Running hot & cold

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Taco is able to continually adjust the rolls to match the various lengths of the vessels it welds.

Manufacturer employs welding technology to ensure hydronics components can take the pressure

September 2016 - Battling for control over the thermostat isn’t just a cold war between spouses. A 2015 survey conducted by Survey Sampling International (SSI) for a Phoenix-based commercial cleaning company revealed that three out of five employees tinkered with the thermostat unbeknownst to their co-workers. Hydronic heating and cooling systems have a long track record for putting a stop to the tug-of-war over temperature. And the growing market segment has been a mainstay for Taco Comfort Solutions.

For more than 80 years, the Cranston, Rhode Island-based company has developed and manufactured components for hydronic systems and helped to advance the technology for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional uses. These systems circulate water through tubing in floors, ceilings or convectors along the walls to heat or cool a structure’s surfaces.

Today hydronic systems are considered one of the most efficient, green technologies available. Users prize it for its ability to achieve a living or working space that is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. Aside from achieving comfort, what’s driving growth for the system are contractor awareness, application flexibility and cost effectiveness.  

Taco is also growing. With annual sales that exceed $100 million, the third-generation, family-owned company has restructured its management team, established new operation centers and invested in equipment and processes to continue expanding its business reach. The company’s progressive approach includes a new welding solution for Taco’s heat transfer division. 

FFJ 0916 welding image1

This Koike elevated side beam manipulator with dual welding heads and turning rolls accommodates Taco’s need for fast setups and quick adjustments.

“We make pressure vessels for the heating and cooling industry,” says Matthew Mello, manufacturing welding engineer for Taco. “The component requires us to weld two elliptical heads onto a round shell. We were using a 30-year-old machine that was designed and built in house. It was getting tired and outdated. We knew it was time to buy a new piece of equipment.”

Taco’s welding supply representative, Total Welding Supply of East Freetown, Massachusetts, pointed the company in the direction of Koike Aronson Inc./Ransome. The Arcade, New York-based manufacturer produces welding positioning equipment as well as plasma, oxyfuel and laser cutting machines. “We were somewhat familiar with Koike because we have two of their plasma cutting burn tables,” Mello says. “That equipment has served us well. But we were not really aware of the welding side of the house.”

Mello credits Koike with being “competitive in pricing. They made it clear they wanted to give us exactly what we were looking for and they gave us great advice on new technology that was available.” 

Constantly moving

A tour of Koike’s factory and further conversation helped Taco visualize the end result. It makes its pressure vessels primarily from mild carbon steel 1⁄8 in. to 1⁄2 in. thick. “These vessels might be as small as a football or the size of car,” Mello says. “We needed to be able to make quick adjustments and fast setups. Time is money. We’re making a round part that requires us to weld the girth, which means the vessel is constantly moving.”

“Anytime a customer brings a project to us, we ask a lot of questions,” says Cliff White, welding product manager for Koike. “The answers allow us to build an optimal machine for the application at hand. For Taco, it came down to what seams needed to be welded, whether they were single or double and how quickly they needed to change out from one vessel to another. The design was driven by weld configuration and application.”

Koike custom designed and built an elevated side beam manipulator with dual welding heads and turning rolls that could accommodate a vessel 60-in. diameter with 130 in. between the two heads. Ongoing discussion with Taco during the build phase allowed Koike to make several modifications that “better fit their application,” White notes. 

For example, he continues, “We relocated the welding and machine controls and changed the turning rolls and mobile cars to accommodate two different positions. We engineered the rolls to adjust in and out to address different vessel lengths. Roll-to-roll distance can now be set at 28 in. or 48 in.—from the center of the wheel on the driver to the center of the wheel on the idler.”

FFJ 0916 welding image2

Taco sent samples of the tanks it typically welds to Koike so it could approve the welding equipment’s capabilities before shipping.

Because the vessel includes a long seam weld joint, Koike incorporated larger-diameter tires for a smoother revolution. White notes that the customer “sent us sample tanks that allowed us to perform the necessary welds to approve the equipment before it was shipped.” Koike integrated the machine’s sub arc and flux recovery equipment with the equipment’s controls. 

Taco installed the Koike side beam welder earlier this year. The manufacturer produces 75 pressure vessels a day and weld quality is crucial. With manufacturing, distribution and sales facilities in Cranston, Fall River, Massachusetts, and Ontario, Canada, Taco sells direct to OEMs. It also supports trade professionals in North America through a distribution network of independent manufacturers’ representatives in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Middle East and Asia.

“We’re ASME certified for pressure vessels,” Mello says. “An independent authorized inspector is on-site daily to ensure we are building and welding per code requirements. Each unit is also pressure tested to ensure there are no leaks and that it can withstand the pressure it is designed for. The Koike side beam welder supports the quality of welds we require. It has run flawlessly since the day it was installed and it’s been a real time saver.

“We are running faster and more accurately,” he continues. “Adjustments are easier and we’re able to make them continually during the welding process. We weld all day long so these are important features. Our operators love it. The entire process with Koike from the initial quote to their on-site inspection of the machine has gone smooth as glass.”

For Koike it’s all in a day’s work. “If a design doesn’t fit their application,” affirms White, “it’s no good for them or us.” FFJ


  • Koike Aronson Inc./Ransome
    Arcade, New York
    phone: 800/252-5232
  • Taco Comfort Solutions Inc.
    Cranston, Rhode Island
    phone: 401/942-8000

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