The Fronius CMT (Cold Metal Transfer) tandem welding process used in the high speed robotic classing system. Inset: Illustration of the dual wire/arc system.Click image to enlargeby Mary Scianna

A new high speed robotic weld cladding system for higher productivity

A new weld cladding process being used to increase wear and corrosion resistance on components made from inexpensive materials such as carbon and mild steel, is proving to be faster, more efficient and more cost effective than previous systems.

Known as High Speed Robotic Cladding, the patent pending welding process developed by Technical & Automation Help Corp. (TAH), Brampton, ON, is currently being tested by the National Research Council Canada’s (NRC) Energy Mining and Environment portfolio in Vancouver, BC. NRC is using it to develop weld cladding processes for various components such as the inside of slurry transportation pipelines to make them more wear resistant. Sheng-Hui Wang, a research council officer, is overseeing the project.

“Our purpose is to develop weld cladding processes to improve wear and corrosion resistance of components and equipment used in mining and mineral processing sectors. We’re using the high speed robotic cladding system to develop customized weld cladding processes for our industrial clients. These companies want to reduce maintenance, repair and operation costs of equipment and systems. The high speed robotic cladding technology is one way to achieve the high productivity and cost effectiveness.”

According to TAH, the majority of clad products use carbon steel as the substrate and aluminum, nickel, nickel alloys, copper, copper alloys, and stainless steel as the bonded clad materials. Cladding of metals is a complex process. There are several processes used to clad metals including MIG and TIG welding, but these processes tend to be slow and labour intensive. “For example, with MIG welding, the operator is compelled to stop the machine and clean it between each pass, which increases the risk of error and defects,” says Kevin Lewis, business development manager with TAH. He adds that the process is considerably faster than previous cladding processes.

The high speed robotic cladding system consists of a KUKA KR 60 L30 HA robot with a KUKA KL 1000-2 slide and a KUKA DKP 400 two axis positioner and a Fronius Cold Metal Transfer (CMT) Twin system, a tandem welding process. KUKA Robotics also integrated the welding system with the robot.
“The benefit of tandem welding is that by having two arcs share the same puddle, you achieve higher deposition rates,” says Brian Ronan, technical support national manager for Fronius. “You can achieve 15 to 35 lb/hr deposition rates. What’s unique about this system is that we’re able to achieve a high deposition rate at less amperage because the wire movement is integrated into the process and due to the unique wire movement, it requires less amperage during the dip transfer process of a weld droplet.”

The  high speed robotic cladding system at NRC's facility in BC is being used to develop weld cladding processes for various components, such as the inside of slurry transportation pipelines to make them more wear resistant.Click image to enlargeYarek Niedbala, regional sales manager with KUKA Robotics Canada, says the configuration of the cell is unique. “Rather than placing the robot on the 2.2 m slide, a traditional method, the robot is stationary and the positioner rides on the slide. This innovative configuration [requested by NRC] is ideal for handling a large variety of sample parts in a minimum amount of floor space.”

He adds that NRC selected the KR 60 L30 HA robot because of its long reach (2.4 m), capacity (30 kg) and because it is a “high path accuracy robot, which means that it was developed for offline programming and for following commanded parts with superior accuracy,” says Niedbala.

Lewis describes the machine as “the most advanced cladding/MIG system in the world.” He says NRC wanted to experiment with a process that wouldn’t overheat a part and it wanted to experiment on new materials for wear and corrosion protection of equipment and pipelines used in mining and mineral processing industries.

Niedbala says as the high speed robotic cladding system evolves to meet new customer demands, the KUKA controller will be able to help. “The KUKA KR C4 controller provides a PC-based open architecture with a Windows interface that makes integration of new technologies simpler while maintaining a high level of data exchange performance.”

Formed in 2007 by Tennyson Harris, current CEO, TAH specializes in welding automation solutions with a focus on metallurgy services, automation designs, lean manufacturing, machine integration and 3D modeling for robotics. Harris will be discussing high speed robotic cladding at the upcoming Advanced Manufacturing Canada conference and exhibition that runs November 2-3 in Toronto. SMT

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