dumped in cardboard boxes to gather dust in a storage room. The reason the lasers were dumped in storage at the Ford Plant was no one in the plant could handle the highly technical issues that were derived each shift when laser or was it robot tracking problems occurred and they certainly could not manage the MIG weld process corrections that were forever being made.
ROBOTS AND WELD CELL LOGIC:
 Parts built to design dimensions.
 Well designed fixtures.
 Optimum weld data, equipment and consumables.
 The use of robot Best Weld Practices.
 The utilization of easy to operate & control Touch Sensing / Through Arc Tracking.
 Effective automated robot TCP controls.
 Need more production, first optimize what you have then bring in another robot.
 All personnel (including front office) trained in Robot weld Process Controls - Best Practices, these were in the most important attributes for any robot cell in 1985, and in 2015, they still are the primary keys to optimum robot MIG weld automation.
2000: TRADE UNIONS, WELD SKILLS - PROCESS EXPERTISE AND AUTOMATION.
Welding responsibility in many automotive plants is also affected by unions and their often "out dated seniority clauses" that end up putting the wrong man in the wrong job.
In many manufacturing plants with union employees, the unions and management would benefit by reviewing the union agreements from a "weld automation perspective". Many union personnel especially in the time period between 1980 - 2000, believed the delivery of robots into their plants to be a key cause of job losses. It took more than two decades for these personnel to find out that the high volume manufacturing companies that adopted robots successfully were the only ones that managed to retain the work, the jobs and the growth.
IN UNION PLANTS, YOU WOULD THINK THAT IT WOULD BE A LOGICAL MANAGEMENT FUNCTION TO COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND AND CORRECTLY DEFINE, THE ROBOT JOB DESCRIPTIONS OF BOTH THE PLANT AND FRONT OFFICE EMPLOYEES..
It was always simply illogical for any manufacturing plant that worked under a labor contract to have clauses in the labor requirements that hinder the success of the planned automation.
Unions who have struggled with weld automation are often influenced by management that simply does not understand that the robot automation requires unique job descriptions. And these descriptions can be an extremely important tool in achieving production - quality goals and defining the front office and weld shop floor weld manufacturing accountability and responsibility.
I could ask plant or mfg. manager in any Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda or Toyota plant to define and provide the following job 5 job descriptions;
 a manual MIG welder,
 a MIG welding robot operator,
 a robot technician programmer,
 a plant weld engineer,
 a plant weld manager.
I would expect that nine out of the ten plant mangers will have provided inappropriate job descriptions.
Robot Weld Programmers and Weld Process Control Expertise:
 The required expertise to optimize a robot's MIG weld quality and productivity performance has never required a person with a university or college degree, it does however require a person who will have a combination of in-depth robot programming and has extensive weld process control and best weld practices expertise.
It's important that mangers be aware that they don't teach engineers what a company needs to know about robot MIG weld process controls at any college or university in North America, Europe or Japan. If any technical college or university disagrees with this point, invite me to your facility and in less than one hour with your fourth year weld engineering students and instructors and I will prove otherwise.
 Weld process expertise & the required controls to optimize a robot does not require biased, inexperienced weld advice from MIG weld equipment and consumable manufacturers.
 Obtaining optimum robot weld quality - productivity is rarely influenced by the QA department manager or by his inspectors. In the majority of global manufacturing plants, the QA department inspectors who are critical of the weld quality will have never bothered to learn the practical weld process knowledge necessary to provide the weld solutions to their criticism. Surely it's much more cost effective to hire personnel that can prevent rather than find weld defects especially when that training requires less than 15 hrs and is available at this site for less than $400.
 Both unions and management would do well to review their robot weld job descriptions. The weld job descriptions in too many plants are typically based on experience attained from the "manual weld practices" which means the information is tainted and inappropriate before it's delivered.
RIDICULOUS, JAPANESE MANAGEMENT "HIRING PRACTICES," REVEALED HOW LACKING IN WELD MFG, EXPERTISE THEY WERE AND HOW SCREWED UP THEIR WELD MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY WAS.
