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Research and Development in Virtual Engineering

Automatic Programming for Electron Beam Welding



Advanced production processes require machine tools to follow complex paths with increasing efficiency. Whereas only a few spots on parts were welded together a few years ago, present technologies such as electron beam welding require welding robots to maintain constant speeds even on freeform surfaces and present angles to a welded part.

Our client uses a numerically controlled robot with seven axes to weld, temper or cut parts weighing up to 50 tons with electron beams in a vacuum chamber of 630 m3. This machine tool’s unusual kinematic precludes the use of standard CAM systems to plan machining. Teaching the path with the accuracy required by the process requires considerable work. The programmer must approach a multitude of intermediate points manually and keep the beam speed constant on the surface of a part. What is more, measuring and then controlling the beam’s angle to a workpiece’s surface is extremely difficult.

We developed a custom, easy-to-use software system for complex multi-axis custom machines, which reads in the CAD data of the chamber, the robot and the workpiece including job specifications generated in the CAD system and automatically programs the robot’s Siemens Sinumerik 840D NC controller. The computing method used makes it possible to control machines with kinematics of any length and even branching. This method eliminates superfluous movements when robotic structures are redundant but incorporates every axis, partly even variably controlled, in the computation.

  • Support any machine structures (n-axes).
  • Easily specify machining paths in CAD tools.
  • Generate G-code for NC controllers like Sinumerik 840D.

The new control code generation system cut the electron beam welder’s setup times for new parts from several hours to around thirty minutes.

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