Welding robot solves shortage of skilled welders

Rising wage costs and a shortage of skilled welders are forcing manufacturers, such as Northern Ireland’s NC-Engineering, producer of Industrial and Agricultural Equipment, to invest in production automation. Director Robert Nicholl, turned to Valk Welding for a welding automation solution. “They were the only company able to offer a flexible automation solution for our high-mix, low-volume production situation. With their expertise in this area, Valk Welding is one of the best,” believes Robert Nicholl.

NC Engineering

As in several European countries, young people in Ireland are more likely to choose studies over Vocational qualifications. As a result, there is a growing shortage of welders, plumbers, painters, etc. In addition, wage costs in Northern Ireland have risen sharply over the past five years and the supply of welders from middle European countries has been reduced by the Brexit. “For us, that was the moment to invest heavily in, among other things, laser cutting with automatic loading and parts removal, bar feeding to the CNC turning machines and welding robotization. In our search for a suitable robot integrator, we discovered that most providers focus on volume production. In doing so, the flexible welding robot solution offered by Valk Welding with offline programming of small series was a real game changer for us,” says Robert Nicholl of the family-owned company. “From the many examples Valk Welding showed and what we saw on the Vimeo videos, their specialism in the field of small volume production was clearly evident.”

Welding robot on an FRAME-E setup

TThe total of 76 assembles that NC-Engineering wanted to weld on the welding robot differ in size, complexity, and welding time. “Where one product is welded in 1 minute, another requires 150 minutes of welding time. To find a system suitable for most parts and subassemblies, we ended up with two side-by-side workstations with a clamping length of 3.5 meters in a movable E-frame and a Panasonic TM2000WG3 welding robot on a track. In terms of capacity and capabilities, suitable for robotic welding of most of our parts and subassemblies.” With two clamping stations, the welding robot can continue welding while the product is changed in the other station.

Further expanding capacity

Out of the 150 employees of the family business, 3 employees are fully occupied with the welding robot cell. “One employee is responsible for the offline programming with DTPS, and one colleague is the full-time operator at the welding robot cell on the shop floor. A third employee develops the welding jigs and also takes care of the preparation, so that all materials are present at the welding robot cell on time”.

Expanding capacity

Since the deployment of the welding robot cell in 2018, the number of products welded with the robot has grown significantly. “To further expand the capacity, we are now considering investing in a second welding robot installation, where we have chosen an FRAME-H setup. We want to weld the less complex parts on that, so that more space is freed up again for complex parts on the existing welding robot installation.


Advantages of fixed frame setups

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