2013: It's a been a common theme for at least two decades that in Japanese manufacturing plants they will only allow engineers with degrees to be in charge of their robots which has always been ridiculous (management ignorance) as the irony is their has never been any Japanese, USA or European universities that offered relevant robot weld process controls and best weld practices courses. Also keep in mind that for three decades, the majority of robots in the USA were run and controlled by technicians not engineers.
Note In over the 1000 plants I visited in 13 countries, I never met a USA or Japanese plant manager or HR director who understood the fundamental requirements for robot MIG weld process controls.
Here's a resolution to end those time consuming useless weld team meetings. "Some one get some balls and stand up and say, "the majority of robot weld issues are simply management Issues".
Understanding Job Descriptions - Best Weld Practices and Process Controls, enables "Qualified Managers - Engineers - Supervisors".
Maybe I am old fashioned, but on a ship, if the captain and officers show little interest in the ships operating equipment, you know the ships crew is going to run the ship their way, and one day all hell is going to break loose. I think they made a few movies about this.
WHEN THE WELD ENGINEER AND TECHNICIANS HAVE TO REPORT TO UNION EMPLOYEES, YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN A SCREWED UP AUTOMOTIVE PLANT OR IN A SHIP YARD WHERE THE MANAGEMEMT DOES NOT KNOW WHAT WELD PROCESS OWNERSHIP MEANS...
WANTED FOR A "HANDS OFF MANAGEMENT", TIER ONE AUTO - TRUCK COMPANY.
A WELD ENGINEER WHO WILL REPORT TO UNION PERSONNEL.
In June 1999, I noticed a news paper classified add listed on the web. A tier one, North American company that makes auto-truck parts was looking for a Weld Engineer. Now remember weld engineers in contrast to mechanical or electrical engineers have always been in short supply in North America. And weld engineers that have received an education in manual - robot, MIG - FCA weld process controls and best weld practices are very difficult to find.
The news paper add READ. "Required, an Engineer with robot and MIG weld process expertise. The engineer would have FULL RESPONSIBILITY for the robot weld productivity and quality. The engineer required at least five years of practical hands on expertise. What was remarkable about the add, was the add then went on to state that "the company required that this engineer would report to the plant UNION personnel".
I don't believe that the function or mandate of any union involved in manufacturing was to ever "CONTROL ENGINEERS" . In this pathetic, hands off management plant, a reasonable question would be, "does the cart control the horse? I would make a bet that this companies mechanical or electrical engineers do not report to the union. This sad add for a weld engineer is just another indication of the frequent lack of management process ownership and the lack of respect shown to the welding profession. This crap unfortunately is happening in too many global auto-truck plants.
HOW NOT TO RUN A ROBOT WELD LINE:
Question: Ed, what about training, my company spends millions annually on training, yet the extensive weld manufacturing issues seem to be the daily norm and never end?
The too often inadequate management - engineering approach to both manual and robot MIG - flux cored weld quality - training programs, should be a major concern for the majority of global weld shops. In my travels in the 1990s I learnt that Ford used to spend approx 40 - 50 million dollars annually on employee training, and they spent hundreds of millions annually on QA (quality) programs. Yet at the Ford frame plants and other Ford plants that visited that provided robot MIG welds, I would be immersed daily in in numerous robot weld issues that left the Ford managers, engineers and technicians scratching their ever increasing hairlines. In these plants the solution to robot issues was to add manual MIG welders who would place poor quality manual MIG welds on top of the poor quality robot welds.
The manual welders added to the robot MIG frame weld lines would try to repair or provide the welds missed by the robots. These were fast paced robot lines and the manual MIG weld repairs were in reality an impossible task. In most instances the manual weld repairs created more weld / part issues than they resolved. Again this is simply another indication of the expertise of the mfg. management / engineers with the welded parts produced.
At most frame plants the parts moving along the robot line are often poorly manufactured, and typically they will have excessive weld gaps or the weld joints will have been misaligned from the robot programmed points. Both the robot and manual weld repair data applied at at most auto-truck facilities will rarely be optimum. The majority of the robot competed frame welds will have to undergo extensive, manual handling and repairs. The weld repairs are rarely made by qualified individuals and the weld data, weld consumables and weld transfer modes will typically not be optimum.
