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Collision Sensors Boost Safety and Efficiency of Comau’s Laser Brazing Process
Comau is a global automation company that specializes in automation solutions that include welding robots and laser processing technology. Innovative process and product development in the field of industrial robotics has made Comau systems a standard in automotive manufacturing across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Comau’s expertise in high-powered assembly includes advancements in laser processing. One such technology, called laser brazing, utilizes a laser beam to join two or more pieces of material together. Brazing is similar to welding in that they both permanently fuse materials together, but there are some key differences that make brazing suitable for a wider variety of applications. Laser brazing fuses material with an alloy applied at the joint using much lower temperatures than conventional welding methods. Combining this technology with a robot allows for the ultimate in precision tracing for a variety of joint configurations.

For Comau, attaching an expensive, delicate laser/optic device to the end of a large robot arm creates a challenge: equipment and tooling must be robust enough to handle a heavy payload while aligning perfectly to the robot path. Working with heavy industrial equipment such as this, the potential for a crash is inherent; it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. According to Mark Anderson, Comau’s Materials & Technology Director, NAFTA Region, ATI’s Robotic Collision Sensor Model SR-131 was the perfect solution to protect the sensitive laser. “The laser brazing process is a very sensitive process that involves precision alignment between the robot path, the laser beam, and the wire. We chose the ATI Collision Sensor because it was sensitive enough to handle such a delicate process,” says Anderson.

Mounted between the robot wrist and the laser tooling, the Robotic Collision Sensor functions as a cushioning device to absorb energy from the crash and prevent damage to the laser head. The Collision Sensor provides feedback to the robot that a crash has occurred. Compliance built into the Collision Sensor lessens the impact of the crash on the laser tooling and gives the robot time to come to a complete stop. The fact that the Collision Sensor can comply large distances in X, Y, and Z axes in response to a crash ultimately reduces the forces and potential damage upon the tooling at impact.

Anderson describes what happens in a crash scenario: “If an error occurs and the robot crashes, we rely on the Collision Sensor to truly do its job; to break away and stop the process. When that happens, the Collision Sensor saves the end user a lot of time by allowing them to simply move the robot away from the collision and the unit’s automatic reset feature allows the tooling to snap back into position.” The Collision Sensor’s automatic reset feature eliminates the need for an operator to enter the robotic work cell and manually reset the tooling. This reduces machine downtime and increases safety by keeping personnel out of the work cell. The precise repeatability of ATI’s Robotic Collision Sensors support the high accuracy Comau’s laser process requires by ensuring that the tooling will reset in exactly the right spot, every time. Anderson continues, “We use the ATI Collision Sensor to protect a very expensive and delicate brazing optic. The wire alignment, the beam alignment, and the robot path all rely on the repeatability and accuracy of the ATI Collision Sensor.”

ATI’s Collision Sensors are pneumatic devices that also use a spring assist to enable multiple trip points. This is important to the end user because it means they can set the level of rigidity or flexibility with which the robot and tooling absorb the crash. A low pressure setting, used when the robot is performing a precise task, such as laser welding, ensures that even the slightest deflection of the tooling is detected. If the robot needs to change positions or move to a different location in the cell, higher pressure helps prevent the dynamic forces of the movement from falsely indicating a crash. Anderson shares that “We have the ability to fine-tune it for the process. We can turn the air pressure up when the robot moves fast between positions and we can turn the pressure down to handle any collision or accidents that may happen throughout the brazing process.”

When Mr. Anderson was asked if he had any stories to share about his work with ATI’s Robotic Collision Sensors he offered this comment, “For the complex process of laser brazing, we wanted a company that we knew would stand behind their product. To put it simply, I don't have any stories about the ATI Collision Sensor. We haven't had any problems with it. That's one of the reasons we chose it.”

Click here for more information on Comau.

Click here for more information on our Robotic Collision Sensors.

Click here for our Robotic Collision Sensor product video.

SR-131 Model Robotic Collision Sensor

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