Zarges GmbH & Co. KG (Weilheim, Germany) manufactures aluminum containers used in diverse industries for storing, transporting and distributing parts, components and finished products. The company recently invested more than $615,000 in a welding system for manufacturing these containers. The new welding system consists of two integrated robots manufactured by Reis Robotics GmbH & Co. (Obernburg, Germany), and replaces two older systems that have been operating in Weilheim for 14 and 17 years respectively.

"With this new system we make an investment for the future of our plant, and thus, into the future of our location at Weilheim," says production manager, Wolfgang Saal. About 20 percent of the turnover in Zarges logistics products will be processed on the new system, including individual parts for folding containers that are mainly used in the food industry.

The robots operate on a linear traversing unit on four different stations. The technical highlight of the system is its control of the robots and 30 peripheral axes in a master-slave operation. Rotary modules with two sets of fixtures allow the robots to weld parts for one container, while parts for another container are loaded into the fixture on the other side of the module.

Both MIG and TIG processes are used to weld the containers. In the past, changeover was done manually. In the new system, a robot changes its weld torch automatically within 15 seconds and continues operation almost without any interruption. "The new system cuts the cycle time for welding a folding container in half," explains Günther Anderl, technical manager for welding and riveting. "The new robots are also operating more precisely than the robots they replaced, so there is less rework."

The new system allows one-piece flow, with all the parts required for one folding container welded in a single setup. This saves money by reducing work-in-process, and also reveals possible welding irregularities, so they can be corrected immediately, Saal says. The weld programs for the more than 80 different products are stored in the robot control and can be requested immediately by pressing a button. Short changeover times allow the Weilheim plant to run small lots efficiently and respond quickly to customer requests.

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