WHEN UNQUALIFIED MANAGERS - ENGINEERS MAKE POOR WELD DECISIONS. THE ISSUES NEVER END.
At the Ford frame plant, (and many other plants) the manual welders placed along side the robots or in the repair weld cells would use "oversized" MIG wires that were poorly suited for the gage application. Also it did not help the situation that inappropriate weld data and weld techniques and practices were being used for the we might as well have used chewing gum weld fixes.
I actually found two manual welders on the Ford frame line that DID NOT have contact tips in their MIG guns. These guys would just let the MIG wire touch the grounded work creating a glow and sparks. This was all it took to impress the engineers, supervisors and managers as they hurried by on the way to their office.
HOW THE LACK OF EXPERTISE AND POOR MFG. PRACTICES KEEPS EATING AWAY AT THE MANUAFACTURING PROFITS, AND ADDS TO THE LIABILTY CONCERNS:
Of course at the Frame plant, when the frames arrived at the end of the robot lines, the majority of the welds would be rejected and then the frames then shipped to another part of the plant for later manual MIG weld repairs. The manual welders who work on the robot lines would then with other unqualified individuals be paid overtime to come in on the weekends to try to repair the frame welds. The reality is their poor manual weld repairs simply added to the weld issues. Also these repairs on the HSLA steels would often decrease the total frame structural integrity.
When i visited these plants and offered training to the weld decision makers, I would say that in general. that there would be a distinct lack of interest from the front office personnel in the robot weld process control training. Instead of addressing the lack of ineffectiveness of the quality programs, or addressing the frame gaps, the poor fixtures, the incorrect size weld consumables, the inadequate robot weld weld process settings, the lack of robot weld best practices and process controls, and the poorly trained manual MIG welders, the manufacturing managers and engineers at the Ford plant would daily vent their spleen and threaten the companies that provided robots, the fixtures, and the weld equipment and consumables.
FRONT OFFICE PERSONNEL WILL GET WELD SHOP RESPECT. WHEN THEY SHOW SOME EVIDENCE OF WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERTISE, AND OCCASIONALLY GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY.
You will find that most shop floor workers will increase their respect for management, supervisors, engineers and technicians when they see them rolling up their sleeves and striving to learn about the weld processes and equipment that are critical to their company. With MIG - FCA welding, this expertise has been simplified and is available here by simply going through my Self Teaching / Training MIG - FCA process control training - best practices resources.
MY ROBOT WELD PROCESS CONTROL TRAINING BOOK / VIDEO WERE USED IN THE USA BY GENESIS ROBOT TECHNICIANS, AND IN CANADA BY PRODOMAX ROBOT PERSONNEL. THESE COMPANIES ARE TWO OF THE LARGEST AND MOST QUALIFIED ROBOT INTEGRATORS IN NORTH AMERICA.
ROBOT CELL OPERATORS AND JOB DESCRIPTIONS:
Few robot cell operators in large companies will have a clearly defined job description. These personnel need to be able to carry out specific manufacturing and robot instructions.
 Operators should know when the robot weld gun contact tips and nozzles should be replaced.
 Operators should know they have the responsibility to provide house cleaning for their robots, fixtures and cells, (a wise management should allocate time for this at the end of each shift).
 A person with weld process control expertise would manually train the operators to understand what a change in weld "arc sounds means" and the resulting weld consequences that will occur in the robot cells.
 Operators must also be able to visually inspect the parts and welds understand what an acceptable part / weld and looks looks like.
 Operators should also during each shift, record in the robot Weld Cell LOG any issues that has influenced the weld quality and productivity.
 Operators must also be trained on what they "MUSTt NOT DO" to the pre-qualified welds.
FOR THE PROCESS APATHETIC. DESIGNERS OF ROBOT WELDED PARTS.
