Cobot welding – how companies can meet demand despite welder shortage


Table of Contents


What is Cobot Welding?


Collaborative welding vs manual welding and traditional automation


Benefits of cobot welding


How do my welders work with a cobot?


Why should I invest in a cobot welder?


Why choose the SmoothTool cobot welding package?

The welding industry is facing a significant shortage of skilled workers, with the American Welding Society predicting a deficit of around 400,000 skilled welders in the U.S. by 2024.

This shortage is due to a combination of factors such as the retirement of baby boomers, younger generations favoring college over trades, and a surge in demand for skilled tradespeople post-pandemic.

Adding to this challenge, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reports that almost 81% of manufacturers are unable to find enough skilled welders to meet their needs. The industry’s continued growth and demand for skilled labor make it increasingly difficult for companies to find qualified welders to meet production demands.

Fortunately, a solution to this labor shortage is emerging: cobot welding.

This innovative technology combines the skill of human welders with the precision and efficiency of robots to transform the welding industry. In this article, we will explore the benefits and applications of cobot welding, and how it can address the challenges faced by the welding industry.

By leveraging the advantages of a cobot welder, companies can improve their productivity, reduce costs, and overcome the labor shortage in the welding industry.

A cobot welder doing MIG welding on a table
A cobot welding solution with SmoothTool

What is Cobot Welding?

Cobot welding refers to the use of collaborative robots, or cobots, to automate certain welding processes.

A cobot welder consists of a robotic arm, welding torch kit, power source, cooling system, and a way to program the robot. The robot can be mounted on a welding table, cart, or magnetic mount, depending on the specific application.

The key advantage of a cobot welder is that it allows human welders to work alongside the robot, rather than being replaced by it. This collaboration between human and machine brings together the unique skills of both to create a more efficient and precise welding process.

Cobot welding has already been successfully employed in a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, and electronics. By leveraging the benefits of cobot welding, companies can improve the quality of their welds, increase productivity, and reduce labor costs.

In the following sections, we will explore in detail the advantages and applications of cobot welding.

Cobot welding system with arrows and call-out boxes for the different components

Collaborative welding vs manual welding and traditional automation

So how does cobot welding compare to traditional automation and manual welding?

To achieve an good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different welding approaches, let’s delve into a quick comparative analysis. In this table, we explore the key aspects of cobot welding, traditional automation, and manual welding.

By examining factors such as mix, volume, robotics skill, investment, and human presence, we aim to provide insights into which method may be the most suitable for specific welding applications.

So, let’s take a closer look at how these approaches stack up against each other in the world of welding.

Best FitTraditional AutomationCollaborative WeldingManual Welding
MixLowModerate to HighHigh
VolumeHighLow to ModerateLow
Robotics SkillHighLowNone
Welder PresentNoYesYes

Industrial robotic welding offers high speed and productivity, making it an efficient choice for large-scale production. However, its inflexibility necessitates a dedicated welding cell. While it proves advantageous for handling substantial batch sizes, implementing robotic welding can be costly and demands a skilled robot operator for programming.

Cobot welding offers a balance between the speed and accuracy of industrial robotic welding and the flexibility and adaptability of manual welding, making it ideal for low-volume, high-mix production runs and applications that require human collaboration.

Manual welding is the least expensive but requires skilled welders and can be dangerous if safety precautions are not taken. It excels in scenarios with a high mix of welding tasks but becomes less efficient as batch sizes increase.

Benefits of cobot welding

Cobot welding offers several significant advantages over traditional manual welding. These include:

  • Quality: Unlike human workers, who may tire and lose concentration over time, welding cobots consistently deliver the same high-quality work, determined by their programmed parameters.
  • Productivity: Human workers naturally slow down over time, while welding cobots can continue to produce the same quantity of output given a specific programmed task, regardless of how long it takes.
  • Efficiency: Welding cobots can perform repetitive welds, freeing up human workers to focus on more specialized welding requirements.
  • Safety: Welding poses several safety risks, including toxic fumes, eye injuries, and burns. By placing a welding cobot on the front line and having operators work from a safe distance, companies can eliminate many of these safety concerns.

