Welding with ‘Swiss Army Knife’

Valk Welding recently delivered a robotic welding cell to Chapel, a company in Northern France. Users consider this installation to be the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of welding equipment due to its flexibility and versatility. In fact, the cell can be adjusted for the production of a wide variety of cylinder rods and sleeves.


Since 1973, Chapel has been the leading French manufacturer offering the broadest range of hydraulic cylinders and autonomous pumps on the market. The company employs 320 people and has an annual turnover of 60 million euros. With eight production units, six in France and two in Germany, Chapel delivers 500,000 cylinders, 90,000 telescopic cylinders, and 80,000 hand pumps each year. Across five continents, these components power machinery and installations in agriculture, horticulture, road construction, energy, construction, public works construction, as well as material handling and airports.

Hydraulic cylinders

In Avesnelles, Northern France, Chapel’s factory specialises in single-acting and double-acting cylinders. With the machinery and fifty employees working three shifts, the company produces 150,000 hydraulic cylinders annually. A cylinder consists of a tube, a piston connected to a rod, and associated accessories such as inlet spigots and mechanical connecting elements. The cylinders vary in size, with outer diameters ranging from 40 mm to 150 mm and lengths from a few centimetres to several metres. At 250 bar, they move several hundreds of kilos to tens of tonnes and move at speeds of up to 1 m/s thanks to specific components in PTFE.

Efficient production and assembly

“Our production runs range from a dozen cylinders to several hundred pieces”, explains Benoit Delcambre, Site Manager. “To reduce lead times and work-in-progress, the cylinder tubes and rods are produced simultaneously as a set and then joined together during assembly. They receive their mechanical parts, some of which are welded, such as the hooks and ball joints required for operation,” he continues. Thanks to the new robot installation, production times have been reduced while simplifying the workflow on the shop floor. Designed by Valk Welding, this installation operates alternately on two workstations. It includes a six-axis TM-1400WG robot mounted on a linear track with a travel distance of 5.3 metres. This additional axis ensures higher positioning stability and faster adjustment of product lengths, with stroke lengths up to 2 metres.

Advanced technology for various cylinders

After an extensive study of the clamping tools, each station is equipped with two manipulators and two mobile counter-bearings to position and weld two cylinder sleeves or rods simultaneously. The interchangeable parts make it easy to weld different product lengths and diameters. “These technological choices enable versatile welding, even for long and complex cylinders, with a robot that can also adapt to thin sections like pipes (1 mm). Currently, more than a hundred programs specifically tailored to customer drawings are stored in memory. Each cylinder reference has its own program to ensure repeatability of production runs,” says Delcambre.

Improved productivity and quality

The new cell, which often combines welding with product rotation, offers shorter working times while maintaining weld consistency and quality. It offers the ability to switch between small, medium, and large production runs with rapid tool change times. Valk Welding’s robotic cell combines flexibility and versatility to respond optimally to new technical challenges. Currently, operators trained by Valk Welding have been programming two to three new products every week, and have been for the past eighteen months.

Progress and results

Benoit Delcambre emphasises: “As a real welder would, but faster and with greater agility, consistency, quality, and repeatability on cylindrical products, the installation provided by Valk Welding adapts quickly to the different production runs and generates productivity gain during assembly. As expected, we are reducing work-in-progress and gaining in production monitoring with the ability to manage hundreds of individual programs.”


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