If there is one profession that does not deserve respects in large volume manufacturing plants it's typically the designers of the welded parts. From my perspective its a disgrace that these university educated guys typically lack the fundamentals on the processes that they recommend to to weld the parts they design. Most designers of robot welded parts would benefit from weld process theory training. Its likely that the designers in your organization do not know the minimum thickness that MIG short circuit transfer can be used on, what an acceptable MIG weld gap dimension is, or why that single pass, MIG fillet weld maximum size is restricted. The designers of automotive / truck parts are rarely aware of their negative influence on weld productivity and quality. All designers would benefit from weld process expertise resources available at this site, resources that will allows them to make their designs optimum parts for robot MIG welds.
THOSE OUR HEADS ARE BURIED IN THE SAND ROBOT FIXTURE MAKERS: For companies that use robots one of the most difficult thing to find is a fixture builder that actually understands the robot MIG weld requirements for good weldability. Many fixture makers need to improve communication with the individuals responsible for the part design, the person who provides the robot programming, the maintenance manager. There is a time for group discussions and this group weld discussion would be beneficial in ensuring that fixtures are designed to meet the ergonomic requirements of the robot operators, that the fixtures will not impede optimum robot techniques and programming, that the fixtures will have protection from spatter, be durable and easy to clean and maintain.
IF YOU FEEL THE NEED FOR A ROBOT WELD TEAM. In contrast to many of the weld teams we now see in manufacturing facilities, this would be a team, comprised of the maintenance supervisor, the production supervisor, the robot programmer and someone who will get his hands dirty from the engineering office. The team would meet once a week to discuss the issues which have been well documented by the operators in the robot cell logs. As it' important for the team to all walk the same welding path, all the members will have received my best practices - process control training program.
These managers simply did not have a clue..
While employed as the robot weld manager with ABB, one of the world's largest suppliers of arc welding robots, I provided my unique "robot weld process training" for many of the top North American, fortune 50 manufacturing companies.
I found it amusing when doing the training to find that frequently automotive senior managers from GM - Ford and Chrysler and their tier one companies would send robot personnel to the robot programming school, yet many of these individuals could barely read or write. You would think that innovative manufacturing management that does not have their heads stuck up their rear ends would be aware that if there engineers could not fix the robot weld problems what hope would there be sending guys that cant read or study
After years being around robots, few engineers in the auto and truck industry have mastered the robot programming and process control requirements. These are the first people that should be in line to become experts on the processes and equipment that are vital to their organizations.
Sending poorly qualified individuals to robot training school is again simply a reflection of poor management practices and also reveals the level of their weld automation expertise.
Typically welding robot lines are the most sophisticated and sometimes the most costly automated equipment installed in a manufacturing plant. The caliber of the individuals controlling this complex equipment has the greatest influence on attaining the equipment's full production potential.
Weld Reality. Robots have been in manufacturing plants for approx three decades, yet only a few of the "manufacturing engineers" employed in the the fabrication industry have shown they have the will or enthusiasm to learn what it takes to take ownership and optimize the daily robot welding production.
Its 2013 and I am still waiting. Perhaps one day an enlightened manufacturing management will encourage their engineers to learn to how to control the equipment that creates their profits.
Another Weld Management Perception:
There is a common perception again especially in the auto - truck companies and also with large fabricators, that when it comes to manual MIG welding, many managers believe the requirements for welding is nothing more than a body, a head, two eyes, two legs two arms and a few skills and lets not forget they should be able to play around with the weld controls. I remember when I started a robot weld process control training course at ABB, that the first participants that General Motors sent, could barely read or write.
Another common management perception, if a costly robot is going to do production welds that were initially produced by hourly paid welders, then the already simple, semi-skilled task of MIG welding would be further simplified by the large investment in the sophisticated, costly robot equipment.
Lets not forget that the most ironic point about the common lack of MIG process control - best practice expertise that prevails, is the "MIG process" attached to the robot arm has been around for more than five decades and its inexcuseable to have weld personnel playing around with weld controls..
The following is an important point which will has to be repeated many times. The majority of manufacturing managers responsible for welding are unaware that their highly skilled welders and weld supervisors who usually focus on the welders skills, will have rarely mastered the "MIG weld best practices and process control theory which of course will be necessary for all robot welds.
