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Welding

Apply heat

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Automated multi-station, 11-robot drilling, routing, bonding, heat treatment system for complex, geometric-shaped parts with material handling, vision orientation and data acquisition for Tier 1 automotive parts supplier.

Behind the appliances and automobiles we use every day lies technology that is over a century in the making

March 2019 - When you watch a robot work, each movement is directed by software using algorithms to complete preprogrammed tasks. For more than 135 years, Taylor-Winfield has been the behind-the-scenes machine builder and system integrator supporting output of everything from hammers, dishwashers and vehicles—along with a plethora of other appliance and consumer electronics products. The company works with the other manufacturers and parts producers to figure out the best way to mass-produce a customer’s end products.

“You’re not going to see the Taylor-Winfield brand on an item like a refrigerator or on a vehicle, but we’ve played a major role in getting that finished product produced in our customers’ factories,” says Blake Rhein, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company specializes in various forms of material joining processes, including resistance welding, arc welding, linear friction welding, induction heating and automated assembly. “Contrary to what you might think of when someone talks about welding—heat and sparks—that’s not always the desired result,” says Rhein. “Have you ever watched one of those car commercials showing a long succession of robots welding car doors to frames? All those sparks flying around are purely for a visual effect. When any of us [at Taylor-Winfield] see those kinds of commercials, we joke about it. Sparks are not always the result of a good weld, no matter how cool it looks.”

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Automated robotic arc and resistance welding multi-station work cell with part vision orientation, bowl feeders and material handling for primary automotive customer parts.

Taylor-Winfield helps companies like Black & Decker, General Electric, Whirlpool, Electrolux, FCA Chrysler, Honda and Toyota to fulfill their visions. Their engineers work with their customers’ technical teams to design a machine that will help produce a desired part or product.

“We do the automation side, whether robotic or by designing a synchronized process for moving parts through the manufacturing process, while using our welding expertise (resistance, arc, laser and other welding processes) to understand which automation solution best fits the purpose,” Rhein explains.

Understanding flexibility

Flexibility inherent to a successful welding or induction heating cell requires design and engineering that allows for multiple part changeovers so the customer doesn’t lose production time or part count.

“Induction heating is used during brazing and soldering processes as a non-contact heating method for joining electronic components and other parts. These non-contact heating processes are incorporated into each welding or part heat treatment cell design,” says Rhein. “Our engineers work with our customers’ engineers to determine proper placement and orientation of the moving parts.”

Taylor-Winfield works to integrate robots to achieve whatever welding or heat treatment processes are needed for the customer’s application, including linear friction welding. “It’s all joining, heat treatment, brazing … metal welding and heat treatment applications where we are uniquely qualified and suit our background,” Rhein adds.

This designing and detail engineering of automated processes is achieved over months of back and forth between Taylor-Winfield and the customer. “The integration component is important because being able to see the entire picture of what the customer wants to accomplish is difficult. Bringing our core welding and induction heating processes together with a fully integrated automated solution for a customer’s production needs is where we stand out.”

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An automated vision inspection system is integrated into a robotic material handling system for attribute and quantitative part analysis.

Taylor-Winfield also sells to other integrators that use its welders and induction heating power supplies to incorporate into automated solutions for their own customers. “[Our competitors] know we can bring that expertise to their system,” Rhein says. “Consistent repeatability while maintaining part quality and a safe work environment—in an automated work cell that can perform to the customers’ expectations and needs—is really something special to see come together and operate.”

Design changes

An industrial customer recently came to Taylor-Winfield in need of a new compressor design for refrigeration and other applications. “This design change was in part due to a government mandate requiring greener technology,” recalls Rhein. “That customer came to us with a plastic 3D-printed model of all the components that made up their new compressor design. They said, ‘We need to figure out how to join these parts because the metallurgical chemistry is different from alloys we’ve used before. How do we do this?’”

Not only were the metals different, he says, but also the customer was working with a new configuration of parts that had to fit together differently from before. “They needed to achieve this new part design all while doubling their production rate without losing quality and part fit-up,” Rhein says.

In its own research and development laboratory, Taylor-Winfield’s engineers tested the parts using resistance, laser and arc welding processes and vision systems for part orientation. “From start to finish, it took roughly six months in our laboratory to validate the process required to meet their production goals,” he says. Customers present new parts and products and might indicate that they never joined two particular metals before, but they need to create a welding process around it that can withstand all the normal destructive tests.

In addition to part integrity, Taylor-Winfield designs machines and systems around customers’ manufacturing processes to achieve desired outcomes, parts-per-hour, machine uptime—all while keeping labor involvement at a minimum.

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This automated multi-gun resistance welding cell was custom designed to complete 20 welds with a 5 second part-to-part cycle time.

Checking boxes

“We have to account for whether parts will be loaded and unloaded automatically or if someone will physically be doing those tasks,” explains Rhein. “We go back and forth with our customers until all the boxes are checked and we both agree on the correct path moving forward.”

In another example, the company sent 12 different systems to a customer in Mexico, where regions of the country are experiencing a labor shortage. “There’s a negative unemployment rate and they can’t find enough people to do the jobs, so automation is the only way they can achieve their production goals,” he says.

Taylor-Winfield not only has its own standard and custom-designed resistance welding and induction heat treatment products but also designs and builds complete systems that can include hundreds of other companies’ products.

“We don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” says Rhein. “We don’t manufacture robots or vision cameras. We become the integrator for what the customer requires and we concept and design each automated system until our customer has the solution they need.” FFJ

Sources

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