Each fall, New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NM-MEP) sponsors Manufacturing Day for New Mexico manufacturers to showcase their operations. At this year’s Manufacturing Day event, Build With Robots hosted tours at CNM-Ingenuity’s FUSE Makerspace that included robotic welding. On that day, Andrew Vanis of Super Vanagon was at FUSE to work on a welding fabrication project. Super Vanagon makes a custom mirror kit for the now vintage Volkswagen Vanagon model years 1982-1992. This kit solves the “floppy mirror” problem associated with this model of Volkswagen. On that day, Andrew planned to start MIG welding a total of 160 mirror brackets (80 pairs), a project that would take him many days.
Andrew was in luck – his project offered a perfect demo for NM-MEP’s Manufacturing Day. So, Build With Robots partnered with Andrew to launch an automated welding project for his brackets. This transformed a couple days of manual welding into a couple hours of robot welding. Within only a few hours, one of the CNM-Ingenuity welding instructors at FUSE trained Andrew in the setup and use of the robotic welder. Andrew had pre-built a simple fixture to orient the stock metal pieces properly for welding. This fixture is needed for both manual or robotic welding to orient the two plates correctly.
Next, Andrew experimented with the adjustment and fine tuning of welding parameters to optimize the bead and penetration for the MIG welding of his steel brackets. Because the robotic welder can be adjusted to create a specific weld type and size, Andrew was able to create his desired weld with consistency over many brackets. After fine tuning for the exact bead size and shape, he repeated the welding process over and over with a simple push of a button. Before long, Andrew was mass producing brackets. The entire process: from never seeing the robot before, to learning how to program it, and then to use it to weld a box of parts took less than one day. The expected days of manually welding 160 brackets was completed in just a couple of robot welding hours.
Robotic welding is just one example of what small and micro manufacturing businesses can do at the FUSE Makerspace. Makerspace members accomplish projects like Andrew’s on high-end machine tools without needing to purchase expensive equipment. FUSE instructors are available to train and support users to ensure project success. This is a great example of the New Mexico manufacturing community working together to leverage automation, expertise and high-end equipment.