At the HOUSTEX show back in March, as the flood of attendees hit the expo floor, Dan Allford sat back in his booth to watch the traffic roll in. He had the perfect view.
Allford is president of ARC Specialties Inc., an auto-
mated welding systems producer, which meant he and
his booth were squarely in the middle of robot territory.
“From my position, I could see the traffic going through
all the robotics booths,” he recalls. “As I watched, all
these people kept going right around the traditional robot
suppliers to investigate these odd little user-friendly,
inexpensive robots instead—they walked right by the big
ones to go see the Universal Robots booth.”
Basically, he had a front row seat to a full market shift.
The buyers and operators stalking the floor were no
longer quite as interested in the big metal automatons
anymore. Instead, they were clamoring to see these tiny
little machines that swapped super power and lightning
speeds for safety and simplicity.
That night Allford would have an epiphany—and
traded places from spectator to major player on this
“I went to dinner with the guys from Universal Robots
that evening,” he says. “ARC Specialties was an integrator
the next day.”
On the outset, this is a pretty surprising move. ARC
Specialties falls much more comfortably into the tra-
ditional robot camp than with these new collaborative
systems. Its core business is as an integrator for long-
armed welding robots and a producer of large dedicated
welding machines and gigantic Cartesian and cylindrical
coordinate robots. That last business line in particular
is a special source of pride for Allford.
“We’re one of the last in America to build these big,
heavy ones,” he says. “We’re welding things like blow-out
preventers that can weigh up to 10,000 lb. I challenge
you to find any other manufacturer that has a system
that can tilt and rotate a part that big while welding it.”
With all this heavy steel in its portfolio, “surprising” is
probably too weak a word to describe the move to work
with Universal Robots.
But to Allford, it made perfect sense.
“You have to understand our background to get it,”
he says. “We make welding approachable, that’s what
we all do for a living here. And that’s why we’ve been so
successful since 1983.”
All of the company’s traditional machines, he says, are
purposefully built to be easy to program and operate, no
matter how large the project they are designed to serve.
So when he had the opportunity to create something on a
smaller scale with a collaborative system, he jumped on it.
“I’ve never seen a robot with a stitch weld feature,” he
explains. “And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to program
two points and then build a robot to put 1-in. welds on
3-in. centers? Wouldn’t it be nice to program the robot
by physically manipulating it into position?’ Well, now
we’re doing that.”
On the other side of this arrangement sits Universal
Robots—one of the founding companies of the entire
by Travis Hessman
COBOTS Go Heavy-Duty
Merging the user-friendly versatility of cobots with the calculated precision of automated
welding, Universal Robots and ARC Specialties have joined to create a collaborative MIG
welding robot that could deliver some much-needed relief to the industry.