Unmanned robot system with a 72-pallet buffer

Lacom Machinefabriek B.V. is a Dutch metal specialist with a unique combination of CNC turning, milling and automated robotic welding at its production site in Budel. In 1999, the company welcomed its first Valk Welding robot, and since the beginning of 2023, unmanned welding production has become a reality thanks to a new system with 72 pallet positions. Driek Lammers, Technical Director at Lacom, shares more about this system.

Lacom Machinefabriek B.V.

Together with Valk Welding and Kuunders Technoworks, Lacom has developed a unique concept for logistical automation. The robot system includes a 30-metre-long warehouse rack containing pallets with products attached in fixtures. "A shuttle drives through the warehouse unmanned, taking pallets from the warehouse and placing them on the welding robot system", explains Driek Lammers. "The welding robot recognises the product, measures it, locates the possible deviations of weld seams and then starts welding. Afterward, the shuttle transports the product away and picks up the next one. We determine the product sequence ourselves using a HMI."

Flexible and spacious storage

Thanks to automated logistics, Lacom can store products up to 7 metres high in any of its 72 pallet places. Each place can store one long product of up to 3 metres and 1,500 kg, or two cubical products of 1.5 metres per side. Lacom mainly produces small product series of complex welding assemblies (high mix, low volume), both for subcontracting and for its own welded parts of the Kinetic truck cranes, which the company has been producing completely in-house since 2020.

Faster programming with DTPS

Lacom uses the DTPS offline programming software in combination with the ARC-EYE seam tracking system. Driek Lammers says: "We were amazed. Offline programming, locating products with the tracking system and welding, it is phenomenal. The quality of the work is also great. As we wet paint a lot of products for end customers, we can definitely tell the difference from manual welding. Customers pay for quality and that is why we do not weld any part of our own products by hand."

At Lacom, one robot welds as much as 6 manual welders!

Unmanned welding

The Valk Welding robot cell is able to weld unmanned through the day and night, thanks to automatic wire and torch changing systems. "The robot can change six welding torches," says Driek Lammers, "you hardly see that anywhere else." Lacom will carry out 4,000 welding hours per year with one robot, which is equivalent to 10,000 hours of manual welding with six welders. "We did not want a larger welding department and there are no more available welders here. Now our throughput times are incredibly high, and even the set-up times on our manned welding robots have been reduced because we can now provide these robots with more fixture jigs per product type.”

Ready for the future

At the moment, Lacom is making more and more fixtures for an increasing number of new products for their supply work, and is preparing for even higher productivity. "Thanks to this system, we have a very high continuity and delivery reliability, which allows us to phase out more and more manned welding robots. When the robot reaches its maximum capacity, we can switch and scale up very quickly with low set-up costs, because everything is already prepared for a second Valk Welding robot installation", reveals Driek Lammers.

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