AIA: Robotic Cell Improves Welding Times
Johnson & Berry Manufacturing Inc. (L'Anse, MI) manufactures hydraulic cylinders, rollers and pins for the heavy equipment industry. Historically, the company's semiautomated flux-cored welding processes have constituted a bottleneck. But, being a smaller shop with just 16 employees, the price tag for a fully automated system put that kind of advanced technology beyond the company's reach.
Recently, however, Johnson & Berry implemented an eCell, dual, fixed-table robotic cell from Lincoln Electric Co. (Cleveland) to weld boom bushings and plates. The result has been a 4- to 5-hour reduction in production times for a 180-piece job, so that it now takes just 2 hours.
"The eCell is providing a tremendous time savings," says company manager Bill Johnson. "With this type of productivity increase, the unit will pay for itself after only a few projects and will help us keep up with the increasing demand from our customers."
With the move to robotic welding, Johnson & Berry also changed to a metal-cored wire, further increasing travel speeds. The company is now using 0.052- inch Perfect Circle MetalCore wire (AWS E70-6M) on 50-pound spools from Lincoln Electric Co. subsidiary J.W. Harris (Mason, OH). The wire is used with a shieldling gas of 90 percent Argon and 10 percent carbon dioxide.
According to Johnson, the previous semiautomatic flux-cored welding operations were yielding 50 to 75 parts per day. Using the metal-cored wire, the eCell is now producing 150 parts per day, and it is not yet even running at full capacity.
"We had been thinking about robotics for 2 or 3 years, but assumed we'd have to purchase the robot and power source separately, and then hire an integrator to assemble the whole system," Johnson says. "We thought this would be too costly for us. But, with the eCell, everything comes assembled as one complete package at a great price point."
After purchasing the eCell, Johnson and a colleague attended a 3-day robotic training class at Lincoln Electric Co. to learn basic programming and cell setup. After the class, they simply loaded up their eCell on a trailer and carried it back to Michigan.
According to Johnson, installing the unit back at the shop was no problem. "All we had to do [was] bolt it to the ground, run electrical, and supply the cell with shielding gas and wire. It was then ready to produce parts," he says.
Among other advantages, the automated welding cell has increased weld quality and dramatically reduced parts handling. "We were immediately impressed by the quality of the arc. It's easy to start, and we virtually eliminated spatter, meaning no grinding of parts anymore," Johnson says. "Previously, we were handling each bushing part three times-once to tack, a second time to weld and a third time to perform post-weld grinding. The eCell's fixturing is able to clamp the parts tightly into place and create the final weld. Our operator only handles each part one time."
Welds performed by the eCell include 5-inch-long, quarter-inch fillets used to weld bushings to plates, and 2-inch stitch welds on the plates themselves. Because it has two tables, the eCell can weld while an operator unloads and loads the other side.
For more on automated welding, visit www.lincolnelectric.com, call 216-481-8100 or eInquiry 2.