Frames for Track rollers on the welding robot

Strong ambitions for growth and the desire for higher welding quality prompted VTS Track Solutions, producer of Crawler Track Undercarriages, to take the step towards welding robotization. With a welding robot on an XYZ construction that serves two working stations, the company has now gone through a major professionalization and efficiency improvement with respect to welding. “Because the welding robot forces you to make product design as robot-friendly as possible, we have adjusted the dimensions in the preliminary phase so that openings, radii, corners etc. fall within the tolerances that the robot can handle,” says Lesley Laenen, who as IWT- and welding robot programmer, coordinates the welding technical aspects within the company and is responsible for welding automation.

VTS Track Solutions

VTS Track Solutions is specialized in the development, production and maintenance of crawler track undercarriage for OEM suppliers as well as end customers. The company started 11 years ago as a production company within the Verhoeven Group and is currently going through a professionalization phase. Operations manager Joep Schoenmakers: "We see sufficient market potential to expand the production numbers from 300 tracked undercarriages to 400 units on an annual basis." This is why VTS has put its first welding robot installation into operation.

Assembly and welding are the core business

Lesley Laenen: “Assembling and welding are the mainstream in the production, where we make the center frames and track rollers for the track undercarriages. We have 6 employees who assemble and weld and 1 full-time welder, supplemented by 2 temps. In order to achieve growth, we do not want to hire extra welders, but only assemblers. The foreman and 1 assembler are being trained to become operators."

Working according to quality standard

“We build in accordance with the machine guidelines. All our assemblers / welders are NEN-EN-ISO 9606-1 qualified. In the welding department, we will increasingly work according to the NEN-EN-ISO 3834-2 quality standard and possibly get certified in this in the future. The NEN-EN-ISO 5817 is a standard where the quality levels (B, C, D) for welding imperfections such as excess thickness are stated. More and more customers are demanding this visual check and for ourselves we also want to meet at least level (C) on average, "explains Lesley Laenen.

Moving toward robotic welding

A lack of professional welders was one of the reasons for VTS to take the step to welding robotization. Lesley Laenen: “But that is only one aspect. With a welding robot we have perfect control of the welding quality. Moreover, the welding robot makes a continuous weld over the full 360º of the center frame. Something that can't be done manually. Of course, the fact that the cycle times at the robot are 2.5 times lower plays a decisive role in the investment.”

“The welding robot forces you to look critically at the preparatory stage"

Lesley Laenen

Adjusted prep stage

VTS has found that the accuracy of the supplied bent and cut parts must fall within the tolerances that are acceptable to the robot, so that the assembler has to weld as little as possible in advance. Lesley Laenen: “Because we still use many weld seam shapes such as v seams and outside corner welding, problems can arise in the robotized process. In contrast to the manual welding process, where the welder has control over his weld pool over the entire weld seam and can continuously correct his speed, welding movement and possibly other parameters, the robot cannot. That is why we have adjusted the dimensions in the preliminary process in such a way that openings, radii, angles etc. fall within the tolerances that the robot can handle.”

Unique welding programs for the robot

The welding robot installation, which Valk Welding has installed at VTS, consists of 2 working stations along which a Panasonic TM-2000 WGHIII welding robot on an XYZ construction moves along a track. Lesley Laenen: “Our goal is to be able to transfer the welding program for the frames and slides to the welding robot without corrections. A requirement for this is that the welding robot must be able to follow the weld exactly. The offline program DTPS from Valk Welding with accompanying software (Arc Sensor and Quick Touch) allows for this. Only the welding parameters for new products are still adjusted at the robot. Because reality (the online world) does not always correspond with the virtual world (offline in DTPS), we use Touch Sense (Quick Touch) to measure deviations in the product with the welding wire or gas cup (XYZ direction) and where necessary make corrections in the program. During welding, the Arc Sense software ensures that the welding robot keeps the centere of the seam in real time. Arc Sense is a system that measures the Amperage in the weld pool with pendulum movements and corrects any deviation directly in the controls.

Thick Plate welding software

A highly efficient software module that is optionally available for DTPS is the Thick Plate welding software from Panasonic. Thick Plate technology plays a role in welding robot applications where thick, heavy plate parts are used and where large welding heights are required. These are welded in multiple layers starting from a cross section of A8 in 3 layers or more. The manual programming of multiple layers provides a multitude of teaching points and is therefore extremely time-consuming. When applying the Thick Plate software, only the first layer is defined , after which the software automatically builds up all the other layers. "The use of Thick Plate software therefore makes the entire programming a lot faster and easier," concludes Lesley Laenen.

Switched to Valk Welding welding wire

To exclude all risks that could negatively influence welding quality, Valk Welding always provides a complete concept with components developed in-house, such as a welding cable package, robot torch, pneumatic shock-sensor , calibration and wire transport system. The quality of the welding wire plays a big role here. Based on positive test results with Valk Welding welding wire, VTS has also decided to use Valk Welding SG3 welding wire in the manual welding department. Lesley Laenen: "It feeds better and has less projections than what we were used to, and as a result we have less malfunction and post-processing." www.vtstracksolutions.com

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