Optional Robotic MIG Gun Features Can Improve Quality and Reduce Downtime

Optimizing the performance of a robotic MIG gun can help improve weld quality and reduce downtime in the welding operation, resulting in cost savings for many companies.

Image of a robotic application using a wire brake
Two optional technologies that can help improve robotic MIG gun performance are the wire brake and air blast features. Both are available as factory-installed options or they can be retrofitted in robotic MIG guns. The robotic MIG gun here shows the wire brake option (see black disc and cable).

Two optional technologies that can assist with that performance enhancement — but that may not be well-known in the welding industry — are wire brake and air blast features.               

Both are available as factory-installed options or they can be retrofitted in a robotic MIG gun. The wire brake feature allows welding operators to better control the start and stop of the wire feed, which can improve quality. It can also lower costs by reducing wire usage. The air blast feature helps eliminate debris in the front part of the robotic MIG gun, reducing the chance for weld contamination, which can lead to rework.

Benefits of the wire brake feature

Many robotic welding systems weld continuously for two or three minutes, stop for a certain amount of time to move or change position, and then weld again for a programmed amount of time. The wire brake feature automatically stops the wire from feeding through the gun when the welding stops. This feature allows for consistent wire stickout after each stoppage in preparation for the start of the next weld.

This feature also helps reduce the amount of wire used, since it prevents unspooling inside the gun with each stop and start. Additionally, the wire brake can help improve weld quality because it keeps the wire feeding at a steady rate, with a consistent stickout.            

For robotic applications that use touch sensing, a wire brake is an important option that supports good weld quality and productivity by helping to accurately determine the location of weld joints. Touch sensing is a software system that uses the welding wire to help locate the joint in a robotic welding application. The software allows the robot to store position data and send electrical impulses back to the controller once it has located the joint. For applications that have slight variations in parts, touch sensing helps maintain weld consistency.           

The wire brake holds the welding wire in a set position while the robot moves and searches for the weld joint. This action helps to ensure more readings and helps maintain consistent wire stickout.

When a wire brake offers advantages

Because of the consistency and accuracy it helps provide, the wire brake feature is a good option for the most demanding robotic welding applications, including the thick-plate welding common in heavy equipment manufacturing.                            

One thing to keep in mind when retrofitting a wire brake into a robotic MIG system is that the cable housing is slightly different than a standard cable, since it has a feature to allow for the wire brake option in the front housing. Also, when the gun has a wire brake the liner must be loaded from the back, even if it is a front-loading style of liner; there needs to be a jump liner inside the neck at the front to ensure steady feed of the wire into the liner. The lack of a small jump liner can lead to wire feeding problems and loose wire inside the cable.

Benefits of the air blast feature

Another option to help maximize weld quality with air-cooled robotic MIG guns is the air blast feature, which — as the name suggests — blows high-pressure air through the front of the torch to remove debris. Air blast is exclusive to air-cooled models and cannot be used on water-cooled robotic MIG guns. This feature helps remove debris and contamination from the gun, which can potentially cause poor weld quality and eventual rework.                    

The air blast feature is easy to install and can be programmed to operate between weld cycles. There are no extra maintenance issues to remember when using the air blast feature.

Options that improve weld quality

The wire brake and air blast features are two options that can be used together or separately to help improve quality and performance in robotic MIG gun applications, leading to cost savings for welding operations. For assistance with these features, contact a trusted welding distributor or robotic MIG gun manufacturer.