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Wandelbots Releases “Welding Edition”

 

With “Wandelbots Teaching”, users without programming knowledge can teach robots within a very short time. This works only with demonstration, using an input device (TracePen) and an intuitive app that makes creating robot skills easy for any application expert.

Following the successful market launch of Wandelbots Teaching in October 2020, the “Welding Edition” will be the first major application-specific product update of the robot programming solution.

“Path-intensive welding makes it difficult for robotics users today. Teaching paths for the perfect weld is extremely time-consuming. With today’s programming solutions, whether for cobots or industrial robots, it takes a lot of time and patience to prepare the perfect weld. Not only position, but also orientation and speed must harmonize perfectly,” explains CEO Christian Piechnick.

To best understand and address the challenges that exist today, extensive usage tests and workshops were conducted with welding users. Among others, the companies Heidenbluth and Lorch Schweißtechnik, which see great potential for further automation in the welding segment with the “Welding Edition“, helped in this process.

Together with the robotics welding experts, prototypes and feature requirements were defined. With the result – the “Welding Edition” – Wandelbots simplifies the teaching of welding robots.

 

Automation in the Welding Market Is Being Driven Forward

 

“With the ‘Welding Edition’ we underline our claim: Teaching robots is possible for every application expert. Without long training. Without code. And all this faster and easier than with previous tools on the market,” says Christian Piechnick about the release.

Armin Heidenbluth, Managing Director of welding specialist Heidenbluth, explains the Wandelbots update: “This is a real enrichment for robot users – the extensive programming of complex component geometries is significantly simplified, and the operator has a programming system in his or her hand that is very similar to his or her welding torch in terms of guidance. This means that small batch sizes can finally be implemented.”

“Especially in the welding market, there is a huge demand for automation that previous robotics solutions have not adequately served, but which we are now addressing with the ‘Welding Edition’,” explains Piechnick.

Wandelbots addresses the main reasons for the low level of automation in the welding market to date:

 

  • Little flexibility: Those who use different robots for welding applications today can often only use their robotics operators on individual robots due to the different programming approaches of different manufacturers: Wandelbots Teaching works the same way on every robot – no retraining is necessary.

 

  • High costs: Apart from the costs for the robotics cell including planning, set-up, tools and accessories, for many companies it is above all the frequently required programming services that drive up the total costs of automation: With Wandelbots Teaching, any company can start to teach its robots completely independently of external programmers from €299 per month.

 

  • Complex handling: Today’s programming solutions, especially for industrial robots frequently used in welding, are considered too complex to handle. Instead of learning the ropes, people often continue to weld by hand. Wandelbots Teaching now provides users with the most intuitive form of robot learning: TracePen and 3D-based app interfaces.

 

  • Lack of skills: Many manual welders today lack the education and training to handle complex robot programming solutions. The cost and time investment are shied away from, further automation is thus precluded: Wandelbots Teaching can be understood and applied by any application expert, young or old, within a few hours. Days of training are not necessary.

 

  • Lack of quality: Often, today’s programming methods cannot produce welds of sufficient quality. So welding continues to be done by hand. But even here, the quality cannot be guaranteed consistently: With Wandelbots Teaching, a system is now available with which path, orientation, speed, and welding parameters, can be harmonized to a degree familiar from manual welding.

 

  • No motivation: Manual welders often encounter the elaborate training and complexity of today’s robotic solutions with reluctance. This results in internal team conflicts and not all employees have the same skill level and are equally employable. With Wandelbots Teaching, there is now a robotics solution that is easy to learn, brings operating interfaces familiar from private life into industry and, with the TracePen, builds a bridge to manual welding.

 

  • Too long make-ready times: Preparing new jobs with today’s programming solutions often requires spending several days before production can begin: With Wandelbots Teaching, the make-ready time can be greatly reduced, especially for complex welds. The result of the shortened setup times is also a significantly higher production output per day and the acceptance of smaller quantities for automated welding.

 

  • Shortage of skilled workers: If personnel gaps can no longer be filled today, automation is inevitable in order not to lose market share: Wandelbots Teaching also makes the welding profession itself more attractive and future-proof. In the future, the ability to operate robots will be part of a welder’s skill set. Now it’s easier than ever to learn this skill – for skilled workers and trainees.

Annalena Bürkle, application engineer at Lorch Schweißtechnik adds, “With the TracePen, even more complex geometries can be easily recorded in one swing, making teaching much easier for the user.”

