Friday, September 18, 2009

Fanuc Supplies Coded Welding Robot To WA Lewis

Precision engineer and sheet metal fabricator, William A Lewis Engineering of Shrewsbury, has illustrated how versatile a single robot can become once its full potential is realised. A subcontractor predominantly to the defence sector, WA Lewis is using the robot cell to weld, at coded level, the widest range of materials and also for plasma-cutting plate up to 2in thick.

The Fanuc Robotics System 100 welding cell comprises a six-axis Fanuc Robotics Arcmate 100iB robot within a self-contained enclosure. Components loaded into jigs on a manually operated table are loaded outside the cell while the robot welds components within the cell. The system is designed and manufactured by Fanuc Robotics as a self-contained unit that is delivered ready assembled and only requires services to be connected before operation on site. Up until two years ago, WA Lewis had no automation and all work was manually welded by its, largely coded, welders.

Chris Eardley, project engineer at WA Lewis, said: 'The company had no previous experience of robotics and its introduction was looked upon with trepidation by the existing team. 'I had experience from a previous employer and realised the positive impact a welding robot would have on the business. 'It was a major investment by the company and by keeping the team involved with progress and by loading the "less interesting mainly volume" jobs onto the robot, it became clear very quickly just how important it was to the business,' he added. More than 100 jobs are now programmed to run on the System 100 with volume products including aluminium window housings for armoured vehicles and spare wheel carriers for military off-road vehicles.

'Since we've had the Fanuc Robotics welding cell our business in this area has trebled,' said chief accountant, Liam O'Neill. Although the robot was ready for operation after delivery in a matter of hours, in reality it has taken 12 months to fully integrate it with operations. This process has included having the robot cell coded through Lloyds for welding various thicknesses of materials to military specifications. 'Time savings and consistency of quality are both significant benefits we have received from the implementation of the System 100,' said Eardley. 'One example is a component that took two operators three days to produce 10 components - we are now able to complete 27 components in three hours.

'In addition, it allows our skilled operators to concentrate on lower volume specialist welding while a semi-skilled operator manages the robot cell. 'We laser cut all our components in-house so together with the jigs, which we also design and manufacture, and the Fanuc robot's high degree of repeatability, we are assured of a high-quality weld every time,' he added. Now in operation for approaching two years the robot cell runs three shifts, five days a week and has not required any unscheduled maintenance attention.

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