If you are an individual that does not believe the above statement, ask the most skilled MIG individuals in your plant the following simple weld question.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A FUNDAMENTAL, YET VERY SIMPLE MIG WELD PROCESS QUESTION:
Without looking in a book, could anyone of the weld personnel in your organization tell you that when using either the common 0.045 or the 0.035 (1.2 - 1 mm) carbon steel MIG wires, what is the the wire feed rate, in./min, or m/min, in which Spray Transfer starts using the common Argon 10 - 20% CO2 mixes?
How important is this MIG question? Well as over 70 percent of all MIG welds are made with spray transfer, the question should be relevant. Yet you and I know that if 5 welders at your facility were asked this question, you would get 5 different answers and at least 4 of those answers will be incorrect.
So this company pays on average $50K a year for each welder's annual wage and they pay 50K to $100k for each robot cell. The company spent more than $250K last year on weld consumables and weld equipment. Also $100K annualy is spent on grinding wheels. Yet it has never occurred to anyone in this company to pay $300 for a MIG process control - best practice training or self teaching program that would optimize either the robot or manual weld quality - productivity.
THERE ARE MANY REASONS DURING THE 1990s, WHY THE USA LOST GOOD PAYING JOBS. WITH QUALIFIED ENGINEERS AND MANAGERS, WELL RUN ROBOT WELD LINES SHOULD BE LITTLE INFLUENCED BY EITHER SALESMEN OR LABOR COSTS, AND THEREFORE ROBOT JOBS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE HAD A PLACE IN NORTH AMERICAN PLANTS.
WHEN THEY CANNOT GET RID OF THEIR CRUTCH, THE MANAGER MAY ASK WHICH PROCESS - CONSUMABLES SHOULD WE CONSIDER THIS MONTH?
In their quest to resolve those robot weld shop issues, many automotive manufacturing engineers get caught up with trendy manufacturing and processes . This week its MIG next week its pulsed MIG and next year its a laser. The steel weld manufacturing industry is becoming notorious for it's reliance on confusing, manufacturing practices, standards and purchasing equipment with costly, unnecessary electronic bells and whistles.
IF THE RIGHT WELD QUESTIONS ARE NOT ASKED, THE WELD ISSUES NEVER GET RESOLVED AND THE MANAGERS CONTINUE TO TRY TO QUENCH THE FIRES..
The manufacturing manger has directed the HR person to look for a manufacturing engineer to work with the MIG welding robots. The HR requested that the individual must have experience with some of the following.
HR WANTS TO KNOW DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH THE FOLLOWING? Dynamic Control Plans.
and last but not least
During the HR interview no one asks the engineer that will look after the MIG welding robots about his MIG Weld Process Control Expertise and his ability to provide Best Weld Practices for the robot weld lines.
As we are all aware, MIG welding is not rocket science. The bottom line in most plants, the steel comes in the rear door and then they;
[a] cut the steel,
[b] clean the steel,
[c] shape the steel,
[d] tack then weld the steel,
[e] examine and test the welded parts,
[f] clean and paint the parts,
[g] assemble the final product,
[h] test the final product,
[I] package and ship the product out of the door at the other
end of the plant.
When working through [a to I], as a manager responsible for manufacturing, its logical to employ practical individuals who know how to 'minimize material handling" The individuals will put "practical equipment" in place that will allow the "highest possible robot weld duty cycle each shift". The individuals will have the "ability to optimize the robot performance", and to "train the employees to optimize the equipment and processes required".
What manufacturing companies really need for robot weld process optimization, is to hire employees with the "necessary process expertise" and make sure the employees have a good dose of the best manufacturing asset an employee can have "practical common sense" .
Weld shifts and inconsistent weld results
Question. Ed, we find that with the second or third shifts the robot weld issues often increase. Many times the operators on these shifts cannot resolve the robot programming issues. The robot down time and weld rework from these two shifts can be extensive. How would you address these problems?
