Huge excavator buckets, wheel loader lifting arms, long express train cars, and large constructions for the bridge and shipbuilding industry all have one thing in common: They have to cope with enormous demands. These components present a challenge when it comes to their production, not only because of their size, but also because of the thickness of the material – steel plates 20 or 40 millimeters thick often need to be joined together. Arc welding is the ideal joining process for this purpose, as the seam must be completely reliable and able to withstand heavy loads.
“Automatically welding something small has never been an issue”, explains Werner Angerbauer, Sales Manager for Asia at igm Robotersysteme AG. “The challenge lies in heavy components. There are many robot manufacturers around the world whose products also have welding capability, but that are designed and built for handling tasks. As soon as it comes to large, heavy components, it is no longer sufficient to mount a welding torch on a robot. You need a special welding robot for that”, states Angerbauer. igm Robotersysteme AG is a manufacturer of automated robot welding solutions based in Wiener Neudorf, Austria, and has specialized in products for construction machines and rolling stock since 1985.
“Prefabricated, standardized production solutions are commonly used in the automotive industry, but things are a bit different when it comes to thick sheet metal. Ready-made solutions won’t work here, as there are a wide range of components of all shapes, sizes, and weight classes. For this reason, igm concentrates on customer-specific applications”, says Angerbauer, explaining the approach of the welding automation specialist. Among igm’s customers are renowned companies from the construction machine industry, also known as the “yellow goods sector”. These include JCB, the British manufacturer of construction and agricultural machinery, and Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction machines, with headquarters in the USA.
Joining heavy components presents a particular challenge for welding technology, as the parts are extremely large and the materials are thick. For example, a heavy-duty axle consists of steel that is up to 50 millimeters thick (steel quality S355) and roughly one and a half meters long. Fillet and single-bevel butt welds have to meet stringent quality criteria, while manufacturers also have to pay extremely close attention to the weld seam appearance. Moreover, component tolerances and air gaps are larger than in the automotive sector, meaning that the welding systems need good sensor technology in order to identify the location of the weld seam. Werner Angerbauer explains how igm puts this aspect into practice: “At igm, the sensors, various seam tracking systems, and manipulators, are integrated into a finished welding solution. We have developed our own seam tracking systems and laser cameras, which we use to ensure the quality of the weld seam. All this is built into one device, reducing complexity for the user and simplifying operation.”
Not only is the sensor technology extremely well integrated into the overall system, but also the actual welding technology itself. This is made possible by the long-term partnership between Fronius and igm. “We have been working closely with Fronius since the 1980s. Both companies are therefore perfectly in tune with the other’s needs, ensuring that the customer receives a complete solution that functions flawlessly”, explains Angerbauer. An example of the fruits borne from this relationship is the integrated control system: “The customer only has one control panel for managing both the robot system and the power source. This saves the user a lot of work.” What’s more, the Fronius wirefeeder and hosepack take up so little room that igm can integrate them into the robot arms, making the system even more compact and improving accessibility to the components to be welded.
At the heart of this excellent partnership is technical know-how: “There aren’t many welding system manufacturers who have truly mastered high performance welding. Tandem welding processes are demanding, but offer the deposition rate required to join thick materials, which is exactly what our customers (e.g., in the yellow goods sector) need. Fronius is a competent partner in this respect, providing reliable and efficient welding solutions”, summarizes Angerbauer. The two welding professionals also work together closely on customerspecific requirements. igm and Fronius jointly develop solutions tailored to the customer’s needs, in order to provide them with the best possible support for the challenges they face.
“igm is not reliant on the technology of any power source manufacturer. However, thanks to the long-term partnership that Fronius and igm have maintained since the 1980s, the end customer receives a product which functions flawlessly as a complete system. This is why igm prefers products from Fronius.” WERNER ANGERBAUER, Sales Manager Asia, igm Robotersysteme AG, Austria
J.C. Bamford Excavators Ltd. (JCB) is the largest British manufacturer of construction machinery. The company produces more than 300 different machine models in 22 factories across the globe, which are sold in 150 countries.
Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of yellow goods, employs more than 98,000 people across the globe and achieved a sales revenue of 36.6 billion euros in 2017. It supplies products for a number of industries, including construction machinery, mining equipment, diesel engines, gas turbines, and rail vehicles. Caterpillar’s headquarters are in Illinois, USA.