Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research


Intelligent Seam Tracking using Ultrasonic Sensors for Robotic Welding

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This paper presents a novel approach for seam tracking using ultrasonics. An ultrasonic seam tracking system has been developed for robotic welding which tracks a seam that curves freely on a two-dimensional surface. The seam is detected by scanning the area ahead of the torch and monitoring the amplitude of the waves received after reflection from the workpiece surface. Scanning is accomplished by using two ultrasonic sensors (a transmitter and a receiver) mounted on a stepper motor such that the transmitter angle is the same as the receiver angle. The motor is mounted on the end-effector just ahead of the welding torch and covers a ninety degree arc in front of the torch. If there is no seam then the receiver receives most of the transmitted waves after reflection, but if there is a seam then most of the transmitted waves are dispersed in directions other than that of the receiver. The system has been tested and is very robust in the harsh environments generated by the arc welding process. The robustness of the system stems from using various schemes such as time windowing, a waveguide, air and metal shields, and an intelligent sensor manager. This ultrasonic system offers some distinct advantages over traditional systems using vision and other sensing techniques. It can be used to weld very shiny surfaces, and is a very economical method in terms of cost as well as computational intensity. The system can be used to detect seams less than 0.5 mm wide and 0.5 mm deep.

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