Revicon attracts other work with new welding robot cells
The low oil price means that 30% less is being invested worldwide. Supplier Revicon, which was almost entirely dependent on that sector for its specialist upstream oil and gas extraction systems, had to undergo a drastic reorganisation. Revicon has now reduced its manpower and invested in new cutting and welding equipment to produce stainless steel series products on a small-scale basis. Two Valk Welding welding robot cells are playing a vital role in this.
"Our work in the oil and gas extraction sector means that Revicon has a lot of know-how regarding stainless steel. That is what attracts us to OEMs in other sectors. It takes knowledge and experience to weld a stainless steel product on the outside in such a way that the internal welds go all the way through. It is these competencies that have brought us to the attention of companies such as Lely Industries, who have asked us, together with a colleague, to manufacturer all of the stainless steel parts for the arm of their new milking robot. We will also again be producing single wellhead control panels and cabinets in series for a plant in the Middle East. That makes us less dependent on a single sector", explains CEO/owner Sjaak de Koning.
Ferris Wheel concept
Revicon already had a Valk Welding welding robot cell on an H-frame with a jig length of 4 m. "We don't actually make much use of that length in practice because we mostly weld small products. Also, with that set-up you had to walk around for each jig positioning. Looking back, that wasn't the best way of doing things", says Sjaak de Koning.
The systems that Revicon builds for the upstream oil and gas extraction are usually one-off custom products that call for a considerable engineering effort. "To produce in series at a small scale you have to take a more lean and mean approach to your production. It must be possible to change products quickly, within no more than 1 minute. That's why the Ferris Wheel concept struck me as being much more suitable for the welding production. In that setup the jig turns on its axis to the operator for each run so that he can continue to work on one side and doesn't lose any time walking backwards and forwards. The products always stay horizontal on the jig supports, like on a fairground big wheel. (ed. The name Ferris Wheel is derived from the world's first big wheel, designed in 1893 by George Ferris.)
Two identical welding robot systems
Valk Welding developed the customer's requirement into a workable concept that also covered the need for an automatic torch change. Sjaak de Koning: "Some products call for both MIG and TIG welding in the same product. If that process change can also be automated, the conversion no longer forms an obstacle to our choice of process. Valk Welding had the necessary skills to produce to perfection a cell with these functionalities. They had already demonstrated these abilities in the past."
Since the capacity of a single welding robot cell is not enough for the current orders, Valk Welding will shortly also be supplying a second, identical system with a Panasonic TL- 1800 welding robot
Short change times
The need to minimise the change times was met on the one hand by the Ferris Wheel concept, and on the other by the welding robot switching fully automatically to the correct welding program. Inductive sensors in the jig system recognise the correct product. "We change a product together with the jig. We have 256 different jigs for each station. We build the welding jigs and the programs ourselves. For that purpose our people already have sufficient experience with DTPS, Panasonic's offline programming software. Although we have to make more effort on the work preparation side, it is more important that the welding robot has a longer operating time and that we are able to change the product within a minute."
Sjaak de Koning: "We're not looking for one-off orders but for an ongoing relationship with our partners. Together with the OEMS for which we are now producing the controllers and cabinets we've taken a critical look at the cost of the entire production and assembly process. Making some changes to the product also made it possible to halve the assembly time, which enabled us to sell the product more cheaply. That's how we managed to attract a long-term order together!
Lely Industries isn't a new customer of ours either, but until recently we only did prototype building for them. During that period we built up a good working relationship in which our manufacturing knowledge came to the fore. We have an ongoing partnership with Lely, too."
Tripling of production space
De Koning is confident about his company's future. As well as investing in the welding robots and a new Trumpf fiber laser, he has made a start with preparations for the building of an industrial hall measuring 8,000 m2. That means that Revicon will have premises covering 12,000m2. www.revicon.com
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