Frisomat, a manufacturer of steel buildings, aims to double its turnover in 5 years.

To achieve that target, the production site has worked hard on automation of the production process and upgrading a number of crucial production components over the past few years. Replacing 2 IGM welding robots with Fronius welding sources with a Valk Welding welding robot system is one example. Production Manager Gunther Vergauwen said “This single welding robot has a higher duty cycle and output than the 2 IGM welding robots and we are more flexible with making different combinations.”

The 40-year old company, founded by its current CEO Guy Somers, is well on its way to achieving its objectives. With short lead times, high construction speed and delivering a complete and easy to transport kit, the company has seen a major rise in order. Frisomat has its main production site in Belgium and makes all components - from pillars to girders to facade elements in house. Unlike most, Frisomat produces most construction components from cold-rolled galvanised steel rather than from hot-rolled profiles. It weighs less and recesses and holes can be created in the profiling line.

The welding process needed to become more efficient

The construction components need to be fixed with nuts and bolts to the welded connecting pieces on the building site. By using a Panasonic AW 7000, Frisomat took the first step towards welding robotisation already back in 1991. Following strong growth, this robot was replaced by 2 IGM robots with 2 stations each. Gunther Vergauwen commented “As such those robots did their work properly, but the programmes weren't exchangeable and for a large series it was not possible to use all 4 stations for the same workpiece. We were short on flexibility. Furthermore, we wanted to integrate work planning for welding production into the digital control of the production. Offline programming is a better match. At the level of technology and efficiency we were ready for modernisation at that time. ”

Valk Welding approach appealed to us

Gunther Vergauwen saw the videos of the welding robot system on the Valk Welding YouTube channels and visited a number of references in Belgium. “I was particularly impressed by the systems I saw at the Van Hool plant. The Valk Welding approach is extremely professional, during the project approach, and during start-up and programming.”

Welding robot on E-frame and DTPS

Last year, both IGM robots were replaced by a completely new system, consisting of one Panasonic TL-1800WG3 welding robot on an E-shaped frame, where the welding robot moves over a track and serves 2 workstations. Gunther Vergauwen continued “We modified all the welding fixtures because of a different attachment method. That was also the right time to change to a new type of connecting piece. We can now use both stations for the same or for different components. With the short conversion period we are now much more flexible. We use the new cell in 2 shifts, which guarantees better use of the production capacity. We now weld more parts on the welding robot as before on the 2 IGM systems and therefore we need less manual welding. It is noticeable that with the Panasonic welding technology the welding quality has improved significantly and with less projections we have almost no finishing work to do.”

Off-line programming matches digitisation

The entire Frisomat production process is controlled by work planning. All the operators receive production orders from ERP at the workstation and no longer have to programme the machines. “It prevents errors in sizing or holes at the wrong positions. The connecting pieces that were previously programmed at the robot are now programmed by the office. The operator only performs any required fine-tuning.” Besides 4 operators, 3 welders also attended the course at Valk Welding to learn to work with the offline programming software DTPS. “Welding experience is a prerequisite, because you need to know the best welding sequence and in which position you need to programme the welding torch,” explained Gunther Vergauwen.

Move to high-strength steel

More and more construction components are now made of high-strength steel S550, which can take the same load but weighs less. One of the profiling lines needed to be modified, just like the punch unit of the profiling line. ST235 and ST252 steel is only processed for facade plating, gutters etc. The investments in the profiling lines are part of a complete modernisation of production. The welding robot, bending machines and a CNC press brake are part of the same package. With the modernisation, the Production Manager has created more efficiency, flexibility, shorter lead times and higher quality.


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