Project Kuipers

Welding robotisation supplements high-tech sheet metal processing

When one of Germany's most modern plate processing companies takes the step towards welding robotisation, it chooses not only the best technology but also the supplier that best meets its requirements. Kuipers Blechtechnik in Meppen (Emsland) has purchased a second Panasonic welding robot from Valk Welding. Now well known in that region: the system has been in full production since the middle of this year. What has the partnership yielded?

Based on craftsmanship and continuous investment in innovation product technology Kuipers Blechtechnik has increased its turnover by a factor of five in five years. With 270 employees and 18,000 m2 of production space Kuipers Blechtechnik is among the bigger plating suppliers. Since Michael Kuipers took over the management of the company as the 4th generation, arc welding has come more to the fore in addition to the production of semi-manufactures. At that department alone welding is still carried out manually by 80 people, with Kuipers standing out as a specialist in aluminium welding. Kuipers Blechtechnik is certified in that area and delivers its products in accordance with the ENC 90 standard. The way Michael Kuipers sees it, welding robot robotisation should be a good match for high-end plate processing technology.

Step to welding robotisation
As welding specialist (SFM/IWS) Michael Kuipers knew exactly which criteria a welding robot had to meet. First, the welding robot has to be quickly and flexibly deployable, contain as few components of other brands as possible, the offline software has to be in keeping with the company and its vision and must be easy to use. Michael Kuipers: "With a supplier it's mainly about the soft skills: are you being taken seriously as a client, does it click with the people working there, do they speak your language, how is the service organised, and are spare parts quickly available?" At the end of the day the deciding factors for choosing Panasonic were the high speed of the Panasonic TA series and the fact that all of the components were produced by the same manufacturer.

Periphery more important than welding robot
“Although Panasonic offers the best and fastest welding robot for arc welding, all welding robots are basically able to get the job done. Looking back, the differences are found mainly in the periphery. Panasonic focuses mainly on the automotive industry and less on the small and medium-sized business sector. Panasonic also works on the assumption of a larger amount of basic knowledge, which our employees did not have. In that respect we needed more support in the form of an in-depth basic course and knowledge. Our contact Jörn Lota, who has already been working for Valk Welding for some time, was able to provide us with that support. They offered us training, including a course in DTPS offline programming, partly in Alblasserdam and partly at our own premises. That way we'll quickly get the hang of the process", says Michael Kuipers.

Everything adapted to the Valk Welding standard
A second system was ordered from Valk Welding straight away. Michael Kuipers: “The Panasonic TA 1800 welding robot, mounted on an E-frame and two 3 x 1 m stations also included a welding torch with automatic breaking, calibration software and the Quicktouch wire location system for welding seam validation. There is also a Wire Wizard wire feed system that made it possible to place the drums of welding wire next to the system. These are all components with which Valk Welding stands out from the rest, and thus facilitates a reliable and high quality process. For that reason we immediately had the originally delivered Panasonic system converted with these components. Both systems are now reliable, identical and highly productively structured".

Varied applications
As a supplier the company deals with a very wide range of products for sectors such as solar and wind energy, agricultural machinery, housings, instrument building and general machine engineering. Kuipers Blechtechnik now uses the two welding robot systems mainly for large series and for complex work pieces. Michael Kuipers: "There is a trend in the direction of smaller and smaller numbers, which makes it necessary to quickly change the welding jigs. The idea is to finish the welding of more and more products with the welding robots, and we want to be able to weld all product sizes. A welding robot with a small clamp table for small work pieces is therefore on our wishlist. But at the moment we do not have enough space for extra welding robot systems. The approach with Valk Welding's welding robot systems makes it possible for us to operate more quickly and proactively as a general supplier.

Michael Kuipers: Our decision to continue with Valk Welding as our welding robotisation supplier/partner was a good one. "Can't be done" is not in their vocabulary. The references that we consulted here in the region all reflect the same favourable experiences."

A point that Kuipers had failed to take sufficiently into account was the large number of welding jigs. "Storing them takes up far too much space. The question of whether or not to build a jib is now increasingly becoming the factor that determines whether we will finish the welding with the welding robot. Other than that, we are now only welding with the MIG/MAG process. We use TIG welding for a product if that is what a customer wants. The power supply for the Panasonic TA is set up for both processes, which is another advantage of the Valk Welding and Panasonic combination.”

Staying ahead
Kuipers notices that the competition from Eastern Europe is based mainly on large series. "That's why we're concentrating on the small to medium-sized series, on short delivery times and on high precision plating products. To response quickly and flexibly to market demand we'll need to continue to invest in the latest production technologies. We now have sufficient capacity for cutting, punching and edging technologies. We are planning to invest more in staff training and extending our service to assembly, so that we can supply the housings in completed form. That is a market trend that we have to follow."

Request for information
“Our decision to continue with Valk Welding as our welding robotisation supplier/partner was a good one.”

Can't be done" is not in their vocabulary. The references that we consulted here in the region all reflect the same favourable experiences.

Michael Kuipers
Manager Kuipers Blechtechnik

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