The production of sprinkler installations means customization, short delivery times and very competitive prices.
This sector, like many others, is therefore continuously searching for solutions involving automation. For that reason, Valk Welding has developed a number of systems that have a robot cutting the holes, fitting the couplings and welding the couplings on to the pipes. Based on years of experience, Valk Welding developed a new, unique concept, which was also purchased by the Swedish company Tyco Building Services Products AB. The new system has two separate robots to perform the handling, cutting and welding activities. It turned out to be the ultimate solution, which has a large number of advantages.
Tyco Building Services Products AB is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of fire safety products, such as sprinkler installations, water mist systems, gas systems, foam systems, fire extinguishers and fire detection systems. Every pipe, including the coupling, is made to exactly the right size. Tyco was the first manufacturer in Sweden to introduce 100% pre-fabrication, which has considerably reduced the on-site assembly time. The company currently distinguishes itself even further by reducing the delivery time to three weeks.
Use of semi-automation not sufficient
Until recently, Tyco Building Services Products used specialautomated systems to cut the holes in the long sprinkler installation pipes and also to weld the couplings on to the pipes. Each year, that easily adds up to over 200,000 couplings that are welded on to pipes. Manager Manufacturing Operation Ola Holgersson: “That process still involved too many actions and furthermore, the quality had to be improved, the capacity had to be increased and the automation had to provide a cost saving. So, two years ago, we started looking into the possibility of automating the production process with robots.” Tyco: “Valk Welding proposed number of parts adjustable system less less vulnerable."
New concept by Valk Welding
Tyco visited a number of installations of suppliers in Germany and the United Kingdom. Ola Holgersson: “We kept encountering installations which were far too complex.” Via the Swedish trade fair Elmia, Tyco came into contact with Valk Welding. It proposed making a number of parts manually adjustable to make the system less complex and less vulnerable. Tyco immediately had a good feeling about the concept and gave the go-ahead for the construction of the installation and the development of the software in the middle of 2016. Valk Welding uses two robots, one for handling and one for cutting and welding. What is unique in this case is that it is not the robots that move, but the pipes. A robot controlled positioner with a Schunk chuck jaw clamps and rotates the pipe and moves it into the correct position for the hole to be cut and the coupling to be welded. The simplicity can also be found in the way the couplings are fed. Valk Welding has used a storage feature in which the drawers are fitted at an angle, so that the couplings are always in an easily accessible position for the handling robot. The installation also has a supply conveyor with a storage feature, which is suitable for pipes of all diameters and of lengths up to 7.5 metres, and a removal conveyor with a removal station.
Simple to program
Application engineer Geoffrey van den Driesche from Valk Welding programmed the positioning of the pipes, the cutting of the holes and the welding of the couplings for all the diameters of pipe used by the customer. The software programs have been split into separate programs for the handling robot and the cutting and welding robot. Switching between the plasma torch and the welding torch is automatically created. Geoffrey van
den Driesche: “If the customer wants to use couplings of a different diameter, they can easily program the software with the aid of the macros that we have programmed for them.”
Support from Denmark
Service support was also a critical issue for the Swedish manufacturer. Ola Holgersson: “Valk Welding has proven that they can react quickly from their Danish branch office and that they provide excellent support from the Dutch head office. Marcel Dingemanse, Branch Manager Denmark: “We now have eight employees in Denmark, including a software specialist who recently underwent six months of training at the head office. From our branch office in Nørre Aaby (DK), we are now able to support our Swedish customers with every problem.”
Proof of Concept
Valk Welding sees great market potential for their automation concepts for manufacturers of sprinkler installations. Remco H. Valk: “By not focussing on 100% automation, we have developed a near ultimate solution, with a high degree of reliability and an interesting payback period. We see the system for Tyco Building Services Products as a proof of concept which incorporates all the experience we have gained over the last few years.” www.tfppemea.com
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