Robot prepares components for soldering

Flexible metal hoses and flexible elements are key components for many industries, including automotive, chemical, petrochemical and energy. Founded in 1854 and based in Pforzheim, Germany, Witzenmann specialises in the manufacturing of these components and is one of the world’s leading manufacturers.

The company offers a wide range of products, including metal hoses, expansion joints, flexible metal couplings and other flexible components. These products are used in various applications such as water and gas transmission, ventilation and air conditioning, as well as in the distribution of these media in the automotive industry.

In 1993, Witzenmann Opava was founded, which over time has become a full-fledged member of the Witzenmann Group, comprising of 22 plants in 17 countries.

Between 2008 and 2018, the Witzenmann Opava plant saw a significant increase in deliveries specifically to the automotive industry, at a time when unemployment levels were hitting record lows and finding any two hands to work was practically a superhuman task.

It was in 2018 that the Witzenmann plant in Opava decided that it was necessary to automate/robotise at least some of the tasks required for the production of components used in the automotive industry. These components form an important part of the portfolio of this branch.

Relatively small and seemingly simple components that need to be firmly joined before processing in the soldering furnaces became a challenge for the welding robot, which was selected as the ideal tool for streamlining production.

Richard Mareš, responsible for the project at Valk Welding, says: “These are assemblies where components of different thicknesses are joined together and components where it is difficult to guarantee ideal tolerances (especially the throat for the counter-beam assembly), which are necessary for reliably repeatable robotic TIG welding. It was therefore necessary to find procedures to eliminate these problematic points.”

“During extensive testing at Valk Welding’s technical centre, this was achieved and all tolerance imperfections in the production preparation were compensated for using appropriate programming techniques and excellent knowledge of the welding process.” adds Richard Mareš.

At the beginning of summer 2019, the first Frame-E robotic system could be installed, equipped with a Panasonic TM-1600G3 industrial robot and complete equipment for TIG welding (Panasonic YC-300BZ3 welding power supply with accessories), including a VWPR-TIG torch developed by Valk Welding. This robotic system is equipped with two workstations, access to which is limited by a quick-release door. This solution appears to be ideal for welding with relatively short cycle times and significantly eliminates non-productive times, thus allowing operators to operate both stations with minimal effort.

Quite quickly after the installation of its first robotic system, for welding, Witzenmann evaluated its benefits as very positive and decided to create a new position of Robotics/Automation Process Specialist/Manager, who is Mr. Martin Špiláček. Under his supervision, a total of three more robotic workstations for TIG welding of a similar concept were installed within both Witzenmann Opava and Witzenmann Slovakia.

Since appetite grows with food, there are still not enough hard-working hands, and positive examples in particular pull, Mr. Špiláček and his colleague Mr. Alexander Benda managed to implement 2 Techman cobots supplied by Valk Welding as flexible operators of CNC machine tools and bending machines during 2022. Thanks to the mobility of these cobots, it is possible to use them at the machines where it is needed.

Mr. Martin Špiláček summarizes, “In Valk Welding we have found a true partner for robotics. They guided us through all the initial pitfalls and enabled us to deploy our first robotic application in a relatively short time, which has significantly streamlined our production. Over the last 4 years, together with our partners from Valk Welding (thanks especially to the trio Richard Mareš, Jakub Kovář and Jan Šindel), we have successfully implemented several robotic and cobotic applications.”


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