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Welding Robots
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Welding technology has obtained access virtually to every branch of manufacturing; to name a few bridges, ships, rail road equipments, building constructions, boilers, pressure vessels, pipe lines, automobiles, aircrafts, launch vehicles, and nuclear power plants. Especially in India, welding technology needs constant upgrading, particularly in field of industrial and power generation boilers, high voltage generation equipment and transformers and in nuclear aero-space industry.

Computers have already entered the field of welding and the situation today is that the welding engineer who has little or no computer skills will soon be hard-pressed to meet the welding challenges of our technological times. In order for the computer solution to be implemented, educational institutions cannot escape their share of responsibilities.

Automation and robotics are two closely related technologies. In an industrial context, we can define automation as a technology that is concerned with the use of mechanical, electronics and computer-based systems in the operation and control of production. Examples of this technology include transfer lines, mechanized assembly machines, feed back control systems, numerically controlled machine tools, and robots. Accordingly, robotics is a form of industrial automation.

There are three broad classes of industrial automation: fixed automaton, programmable automation, and flexible automation. Fixed automation is used when the volume of production is very high and it is therefore appropriate to design specialized equipment to process the product very efficiently and at high production rates. A good example of fixed automation can be found in the automobile industry, where highly integrated transfer lines consisting of several dozen work stations are used to perform machining operations on engine and transmission components. The economics of fixed automation are such that the cost of the special equipment can be divided over a large number of units, and resulting unit cost are low relative to alternative methods of production. The risk encountered with fixed automation is this; since the initial investment cost is high, if the volume of production turns out to be lower than anticipated, then the unit costs become greater than anticipated. Another problem in fixed automation is that the equipment is specially designed to produce the one product, and after that products life cycle is finished, the equipment is likely to become obsolete. For products with short life cycle, the use of fixed automation represents a big gamble.

Programmable automation is used when the volume of production is relatively low and there are a variety of products to be made. In this case, the production equipment is designed to be adaptable to variations in product configuration. This adaptability feature is accomplished by operating the equipment under the control of "program" of instructions which has been prepared especially for the given product. The program is read into the production equipment, and the equipment performs the particular sequence of processing operations to make that product. In terms of economics, the cost of programmable equipment can be spread over a large number of products even though the products are different. Because of the programming feature, and the resulting adaptability of the equipment, many different and unique products can be made economically in small batches.

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