In addition to these benefits, welding cobots are also easy to use and maintain. Existing workers can be trained to program, troubleshoot, and repair them, upskilling them for more specialized tasks.

Welding cobots are cheaper than traditional industrial robots and require less space, making them an attractive option for companies looking to improve their welding operations while keeping costs under control.

By leveraging the benefits of robotic welding with a cobot, companies can improve the quality and consistency of their welds, increase productivity, reduce labor costs, and create a safer working environment.

How do my welders work with a cobot?

When it comes to cobot welding, it’s important to note that these collaborative robots are designed to work alongside human welders, not replace them. In fact, experienced welders are still needed to “train” or program the cobot and ensure the quality of the final welds.

By using cobot welding, your skilled workers can spend less time manually repeating simple welds and more time focusing on more complicated welding tasks. This can greatly increase overall productivity and efficiency, as well as free up your welders’ time to work on more valuable or specialized tasks.

Luckily, learning how to program a cobot is a relatively quick process, taking qualified welders less than a day to master.

Some cobots, like the SmoothTool Cobot Welding package, even come with a programming flange that allows operators to manually move the robotic arm during programming to set points and teach it what to do, eliminating the need for complex programming skills.

With this technology, your welders can easily transition into working with a cobot and improving your welding operations.

New home page in SmoothTool 1.7

Why should I invest in a cobot welder?

The welder shortage is real and will not resolve in the near future.

Add in the universal truth that increased productivity and efficiency always result in greater earnings, and now could be the right time to invest in a welding cobot.

If you can’t get more welders, use cobots, name it Steve, and they will be your welder that is 50% faster, 50% cheaper, and never has a day off sick.

Comparison:Cobot WelderManual Welding
Time1 Year2 Years
Quantity (orders)3333
Cobot Welding vs Manual Welding (simplified comparison)

Now, the above table is a simplified comparison of the following example below but it sums up the capabilities of a cobot welder working alongside a welder on a single type of weld over a year. If you want more details then keep reading!

Obviously, the initial expense of purchasing the equipment and training staff cannot be avoided. However, let’s compare manual MIG welding and cobot MIG welding for cost and time requirements for the following job:

MaterialsS355 + 1.2mm (solid welding wire)
Weld25 cm circular diameter, 4mm wall thickness
Batch size of order800 pieces
Cost/hr qualified welder$35
Cost/hr cobot welder operator$22
Welding speed30 cm/min

Manual vs cobot welding comparison table

The comparison is with a qualified welder and a cobot welder operator but this example can be used for a single qualified welder.

Keep in mind that a welding speed of 30 cm/min is quite slow for an experienced welder as well as a high-end machine, so the time and cost savings would likely be much higher.

So how long will it take to recoup your costs?

That depends on your volume of work and how much you utilize the cobot on a daily basis. Generally, however, most companies find it takes between 1 and 3 years to pay for itself.

ROI on cobot welding

Why choose the SmoothTool Cobot welding package?

The SmoothTool cobot welding package currently supports Metal Inert Gas (MIG), Metal Active Gas (MAG), and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding.

It is extremely easy for operators to quickly learn how to program it and consists of two elements that work together:

1. The programming flange. The device the operator uses to “teach” the cobot how the weld should be performed. The positions and movements of the welding arm are captured and linked to the control box and programming software.

2. The intuitive programming software that runs on the teach pendant. This walks the operator through the process of setting the parameters for the weld and teaching the robot how to perform it step by step. It also allows the operator to review the tool path in the 3D Viewer without having the robot arm perform the movement in a dry run.

For a complete demonstration of how these work together and an example of what your trained welders will be required to do, check out our complete demonstration video

Is cobot welding right for my business?

Since the current welder shortage is not going away anytime soon, now is a great time to look into modernizing and semi-automating your welding practices.

Schedule a call with us to learn more about how welding cobots can:

  • help you keep up with the welding demands of your business
  • increase your welding quality, productivity, or efficiency
  • provide high-quality working conditions and opportunities for current and future staff


SmoothTool Product Catalog

Learn more about Cobot Welding with SmoothTool and how it can dramatically increase your welding productivity