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Friday, 19 June, 2015

American Welding Society (AWS) National Arc Robotic Welding Conference 2015

Milwaukee, WI

June 2 – 3, 2015


The NRAWC – National Robotic Arc Welding Conference wrapped up last week at the Milwaukee Area Technical Center (MATC) in Milwaukee, WI. The mission for this conference is to present new and emerging technology in the fields of welding and automation. First started in 1983, the conference has been held regularly in Florida and in Wisconsin for over 30 years. This year, Meta joined close to 150 engineers and business managers to see and hear about the latest innovations and experiences with cutting edge technologies for robotics. Meta had a tabletop exhibit demonstrating one of its Smart Laser Sensors showing off robot guidance as well as weld inspection functionality.


Over the two-day conference, there was an interesting mix of practical presentations on such key topics as fixturing, programming, and training as well as a number of reviews of actual case studies focused on implementation techniques, know-how, and tricks of the trade. As a manufacturer of laser vision systems for welding automation, it was most encouraging to witness how the practical use of 3D laser sensors was a key topic in many of the presentations and how the implementation of such sensors is providing positive returns to those who are embracing the technology.


In addition to the presentations and practical demonstrations, conference participants also had the opportunity to visit two local manufacturers and users of automation. Power management company Eaton showed how they use a wide collection of automation and arc welding processes to manufacture electrical transformers while a tour through John Deere Horicon showed off a large collection of robots used for welding, painting, and material handling.


The conference keynote speech was given by Stefan Lampa, CEO of Kuka Roboter and his talk focused on the global robot market with respect to trends and technology. Stefan sees a big surge in demand coming for flexible automation. Manufacturers and suppliers must focus on ease of use, be aware of impacts on the environment, safety and sensitivity as machines collaborate more closely with human operators, offer reasonably low investment costs and extreme flexibility. He predicts future challenges to be workforce related, issues dealing with new materials, tolerances, and complexity, costs, and demands for even more flexibility. Solutions will come from sensors, mobility, connected (smart) factories, and ease of use. Stefan also predicts that 20% of worldwide robot sales to be arc welding by 2020.


The NRAWC conference is now hosted every 2 years and is expected to be back to the MATC in June 2017.

Steve Thacker