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Coded welding robot proves its versatility at WA LewisCoded welding robot proves its versatility at WA Lewis

Written by JOC, posted in Client News on September 16, 2009

Precision engineer and sheet metal fabricator, William A Lewis Engineering Limited of Shrewsbury has illustrated just 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 two inches thick.

The FANUC Robotics System 100 welding cell comprises a six axes 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 which is delivered ready assembled and only requires services to be connected before operation on site.

Only two years ago WA Lewis had no automation at the company and all work was manually welded by its, largely coded, welders. Chris Eardley, Project engineer at WA Lewis, comments, “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. “

had experience from a previous employer and realised the positive impact a welding robot would have on the business.

Over one hundred 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. Chief Accountant, Liam O’neill, explains, “Since we’ve had the FANUC Robotics welding cell our business in this area has trebled – we’re so much more competitive on these jobs now that’s its proved to be the most cost effective production solution we’ve invested in. So good in fact we plan to have another cell in the near future.”

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,” continues Chris Eardley, “one example is a component that took 2 operators 3 days to produce 10 components – we are now able to complete 27 components in 3 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. This has certainly proved to be a positive point with our customers as illustrated by repeat business.”

Now in operation for approaching two years the robot cell runs 3 shifts, 5 days a week and has not required any unscheduled maintenance attention.