Universal Robots has seen their collaborative robot arms being used across an ever-expanding number of tasks, thanks to the safety features of the robot and the wide variety of end-of-arm components that are compatible with its robots. This week, ARC Specialties launched their artificial intelligence pipe welding system, which uses a Universal Robot cobot arm to perform difficult welding procedures with precision accuracy.
Additionally, the company announced the newest addition to its UR+ portfolio of certified end-of-arm components, the ATI Industrial Automation’s QC-11 Automatic Tool Changer. Since 2016, the portfolio has continued to expand, opening up new applications for the company’s cobot arms across a number of industries.
Cobots power artificial intelligence pipe welding system
ARC Specialties said it solved the challenge of creating repeatable full penetration pipe welds by combining AI, advanced sensors, and the UR5 collaborative robot. The unique Artificial Intelligence Pipe Welding System was displayed at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston this week.
The toughest welds to make are full penetration, single sided, V butt, pipe welds. Historically, ARC Specialties, a Houston-based developer of welding solutions, declined these jobs because joint fit-up was never repeatable. “Only human welders with a ‘golden arm’ able to compensate for variation in root openings, weld center lines, and groove volumes could handle this challenge,” said Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties. “With the industry facing labor shortages, we decided to develop an intelligent machine with complete knowledge of pipe welding, with full motion and welding control.”
The Artificial Intelligence Pipe Welding System (AIPW) incorporates the 6-axis UR5 collaborative robot arm from Universal Robots to carry out the challenging welds. “The UR5 now becomes our ‘golden arm’,” said Allford. “The UR5 is small enough to be portable yet still allows full freedom of motion for both the laser scanner and welding torch. Being collaborative the robot is able to safely work in close proximity to humans.”
“This implementation underscores our collaborative robots’ ability to handle heavy-duty processing tasks that demand both high precision and real-time adaptability,” said Stuart Shepherd, Regional Sales Director of Universal Robots’ Americas division. “We’re excited to share this solution with the oil and gas industry.”
The AIPW pre-scans the root opening (gap) using a 2D laser, then uses the data to generate the robot path and welding parameters. Gap variations are compensated for with changes in oscillation, torch position, travel speed, and welding conditions. The UR5 positions the torch over a tack weld to start the arc to ensure 100% root weld acceptance. Fill and cap pass programs are optimized to fill the groove using user-selectable weave or stringer bead welding techniques. The AIPW uses the Miller Auto Continuum welding power supply to weld the root with Regulated Metal Deposition (RMD), then switches to pulsed spray for the fill and cap passes. This combination of Gas Metal Arc Welding techniques maximizes welding productivity while producing X-Ray quality, full penetration pipe welds.
Universal’s UR+ portfolio continues to grow
Joining more than 150 other products, ATI Industrial Automation’s QC-11 Automatic Tool Changer has joined the UR+ portfolio of modular end-of-arm components. The QC-11 is now certified to work seamlessly with UR’s cobots, enabling the automatic exchange of robotic end-effectors without any manual intervention.
“Universal Robots is thrilled to welcome this continued expansion of UR+ certified products from ATI with the QC-11,” said Shepherd. “ATI’s commitment to product quality and customer experience is in perfect alignment with the vision of the UR+ program.”
With an ATI Automatic Tool Changer, a robot can utilize multiple end-effectors in a single process. Preceding the QC-11 in the UR+ program are ATI’s Axia80 Force/Torque Sensor and MC-10 Manual Tool Changer.
The QC-11 was featured this week at ATI Industrial Automation’s Automation Expo at their headquarters in Apex, N.C., as the first automated tool changer developed in the Americas to obtain UR+ certification.
“Thanks to the exceptional UR+ certification program, ATI products can reach new users in the collaborative market,” said ATI CEO Robert Little. “Through Universal Robots’ stringent product qualification process, ATI products rise to a new standard of excellence. The collaboration between these two companies is genuinely more than the sum of its parts.”
On display was the QC-11’s extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. When coupled, the Master and Tool weigh less than 0.55 lbs, with a combined stack height of 2.06 in. The small footprint of the robust QC-11 helps to optimize the robot payload and work envelope while supporting the maximum UR payload of 22 lbs.
ATI’s patented, pneumatically-actuated, fail-safe, locking mechanism provides strong, repeatable coupling, and ensures that the tooling remains securely attached to the robot even during a loss of air pressure. The QC-11 features six integrated M5 pneumatic pass-through ports. It allows for an optional, accessory mounted, M8 connector for up to eight pass-thru electrical pin connections. Users can incorporate a compatible pin-and-bushing tool stand for storage of the additional end-of-arm tools as well.