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New technology promises productivity boost

The star of the show – the KWR1001 robotic welder

Nick Barrett had a chance to view the latest in state-of-the-art fabrication equipment when he visited Kaltenbach’s International Partners in Steel event in Germany. Kaltenbach’s healthy order book reflects the rapidly growing popularity of constructional steelwork worldwide, he learned.

Productivity and efficiency improvements made across the UK’s constructional steelwork sector in recent years have been made possible by continuous investment in state-of-the-art machinery by steelwork contractors. Manufacturers have responded to this eager uptake of the best equipment they can offer by investing in research and development themselves, producing steady and sometimes dramatic improvements in the performance of the available technology.

Typical structural saw and drill lines have doubled output capability over the past 15 years. Significant gains are being claimed for several new products that were on show at Kaltenbach’s hosting of the IPS event at their HQ in Lorrach, Germany, in April. Faster times for new machines executing familiar processes were claimed and some new processes such as robotic welding and contour marking attracted a lot of attention from visitors.

Visitors from growing steelwork markets across the world attended, some 3,000 people in total. There was a large group of visitors from Spain for example, which Kaltenbach says is a very fast growing market for their products. Machinery is being exported across the world, seemingly to anywhere that has a growing construction market, and waiting lists are reported for most machines in the product range – even reconditioned machines are reportedly hard to get.

The new solid carbide drill and contour marking drilling

New high speed plasma plate processing on the KF2512

Robotic plasma coping with new plasma etching

The three-day IPS event brings together over 20 leading steel processing companies every two years. Several new structural fabrication machines and processes were launched that claim dramatic gains for fabricators. Star of the show was the newly introduced KWR1001 robotic structural fabrication welder, a joint venture between Kaltenbach and robotic welding specialists Cloos. These welders are claimed to reduce typical welding process times by up to 80% and fabricators were heard to welcome the prospect of removing the last human potential bottleneck in their production process.

Kaltenbach Managing Director Manfred Saenger claimed a world first for fabricators in fully automated, dedicated structural welding with this machine. He said: “We have concentrated in recent years on further advancing material through-put efficiency, combined with user friendly ease of control and a range of flexible machine options to suit budget and application. CNC has been extensively deployed and in the past four years we have introduced robotics for some processes where appropriate. Our new products give some very significant benefits for structural fabricators.”

The robotic welder can fully integrate into an overall CNC, CAD based structural steel fabrication process, with dramatically reduced operator costs per tonne. The welder is supplied with customer specific rig set up, comprising heavy duty, rotatable work holding face plates, one fixed horizontally and the other adjustable, with a multi axis robot driven welding head, horizontally traversable.

Special MOSES software generates the welding sequence, which can be readily adapted to suit customer specific requirements. The robot is said to be able to automatically assess and allow for typical industry material tolerance variations while ensuring the optimum weld.

Significant productivity gains were being claimed for other new machines. For example, a 400% increase in plate processing speed is claimed for a new double headed plasma plate processing centre, the KF2512, which with a 12 tool carousel cuts complex profiles, drills, taps and countersinks holes some 400% faster than its single headed counterpart.

It is said to be ideal for fittings or any plate based production. Cutting capacity thickness is 6mm to 50mm, with a finished plate capacity of up to an extra large 2,000mm x 2,500mm.

Also on show was an alternative approach to fittings or plate based production in the shape of the KPS506 punch, shear and drill, steel strip-fed system which incorporates an integrated ‘plasma profiling’ option for the first time. The KC1201 robotic plasma coping system which cuts complex profiles now offers new ‘plasma etching’ to provide positional marking for fittings and/or alpha numeric identification.

Structural drilling speeds are said to have been increased by a factor of three by using a new solid carbide drill bit on what Kaltenbac say are the world’s fastest structural drilling machines, with the KDS1015 three-axis drilling system demonstrated. The specially developed drill bit is solid carbide for its full length. The new set up is said to be twice as fast as Tungsten Carbide Tipped systems and five times faster than HSS. An added benefit is the long life of the drill bit that can be sharpened many times.

This machine also demonstrated Kaltenbach’s new DSTV compliant ‘contour marking’ high speed rotating tool which etches either the outline or corner positions onto material as a positional indicator for follow-on welding.

Among other equipment on show was the latest manipulation, column and beam bending, straightening and cambering machines from Swiss manufacturer Stierli Berger. Gietart displayed a new, completely restyled state-of-the-art shot blast and automated paint system.

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