The ability to collect weld fumes in robotic welding cells primarily depends on one key factor: can the cell be enclosed? If so, the answer is quite straightforward; if not, fume collection is more challenging.
Air quality engineers sometimes put it this way: would you design a home furnace system assuming the windows and doors were always left open? Certainly not. But, if you had no choice, then you would need different equipment and more energy to run the furnace. The same holds for a dust collection system on a robotic welding cell. An enclosed cell is a much easier air quality problem to solve than an open one.
Weld fume capture in robotic welding is primarily performed in three ways. These methods feature both source- and ambient-capture practices. Following is a brief breakdown of these three methods, in order of efficacy.
- Source capture using a hood or enclosure—Weld fumes from robotic welding cells are best captured when the cell is under a hood or similar enclosure. This equipment performs several functions. It contains the fumes, preventing them from spreading and affecting workers and processes throughout a facility. It also limits the amount of air a dust collection system must process, radically reducing the energy required by the system. RoboVent’s Streamline Hood is a good example of such a system. These hoods can be customized to fit nearly any welding operation. Sometimes overhead cranes or other equipment might preclude a full enclosure. In these situations, a partial enclosure might be all that is possible. Even a simple array of curtains and partitions can surround a welding cell enough to make a difference. None of this equipment is expensive, nor difficult to install, and the long-term benefits are substantial.
- Source capture using tip extraction—When an enclosure is not possible, tip extraction is a good option. This fume collection device attaches to the tip of a robotic welding arm and captures weld fumes at the source. When well designed, tip extraction can collect up to 95% of weld fumes.
- Ambient systems—Robotic welding requires intensive methods of fume collection. However, if source-capture options are limited, then ambient systems can be useful. A well-placed and powerful system can mitigate weld fumes effectively. Ambient systems are particularly useful as backup systems, collecting residual fumes that source capture systems might not catch.