 

Wandelbots Teaching Available for Industrial Robots for the First Time

 

Before the end of this year, pilot customers will be able to use Wandelbots Teaching on their Yaskawa welding robots in addition to cobots from Universal Robots. The basis for this is the integration of the YRC1000 robot controller and the adaptation for the two models AR1440 and GP12 – particularly frequently used for welding applications.

Starting in October, selected customers will receive the release version, a software version before series production, for detailed pilot projects. Numerous customers (such as Siemens and Alstom) have already shown interest in using Wandelbots Teaching on their Yaskawa robots for welding applications. Interested companies are invited to contact Wandelbots in order to use Wandelbots Teaching as a pilot customer on their Yaskawa industrial robots, also before the end of 2021.

The integration was accomplished in close collaboration with Yaskawa, who assisted in the rapid technical implementation of the controller into the Wandelbots robotics platform.

Senior Key Account Manager EMEA at Yaskawa Europe Wolfgang Haag explains the reason for the collaboration with Wandelbots: “We see an opportunity, especially in medium-sized businesses, to lower the barrier to entry into robotics and to provide access to a technology with even easier usability. Wandelbots’ teaching solution is very well suited here and can help us tap into new customer segments.”

Following pilot projects in the fall, Wandelbots Teaching is scheduled to ship for Yaskawa’s AR1440 and GP12 models in early 2022.

 

Welding Solution and Yaskawa Integration Are Just the Beginning

 

With the specific solution for the welding market as well as the industrial robot integration, Wandelbots aims to continue its market penetration. “Our medium-term goal is to become the new standard for teaching for welding robots,” Piechnick said. Users can start using Wandelbots Teaching on their Universal Robots cobots today. Once accustomed to it, every other robot can be taught in the future using the identical user interface and the same procedure.

The plan for 2022 is to integrate a large number of additional industrial robots, giving even more users access to the Teaching solution.

“With every robot manufacturer and every additional robot model that is integrated into our platform, the added value for customers increases: The manufacturer-independent technology approach becomes particularly noticeable when customers can use our solution to teach three or four different robots from different manufacturers in the same way,” says Christian Piechnick on the importance of further industrial robot integration.

In addition to the integration of robots, work is also being done in parallel on the integration of tool and sensor solutions from well-known manufacturers, so that in the future these can also be selected and controlled in the Wandelbots solution.

Wandelbots is already thinking ahead for the future: “After welding, we will move on to other applications and expand and adapt our software accordingly for these as well,” says the CEO of Wandelbots.

 

How to Teach Robots with the “Welding Edition”

 

Step 1: Demonstration with the TracePen

The path can be created in seconds just by demonstrating by hand. The TracePen, a hand-held device equipped with new tips in the “Welding Edition“, now helps to imitate a welding tool in the hand. Two tips, with 25- and 45-degree inclination angles imitate the ideal orientation of the subsequent welding tool mounted on the robot during demonstration.

 

During demonstration, not only the position, but also the tool orientation and speed on the path are already recorded. With the “Welding Edition“, the “on” and “off” for the welding tool on the path can now already be set and saved at the touch of a finger during pre-make. The simple creation of arc/on arc/off profiles make it easier to set these welding-specific signals with typical waiting times. Thus, in a few seconds all important information for the robot program is created with the TracePen.

 

Step 2: Design skill with the app

Thanks to supporting software intelligence, the hand movement becomes an optimized path that already recognizes straight lines and curves and smooths them. Users can select the number of keyframes for readjusting the path themselves.

The user interface shows the user a real 3D image of the robot and the recorded path.

All path adjustments such as position, orientation and speed corrections can thus be done very easily in the app.  The robot skill is mapped as a graphical command sequence from left to right and can easily be extended with input and output signals (“I/Os”) or other functions. A new feature now allows operators with the “Welding Edition” to preview the real robot speed on the path and then make corrections to the speed in the app or to the settings on the welder to ensure a perfect weld.

The entire app has been optimized for welding-specific settings and functions, making it child’s play for any experienced welder to now teach their application knowledge to a robot. For example, the preview has also been expanded to include the function of playing the skill without any I/Os activated. This means that all I/Os can be deactivated in the preview with a single touch and the path and orientation accuracy can first be checked before the welding device becomes active.

 

Step 3: Ready: export the skill as code

If the skill is perfect from the user’s point of view, it is exported to the robot controller with a touch. Manufacturer-specific code is generated in the process. For Universal Robots, in addition to URP, the option to generate UR script is also available in the “Welding Edition“. For Yaskawa robots, INFORM code is generated.

The skill is thus available on the robot within a few seconds and can be executed in compliance with all robot-specific safety features.