Shortages of skilled labor for U.S. manufacturing are particularly acute in welding. The industry’s chronic hiring challenge, combined with the challenges for metal fabrication companies to produce quality parts quickly and in small runs, prompted Hirebotics to develop its BotX Welder.
The BotX Welder includes the UR10e cobot arm, cloud connector, welder, wire feeder, MIG welding gun, weld table, and configurable user-input touch buttons. The customer provides wire, gas, and parts. Customers can teach BotX the required welds simply via an app on any smartphone or tablet using welding libraries created in world-class welding labs. A cloud connection enables around-the-clock support by Hirebotics.
The BotX Welder is now available to early access customers and will officially launch at FABTECH in Chicago, November 11-14.
“Many people didn’t believe that collaborative robots could perform such heavy-duty tasks as welding,” said Rob Goldiez, co-founder of Hirebotics. “We realized the need of a solution for small- and medium-sized metal fabricators trying to find welders.”
Hirebotics addressed two major hurdles of robotic welding with the BotX Welder:
- The ease of programming
- The ease in which a customer can obtain the system without assuming the risk of ownership
There are no installation costs with BotX and with cloud monitoring, manufacturers pay only for the hours the system actually welds, which is in line with Hirebotics’ hire-a-robot business model.
“You can hire and fire BotX as your business needs dictate,” said Goldiez.
“We chose Universal Robots’ e-Series line for several reasons,” said Goldiez. “With Universal Robots’ open architecture, we were able to control, not only wire feed speed and voltage, but torch angle as well, which ensures a quality weld every time.”
“We can respond to a customer’s request for additional features within weeks and push those features out to the customer with no on-site visits,” said Goldiez. “The fact that [UR’s robots are] collaborative and don’t require safety fencing like traditional industrial robots means a smaller foot print for the equivalent working space, or put another way — less floor space to produce same size part — In many cases, less than half the floor space of traditional automation. The collaborative nature of the solution enables an operator to move between multiple cells without interrupting production, greatly increasing the productivity of an employee.”
BotX Welder case study
PMI LLC in Wisconsin was one of the first customers to use the BotX Welder. PMI said its existing operators can handle the day-to-day control of the BotX Welder, which welds a variety of smaller product runs. The Wisconsin job shop has now stored weld programs for more than 50 different parts in the BotX app.
“A large order would mean we need to hire 10-15 welders to fulfill it – and they’re just not out there,” said PMI VP of Operations Erik Larson. “Therefore, we would No Bid contracts on a regular basis. With the BotX solution, we now quote that work and have been awarded contracts, so it has really helped grow our business. The BotX Welder doesn’t require expensive, dedicated fixturing and robot experts on the scene.”
“We are now able to deliver quality equivalent to what we could accomplish manufacturing with very expensive tooling typically used with higher-volume part runs,” continued Larson. “Being able to simply hire the BotX Welder, and quickly switch between welds by using our smart phone – and only pay for the hours it works – is huge for us. It took our area lead, who had no prior robotics experience, half an hour to teach it how to weld the first part.”
Another significant benefit was PMI’s ability to get the BotX welds certified for customers who require this.
“This now means we do not need to use certified welders to oversee the operation. As long as the cobot welder’s program is certified, any operator can tend the cobot welder,” said Larson. “This really unlocks a lot of resources for us. Hirebotics and Universal Robots really hit the mark with this, we’re looking forward to a long partnership with them.”