Andy provided the Team with some interesting background on Lincoln and their equipment, showing us around the facility. We set up for the welding at a station on their traveling demo booth. It is built into a truck chassis and contains examples of their product for each of the welding and cutting processes. Like a Transformer toy, the sides fold out and the stations deploy.
As we got to know Andy and he learned about FIRST and our Team, he TIG welded the support brackets to our drive base. When the welding was completed, he offered to show off their welding robot. Built on an industrial robot frame, the arm is able to use vision and touch sensing to predetermine the geometry and location of the parts to be welded. Its intelligent programming then determines the parameters and executes perfect welds.
It was also interesting to see how many different ways the robot can be programmed or taught. It is able to duplicate manual motions if the operator chooses to just show the robot what to do by moving the arm around by hand. The boys mentioned that the robot looked very similar to the one in the IronMan movie. We found out that one of the Lincoln robot programmers had the job of controlling the robot in the IronMan movies. How fun is that!
To protect the electronics, we removed all of the electronics from the robot prior to welding on the frame. This turned into a good object lesson in troubleshooting when we turned it on after finishing the assembly. Admittedly we were making enhancements during the reassembly, but clearly a gremlin infected the electronics at some point after the shields were removed. After we stopped shooting from the hip with quick answers and settled into a more methodical troubleshooting methodology, the problems were discovered rather quickly and corrected. I'm glad we had the opportunity to work through a real problem. It was a good experience.
We'd like to send a special thanks to Dave and Andy for their help on the robot and for providing the tour of the Lincoln facility.
Ok, I've been asked why I mentioned the Polar Vortex in the title. Well after a pretty great Christmas vacation with a fantastic range of weather which included some old fashioned winter weather (snow at night, sledding during the daytime), we had a blast from the arctic which was cold enough to keep the schools from opening. They called it a Polar Vortex which is a phenomenon that occurs in winter and moves around from year to year. We all learned a little more about meteorology and put the time to good use working on the robot.