A welder wants a robot

At his request, a hand welding specialist working at OLEXA® is having a robotic system support him to perform certain repetitive complex tasks that are too difficult, too long, too hot, and too tiring for him to perform on his own.


Founded in 1927, OLEXA® is a family-owned company specialising in continuous presses. It has more than 2,000 machines in operation in 50 countries in Europe, America, Asia, and Africa.
In the boiler shop, an expert welder wanted to be replaced by a robot capable of performing long and heavy tasks.

OLEXA® (45 employees and €8 million in sales) designs and manufactures oil and grease extraction systems and other special industrial applications at its 4,000-square-meter plant in Arras, France.
Briefly, oil extraction consists of processing oil seeds (rapeseed, sunflower, flax, soybean, cotton, hemp, peanuts, etc.) to extract the oil.

OLEXA® provides turnkey units from seed receipt to storage of the finished products (oil and cake).
The conditioner is an essential preparation before oilseed pressing and dehydrates the material to be processed.

The seeds are continuously spread and stirred on a tray and are heated and mixed at several coupled levels (from 3 to 12 trays per conditioner). Each circular tray contains a double skin in which dry steam circulates between 150° and 160°C under 6 to 8 bars. At each stage, a blade stirs the seeds.

The construction of these boilers is complex as each bin, 16 mm in diameter, is lined with a 12.5 mm thick plate. This is pressed at the perimeter and has several 70-mm-diameter conical lugs distributed under the heating surface. These 25-mm lugs serve as spacers between the two plates. Conditioners with a diameter of 3.7 m require about 110 spiral or "slag" plugs to connect the plates.

"Previously, our welder made each joint in five minutes, which required four days of work for a large bin in difficult physical conditions. The operator was overwhelmed by these repetitive tasks, with difficult to maintain ergonomics and difficult thermal conditions, despite the protection provided. At his request, this work is now done by a robotic installation." said Guillaume Wartel, production manager at OLEXA®.

Designed by Valk Welding, the welding robot installation combines a TL-1800WGH robot with an integrated 450A welding power source and a programmable rotary manipulator with a 5-ton capacity. The cell completes each spiral weld in four and a half minutes, or the 110 welds on a large plate in eight and a half hours with an effective duty cycle of 97%.

"At the beginning of the cycle, the quick touch system which runs through the welding wire, locates the position of each weld to the millimetre," he continued.

"We are known for the quality of our conditioners, and some have been in use for more than four decades. There is no doubt that this brand-new robotic installation will enable us to maintain this quality in the long term," concludes Guillaume Wartel.

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