Ed's Reply. It's typical in many plants, that those with the most programming or process experience work on the first shift. It's rare to find auto / truck plants which have highly qualified individuals on all the shifts. The reality therefore in plants without effective weld process controls, is someone on the second or third shift is going to get into the robot program to try and rectify a welding issue. Once in the robot program its easy for someone without in-depth programming or process expertise to create more robot issues than they are trying to resolve.
The lack of in-depth, robot programming expertise is one reason companies should improve and extend the robot training provided. Also consider the use of custom PLC controls for simplifying the operation of a robot, so the operator does not have to go into the complex robot pendant. For example, the robot stops in the middle of the weld and your robot operator on the second shift has one of the following robot program options. The operator;
[a] wants the robot to continue from the welding point it stopped,
[b] wants the robot to go on to the next weld,
[c] wants the robot to go to the previous weld,
[d] wants the robot to go to the home position,
[e] wants the robot to go to the gun station for a nozzle clean then return to the next weld,
[f] wants the robot to go to the automatic tool center point for a TCP check and then start at the next weld,
[g] wants the robot to go to the next part.
[h] wants the positioner to rotate and start welding the next part.
Examine the above robot program options for the robot operator who does not have the expertise of the robot programmer, it can get complex. Here is a simple solution. Examine all the common daily programming issues that could occur for an operator on the second or third shift. I mentioned eight (a-h). Lets say you find thirty fundamental robot programming issues. If you do not have a high level of robot programming expertise on each shift, and you want the robot operators to have more control of the robot program, you could attain a PLC control, connect the PLC to the robot control and have the cutomized PLC keys address the primary issues.
With the PLC control, the next time the robot operator has a robot program issue they likely no longer need the intervention of the highly qualified programmer. For example, the robot has stopped in the middle of a weld and the operator wants the robot to go on to the next weld, sometimes a difficult robot command especially if the robot has to go to another part or the fixture positioner has to move. The operator walks up to the PLC control and simply presses the PLC [b] key, which denote robot go to next weld.
Of course when it comes to welded parts, with the high daily production demands in auto / truck plants and the too frequent lack of dimensional controls with stamped parts, the plant focus is typically placed on weld productivity rather than on the weld quality. This focus can have a tremendous negative impact on the a shop floor welding culture and will continue to be a liability and recall concern.
All managers should recognize the following fundamental fact, and hammer it home to all plant welding personnel.
It takes less time to produce a robot welded part that does not require weld rework, than it does to weld a part that ends up in the scrap or rework pallet.
DOING IT RIGHT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE QUICKEST WAY.
From my perspective I found it completely illogical that any corporate or plant management would allow "inexperienced, hands off engineers to influence their companies reputation and profits.
Robot Team Responsibility:
LET THE ROBOT TEAM BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NONE RELATED WELD PROBLEMS LIKE PART FIT, PART CLEANLINESS, STOCK, FIXTURE OR CELL ISSUES, AND LEAVE THE BLOODY WELD ISSUES TO THE WELD PROCESS CONTROL EXPERT.
The majority of welding issues that can occur with a robot MIG weld are discussed on this site, or in my books and training programs . With process control training comes instant weld process solutions. So rather than have your employees sitting around a conference table chewing the fat, provide them with process training and let the most experienced individual get on with providing the robot or weld resolutions.
Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the weld decision makers listens to the workers on the shop floor. However the weld decision maker should have more weld process expertise and therefore should make the final process decisions based on;
[a] the requirements necessary to attain optimum productivity and quality,
[b] decisions that protect the company from a product liability situation.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the management and engineers establish Best Weld Practices that reduce weld equipment and consumable costs.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the management and engineers are focused on placing "weld process controls" on the shop floor.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the managers and engineers will not allow manufacturing double standards in which weld part tolerance discrepancies are not given the same priority as brake press part dimensions.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means that when a PM program is recommended for the robot cells, it's put in place and strictly adhered to.
