The TRUMPF TruArc Weld 1000 purchased by Teknion includes a combination of intuitive programming with a MIG welding torch, a collaborative welding system with six axes, and a force moment sensor.Click image to enlarge

A case study of the speed and flexibility possible through welding automation

By Noelle Stapinsky

Headquartered in Toronto, Ont., Teknion is a family-owned global manufacturer that specializes in chic and modular office furniture and interior business architectural design solutions. This multi-national Canadian company offers a wide range of systems from desks, chairs and storage collections to lounge seating and lighting solutions, but it also works with its clients to offer custom designs. 

To serve its global clients, Teknion requires not only the precision and speed of automation, but also the flexibility to make changes on the fly. And at its Levi, Que. division, which is home to its metal and aluminum production, the need for speed and flexibility are paramount. 

“We manufacture a lot of legs, strengtheners and all the parts you need for the assembly of the product here in Levi. There’s cutting, bending, punching, welding, painting and assembly all in this facility. We also have two warehouses here and the consultation centre for eastern Canada,” says Timmy Quigley, operations director for Teknion Concept. 

Using mainly cold rolled steel, Teknion employs TRUMPF automation solutions for laser cutting, punching and bending processes. But for welding, it had been using a team of industrial robotic welding systems and manual welders. “While a robot is efficient and there are no sick days, what we were witnessing with the robot welders is that you couldn’t do quick changeovers and they were not flexible enough for what we needed. So for our custom/specialized parts that we produce for clients, we had to work with manual welders. And like everywhere, it’s getting harder and harder to find employees or quality employees, and it was becoming an issue.”

That’s when Quigley reached out to Simon Pageau from Finox-Fab Solution Inc., who suggested the TRUMPF TruArc Weld (TAW) 1000. “We had already started on a project to integrate universal robotics in our production lines, so when I heard of this system I found it very interesting,” says Quigley. 

Teknion agreed to buy the TAW 1000 with a special “try and buy” condition. And after four short months of using the technology, they are keeping it. “It’s very well made, a very nice station that is all equipped with a rail for the robot to move from one side to the other. You can work two stations at a time, and it’s very flexible, which was the biggest thing that got us interested in this product. It’s really cool,” says Quigley. 

The TAW 1000 features a combination of intuitive programming with a MIG welding torch, a collaborative robotic welding system with six axes and a force moment sensor. The welding source is a TPS 230i C Pulse byFronius. This unit also has a 3D Demmeler welding table with a D16 hole pattern, a feature that was especially impressive for the Teknion crew. 

“[With the Demmeler table] you don’t have to have a dedicated welding jig. You can build one with toggle clamps or pins on the spot, in no time. That was really interesting for use because sometimes you have to adjust a product if say, for some reason, the client has a special demand and the part, for example, needs to be half an inch shorter. Too often the jigs won’t fit because they’re built for a certain size, but with the Demmeler, you can make your adjustments right on the table,” says Quigley.

Utilizing robotic automation means speed and consistent quality. But Quigley notes that not only did they achieve a repeatable quality, but also significantly decreased post processing, which was a constant struggle if a manual welder welded too much or if the weld was too hot. They would need to grind and polish the parts before the painting process to rid them of sink marks or bumps created by a weld being too pronounced. 

“Recently we had 16-gauge panels that we had to spot weld. With the robot, we saw the difference in the process right away. There was no sink marks on the opposite side…it was like we hadn’t welded at all,” says Quigley. “The MIG unit from Fronius is a really good welding machine. Honestly, the support Fronius has given us has been great. We were welding too hot and they saw that right away and helped us dial in our shielding gas. This is our first date with Fronius and it’s not the last, I can tell you that.”

For Quigley and his team, the most difficult part about implementing this technology was actually getting it out of the shipping crate that it arrived in. “Once we got it out, it was plug and play. We got it on a Wednesday morning and by the afternoon we were welding for fun to test it out. The very next day we did a job. Seriously, it was as easy as that. Of course, you do need to have welding knowledge, but other than that there is no training needed. My guys scanned the barcode on the machine with their phones, watched a video presentation and they were able to run the machine.”

Since implementing the TAW 1000, the day-to-day production increase has been between 50 and 70 per cent in the welding operation, according to Quigley. 

And given such impressive results, Teknion is now planning on purchasing two or three more TRUMPF welding units to replace its industrial welding robots. SMT

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