Welding Smart

Greater productivity is within reach with the use of teach pendants with enhanced designs

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High-performance robots thrive by working in sync with smart technologies. For newer industrial robots and cobots in shop settings, this encompasses a variety of items including servo spot guns, sophisticated power sources, adaptive welding sensors, feature-rich software and intuitive programming capabilities. Regarding the latter, user-friendly system tools and methods are being developed at an incredible rate, expanding application potential while simplifying processes. Ultimately, this is facilitating a non-traditional approach toward low- to no-code robot programming and tech-savvy shop floor transformations. 

The key to unlocking the door for greater productivity for many fabricators is the use of ergonomic teach pendants with enhanced designs. Traditional, standard teach pendants have given way to modern designs with improved functionality, offering a range of familiar features including graphical user interfaces, simple menu structures and touchscreen capabilities. Not surprisingly, these devices are boosting operator confidence and opening the door to a wider user group for greater productivity.   

Intuitive teach pendant interfaces and applications are helping fabricators gain easy control of weld processes.

Catering to the “muscle memory” of experienced welders, standard tactile button teach pendants accelerate robot programming and integration, while newer yet robust smart pendants help bridge the learning gap. Select robot companies seek to enable greater ease of use by using the same controller platform for their pendant offerings. 

For example, the Yaskawa Smart Pendant shares the same YRC1000 controller platform as the YRC standard pendant, enabling the utilization of the easy-to-use Smart Pedant on both cobots and high-performance AR series arc welding robots. In cases like this, a smart pendant may be chosen by some fabricators to be used as a “glorified” human machine interface, where the password function may be used to restrict users for security and safety reasons. 

Smart perks  

More often, intuitive teach pendants are implemented with cobots. Chosen over standard pendants for their user-friendly benefits, these smart pendants provide familiar device offerings and utilize proprietary tools for easier operability. For example, patented technologies, such as Smart Frame, make the robot programmer the frame of reference, adapting to the user’s style. This effectively eliminates the utilization of coordinate frames (X, Y, Z) for easy robot jogging, enabling quick implementation of the robot system, especially for basic tasks.  

Along with this functionality, intelligent pendants can provide greater flexibility to maximize the current workforce. User interfaces typically provide a classic view option, allowing experienced robot professionals the ability to revert to traditional prompts for actions like resetting minor and major alarms or editing Concurrent I/O with a menu structure – a habit to which they may have grown accustomed. 

Intelligent teach pendants can provide greater flexibility to maximize the current workforce.

Conversely, the aesthetics of tablet-like pendants with higher resolution touchscreens and icon-driven programming appeal to Millennials and Gen Z users in a digitally driven world. This makes a strong business case to shop owners wanting to add capacity or improve quality through robotics while building a more resilient workforce.  

Many teach pendants also provide advanced data logging capabilities. This information can inform users about changes in the weld process, and it can be leveraged to make important updates to the weld parameters, as needed. This could include data, like cycle time or part process counts, and it can be viewed locally as a user interface panel or remotely through key performance indicator dashboards. 

Robust capability  

Whether a standard teach pendant or newer smart pendant is being used, most robotic tasks today are enhanced by feature-rich software applications or specialty application modules. For standard pendants and intelligent pendants alike, intuitive pendant interfaces, like the Universal Weldcom Interface, help to close the weld programming knowledge gap, allowing users to gain easy control of any weld process or parameter from the power supply. Fast adjustments to amperage, voltage, wire feed speed and more can be made, and processes for welding particular metals can be automatically matched to specific shielding gas, filler metal and base metal requirements.  

Features for touch sensing and dual pulse can also be manipulated, further enhancing high-quality welds. TouchSense gives the ability to find a workpiece using voltage through the wire, and Dual Pulse can call up two waveforms and alternate between them to provide TIG-like aesthetics on any brand of power supply.  

Cobots programmed via smart pendants also gain capability for performance improvements through the implementation of software development kits (SDKs). Ideal for streamlining the configuration and programming of third-party devices and services, SDKs help combine multiple components of an automation process into a single convenient application programming interface for a better user experience. 

Robot teach pendant interfaces help to bridge the weld programming knowledge gap.

These files, known as pendant apps, ease robot setup by automating processes that are typically outlined in a manual or document, and they allow end users to easily update new tools and features over time. Pendant apps, such as Weld Builder, provide a user-friendly, step-by-step programming process that utilizes helpful illustrations and familiar plain-speaking commands. Ultimately, this enables even novice users to fluidly set various welding operations specifically for cobot tasks with ease.  

Other applications in shop settings can also benefit from cobots using these pendant apps. Common tasks that require patterns (i.e., machine loading/unloading, stacking, unstacking, case packing, etc.) may benefit from a Smart Pattern extension that quickly generates jobs to handle parts. Or, end-of-line tasks, for example, can use apps, such as Pallet Builder, to quickly develop and optimize palletizing jobs.  

Full potential  

In this era of rapid technological change, the robot teach pendant continues to be extremely important to the overall control and programming of both industrial robots and cobots. New designs and features have improved usability, while addressing concerns about security, safety, programming, quality, efficiency, capacity and more. In essence, the robot teach pendant is helping to transform robotic automation. In turn, a wider user group is waking up to the potential benefits robots can provide.  

As artificial intelligence and machine learning evolve, teach pendants are expected to unlock further robot capabilities. Applications that were once thought impossible will come to fruition, opening the door to improved operations for more fabricators.

Yaskawa America Inc.

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