* Being an active partner in process and robot ownership means the management will attain for it's employees effective robot programming and MIG process control training. Before you allow a consultant or trainer into your plant, ensure the welding quality and productivity expectations are clearly spelled out. Keep in mind, in most cases your workers already have the necessary skills, yet it's this area of expertise which many trainers or consultants will focus on. Ensure the process training is provided to all personnel involved with the welded parts.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the management is aware that for robot programming, that the 5 day training program at a robot companies training facility should be seen only as the introductory training course. Ensure robot training follow up. Provide the training till the programmer believes they have the ability to completely control the robots.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means the management will not put up with individuals who make weld process changes outside the pre-qualified weld data.
* Being an active partner in process and equipment ownership means, that for the equipment or processes which are critical for an organization, the management will encourage engineers to captain the shop and encourage these individuals to attain equipment and process expertise that is at least compatible with your technicians.
A KIS MESSAGE FOR MANAGERS - ENGINEERS:
The yearly review and job descriptions of engineers who work with robots should clearly encourage engineers to take a pre 1980's approach to manufacturing. Some of you may remember the good old days when engineers dedicated to Keep It Simple (KIS) manufacturing, could be seen "shirt sleeves rolled up" working with the equipment and processes on the shop floor.
If the engineers in your organization don't understand the robot programs, the GTAW, plasma, laser or oxy fuel cutting machine program requirements, encourage them to take process or equipment training. For their MIG / flux cored process requirements, and for the implementation of effective weld process controls, I would recommend my books.
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE AUTO INDUSTRY:
Question: What does a ship yard and automotive plant have in common?
In these union dominated industries, the misguided unions frequently discourage engineers from hands on participation with the manufacturing processes used on the shop floor. This was fine in the good old days when manual welding skills meant everything and process expertise meant little.
As the complexity of the manufacturing equipment and environment changes and plants strive to increase their automation efficiency in a highly competitive global industry, engineers should be encouraged to rise up from their desks and to do what they are supposedly trained and hired for. There is only one logical approach to successful manufacturing and that is a working partnership between the skilled workers, technicians, engineers and managers.
Management can benefit by careful evaluation of the qualifications of the personnel responsible for production robot welding. Ensure all personnel that either set up, or operate the high volume production equipment have the capability and aptitude to meet a clearly defined job description for that specific operation.
MANAGEMENT AND EXPERTISE AWARENESS. Management and engineers will benefit once they are aware that there are very different expertise levels between:
[a] a production worker,
[b] a robot operator,
[c] a production welder,
[d] a maintenance person,
[e] a robot programmer,
[f] a weld process expert,
[g] a robot weld process expert.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, THE GLOBAL WELD INDUSTRY WOULD BENEFIT IF ALL FACTORIES WERE MANAGED NOT LIKE A SHIP YARD, BUT LIKE A WELL RUN SHIP:
Its unfortunate that the trend in weld manufacturing in the last two decades has been "hands off, inexperienced managers and engineers". In contrast examine the ship factories at sea. A good ship's captain or any of the ship's engineers typically could operate or take apart anything on their ship. I am not suggesting that this radical, hands on, technical expertise should be part of a manufacturing managers job description. I am suggesting that today we need a compromise in which managers and engineers show more interest in the plant equipment and manufacturing practices that generate their pay check.
Managers, to get manufacturing management and engineers back into the equipment process ownership loop, an important first step would be to show the workers that you at least have some MIG process knowledge. Try this book. "A Management and Engineers Guide To MIG"
The $300 cost of robot MIG Weld Process Control training,
is the price of a good "executive" dinner,
How many companies are prepared to invest a few dollars per supervisor, robot personnel or welder, for a training program designed to optimize both the manual or robot welding quality and productivity in their organization?
I had my MIG process training book translated to Spanish, believing it would be a great tool for the Mexican workers who are paid a few dollars a a day to control the costly European and Japanese robots welding the North American auto / truck parts. What I did not figure on was the management apathy in these plants. Managers who have no problem spending millions on robots lines have to think twice before they spend a few dollars purchasing books for their workers.
WHILE WE EXPECT LIES FROM MOST WASHINGTON POLITICIANS,
in engineering we should only deal with the TRUTH. Ed Craig 2000.
Keep Smiling, at $10 / hr you should be able to retire at 90.
Go to Eds Training Programs.
Or back to all www.weldreality programs
back to top