Johnstown, PA July 20, 2023

The manufacturing process for large, thick weldments in nuclear and defense industries can be challenging, given the strict quality requirements that translate into significant manufacturing time and costs. To address this issue, Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) and Precision Custom Components (PCC), through the Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM), teamed up to execute an automation project to enhance weldment quality and fabrication efficiency.

While a fully automated approach is not feasible for PCC’s high-mix, low-volume welding projects, the team found a solution using a Collaborative Robot (Cobot). The Cobot can safely interact with humans in a shared space and be transported to the weldment via cart, eliminating the need to move a workpiece to a fixed robotic weld station. 

The automation benefits in this application were limited, however, since mounting and transporting a Cobot to a cart restricts its reach around a large weldment. To overcome this challenge, the team modified a track, cart, and gantry, and installed a magnet to improve Cobot positioning and reach around the weldment. The team also developed a moveable tower to prevent the wire feed cable from tangling with the Cobot while operating it away from the cart. The Cobot underwent process qualification for automatic pulsed gas metal arc welding of carbon steel up to 8" thick, which enables a $1.2M savings on current work due to reduced weld time and rework. 

In the future, PCC hopes to use Cobots for plasma cutting, which will improve weldment manufacturing efficiency and savings. The innovative Cobot upgrades developed by CANM and PCC have allowed skilled welders to focus on more complex projects, leading to a quick uptick in efficiency, greater profits, higher employee satisfaction, and improved flexibility. This project was financed by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.