Metall.be, a small company that produces garden fences and sells these via the Internet, took a welding robot into operation last year.
In addition to cutting, bending and slitting, welding is one of the most important operations within the company. Until recently, Metall.be employed four full-time welders for this specific task. Managing director and owner Stephan Laschet, “After one of our welders retired, we however encountered a real problem. It was very difficult to find skilled welders, but young people good at programming were easier to locate. For this reason, we then took the decision to have all the welding performed by a robot.”
With 10 employees, Metall.be annually processes 360 tonnes of steel for the production of a wide range of garden fences. An interesting volume in order to consider making an investment in robot welding. During an open day with a company located in the region, Stephan Laschet saw how the company had automated their welding production with a welding robot from Valk Welding. “If it works for them, then it should also be suitable for our particular situation,” Stephan Laschet thought. “We were able to afford the investment, but we had no experience at all with robot welding. We were also familiar with Valk Welding from technical business journals. For this reason, we invited Valk Welding and visited the main office in Alblasserdam (the Netherlands) in mid-October 2016.”
“Peter Pittomvils, department manager at Valk Welding in Belgium, made a proposal for a welding robot with two workstations located next to each other. All mounted on a E-shaped torsion-free frame construction. Valk Welding was able to deliver the system quickly. It was very important to us to have an operational welding robot before the beginning of the main season. For this reason, we made a quick decision,” Stephan Laschet explains.
“We have previously used jig supports and templates, suitable for different models. After the installation in the winter, we programmed the first products and defined them with the teaching pendant. Our goal was to have all components completely welded with the robot and we have been able to achieve this. Moreover, we have been able to galvanise the complete fences without the need for reworking.”
Welders have been replaced
“Now a new employee without welding experience is working on the robot installation. One welder is working in a different company and the other has a different position in our company. Only small batch series are still welded by hand by employees who also perform the sanding. Generally, the robot now performs the welding work of 2.5 manual welders. In March 2017, we were already in full production for the season.”
Now, one year later, the employees of Metall.be have gained more experience with the welding robot. “We now weld several different models on a single jig, which is suitable for both high as well as narrow models. In the meanwhile, we have also developed new jigs with which we can weld larger and longer garden fences using the robot installation. In this manner, we are able to utilise the welding robot in a flexible manner,” Stephan Laschet explains.
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