Valk Welding has delivered two similar robot configurations for the autoŽmation of the welding and glueing process of Picanol, one of the world's largest weaving machine manufacturers.
According to Senior Buyer & Manufacturing Manager Geert Tanghe, it was mainly based on the Valk Welding technical know-how and flexible approach that Picanol now has a flexible welding robot system and a highly innovative robot solution for the automation of the gluing process supplied by Valk Welding.
Picanol was looking for a robot integrator for the automation of its glueing and welding system. The robot integrator also had to be willing to work with third parties for the glue application aspect. In an extremely lean & mean and highly automated production system the welding was still carried out partially manually, and the transport rollers were still glued entirely by hand. Geert Tanghe: "Until recently glueing the rough materials to the smooth rollers was a traditional process that was in sharp contrast to the rest of the production process. We wanted to introduce a new glueing procedure and improve quality by automating the process. For the welding of the construction parts and the transport rollers we were looking to partially replace and extend the existing welding robot."
Weaving machines with 15 different working widths
Two types of weaving machines with 15 different working widths are currently being built at the factory complex in Ieper, Belgium. Picanol's state-of-the-art weaving machines make more than 1000 strokes a minute, which makes very high demands on the drive components and stability of the weaving machines. The drive components not only have to be strong and wear-resistant: they must also be light in order to withstand the fast movements. The necessary machine stability is created with side partitions made of moulded parts. All of the moulding, turning and grinding work has been carried out in-house for 75 years.
Choice of supplier
Geert Tanghe: "Valk Welding is a well-known name in the region, also at the suppliers of our plate and sub-components. We asked Valk Welding and a couple of other robot integrators to offer us a turnkey solution to our problem. The glue application calls for a special positioner that is not included as standard in the offering of most robot integrators. The development of the welding jigs and the programming were also included in the turnkey assignment and the robot supplier had to be willing to work with the supplier of the glue application system that was being integrated. Only Valk Welding agreed to this and had no trouble developing a non-standard system."
2 Robot systems on an H-frame
welding of transport rollers and traverses (stabiliser tubes) with dimensions of 1.5 to 5.6 metres in length corresponds to the configuration for glueing. Both systems consist of a robot on an H-frame (fixed torsion frame with positioners on 1 top side and 2 adjustable counter bearings) in a special design. Both robots are Panasonic TA-1400 models. The rollers were previously welded using a welding machine with an outdated controller that could no longer be upgraded. Also, the flanges were still manually being welded to the stabiliser tubes. Geert Tanghe: "Automating the two processes was intended to reduce the manual work and increase quality."
Welding robot system
In the welding robot system supplied by Valk Welding a Panasonic TA-1400 welding robot moves on an integrated 6m track to weld the tubes and transport rollers in lengths up to 5.6m on 2 jig stations. The positioners on both sides have a fixed position and are equipped with adjustable counter bearings. That makes it possible to weld both the smallest and the largest lengths of the transport rollers and stability tubes just on one single system. Valk Welding also saw to the development and delivery of the welding jigs and the programming of the welding robot for the 2 types and 15 different lengths.
Glueing robot system
Geert Tanghe: "In our weaving machines the woven material is guided to the output side by 3 transport rollers. These have to be covered with rough textiles to obtain the necessary grip. Until recently we manually applied contact glue to the rollers and the covering. Not only was this a time-consuming job, there was also the disadvantage that it was difficult to replace the cover at a later date. That's why we switched to a 2-component epoxy glue." Delta Application Technics, which specialises in the design and production of application and dosing systems for liquid and paste products, was asked to develop a solution to apply the glue precisely and automatically to the metal transport rollers in such a way that the glue was spread evenly. "Integrating the dosing system in the same automated system of Valk Welding made it possible to make do with virtually the same robot system, which was a big advantage in terms of maintenance and usage. All that needed to be done was to replace the welding torch with a glue dispenser."
Geert Tanghe: "For the glue application Valk Welding adapted its torch holder for the welding torch on the Panasonic welding robot in order to fit the glue dispenser. A specially developed positioner ensures that the metal transport rollers turn quickly while the robot makes a linear movement. The covering can then be placed directly by hand while the positioner slowly turns. The new gluing process has greatly improved the adhesion and, accordingly, the quality. The robot evenly applies the glue in a way that could never be done by hand. All in all, this application is of the most innovative of its kind at Picanol."
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