Choosing a robotic gun and nozzle
The right welding gun is a critical factor that can help reduce or eliminate the sources of common problems in the weld cell. Gun choice should not be an afterthought; welding guns must have proper access and be able to maneuver around fixturing in the cell.
Robotic welding systems are available in two styles: through-arm or conventional. Through-arm systems are gaining popularity, and most through-arm robots allow for mounting either type of gun — providing more options and flexibility depending upon the needs of the application.
As the name suggests, the power cable assembly of a through-arm MIG gun runs through the arm of the robot as opposed to over the top of it like in a conventional gun. Because of this design, the through-arm gun style is often more durable since the power cable is protected. However, because conventional guns can be used on either type of system — a through-arm or a conventional robot — they can sometimes offer greater flexibility and can be used with more robot makes and models. Consider which type of gun provides the best access to the welds when making the selection.
With conventional robotic welding systems especially, proper cable management is important. Once the hardware is installed and the system is set up — but before full production begins — be sure to do a test run or two through the welding sequence to determine how the gun cable moves and if it gets caught on tooling.
Another choice in selecting a gun is air-cooled versus water-cooled. This essentially comes down to the required duty cycle. The base material thickness, weld length and wire size all help determine the necessary duty cycle. Water-cooled guns are typically used in manufacturing heavy equipment and in the case of long cycle times and large wire diameters.
Once the system type and gun are chosen, it’s all about proper fit and function of the gun. It’s critical to ensure the robot arm can access all the welds — ideally in one position with one neck if possible. If not, different neck sizes, lengths and angles — and even custom necks — as well as different consumables or mounting arms can be used to improve weld access.
The choice of nozzle is another important consideration since it can greatly hinder or improve access to the weld in a robotic cell. If a standard nozzle is not providing the necessary access, consider making a change. Nozzles are available in varying diameters, lengths and tapers to improve joint access. While many companies like to choose a nozzle with the smallest outside diameter available, it may be necessary to size the nozzle up to avoid spatter buildup and loss of shielding gas coverage. A nozzle with a 5/8-inch bore or larger is recommended because it allows the most access.