Simply smart aluminium welding

Competence and experience are the specific properties which, by means of Panasonic’s TAWERS technology, turned Roboteco-Italargon into a paramount benchmark for the turnkey supply of robotised cells and stations for arc welding. Aluminium welding is one of the main application domains which the company increasingly deals with. Alessandro Santamaria, Managing Director, Roboteco-Italargon, describes the technological state of the art offered to the market today for this application segment.

by Fabrizio Garnero

Know-how, knowledge, competence. These three synonyms, in the case of of Roboteco-Italargon, match with experience and make up the real added value of this company which has turned welding into a mission, starting, possibly as pioneers, to sell real process solutions more than “simple” machines. This was brought about, if not demanded, by the market, given that the potential users are mostly related to the automotive industry, but also by the strong belief that the company can and must sell market itself and its knowledge applied to welding, even before the technology needed to perform it, to be able to make the difference and to succeed. This is the farsighted (in some ways) vision of Alessandro Santamaria, CEO of Roboteco Spa, now known as Roboteco-Italargon; it is also the philosophy of this company which is constantly included among the most important global integrators of robots produced by the Japanese multinational Panasonic Welding Systems. Roboteco-Italargon is a company specialized in the supply of “turnkey” arc welding equipment. Their installations in Italy add up to more than 1,200 plants both in the General Industry and Automotive sectors, an enviable presentation which during the past few years allowed it to open up significant markets abroad, with important installations in Europe, the United States, South America and Asia.

The robot controls the melting bath
The application efforts of Roboteco-Italargon, both in the automotive and General Industry sectors, are concentrated in three main areas: light alloys (that is, aluminium), pre-coated plates with anti-corrosive properties and stainless steels.
These are the three fields where Panasonic TAWERS technology is finding greater use thanks to the undisputed advantages offered by the total robot-welder integration and the complete mastery that the Roboteco-Italargon technicians have in relation to every aspect of the process. We therefore took the opportunity to ask a professional who can take pride in over 25 years of passion for welding, namely, Mr. Santamaria, to talk about the technological developments that Roboteco-Italargon and Panasonic, in complete synergy, are setting up in these application areas with particular emphasis on aluminium welding. “I would like to say first of all that the success in production of a welding system designed specifically for the customer is always the result of intense pre-sale activities aimed at understanding the specific needs and of a competent and timely after-sales service, ” Santamaria stated, and went on:” Our secret is perhaps that of guaranteeing “turnkey” application solutions, with certified masks, with the highest safety margins and to follow in detail all the pre- and after-sales phases, including the fine tuning of the process parameters. This having been said, it is undeniable that being able to count on a nearly perfect product like the Panasonic Tawers already constitutes a good starting point. This is the first 100% dedicated arc welding robot that can directly control the melting bath thanks to the fact that a single CPU oversees both the management of the robot movements and the control of the electric arc, with no use of analogue-digital interfaces. The welding machine is managed as if it were a synchronized robot axis and this guarantees a precise control of the process parameters as well as a welding management integrated with the movements of the torch mounted on the robot”.

Aluminium welding: the state of the art
The Tawers technology is therefore a winner but, as mentioned, it is only the basis from which to study in a targeted way a new robotic system, which Roboteco-Italargon’s technicians can create based on the specific needs of customers, enriching it, every time, with the technical content and the solutions resulting from the application experience. “In order to weld aluminium, both in the case of extrusions and castings or moulded sheets, by using AWP (Active Wire feed Process) the “active” torch allows to feed the wire in consistently optimal conditions without any risk of coming across customary problems, such as, the wire sticking to the feed point, lack of fusion at the vertex, widespread porosity and splashes” Sanamaria further explains. “A special software called “Active AL” is in charge of fine-tuning the arc dynamics and maximizing the efficiency of the welding process, particularly in cases when the basic material needs to be welded with others lacking conformity or actually showing a high level of surface oxidation. By programming the forward motion of the torch with a “spiral oscillation” mode, the wire overhangs an elliptic section parallel to the direction of the welding (not orthogonal as in traditional methods) thereby ensuing an optimal mix of the welding bath with evident advantages in terms of aesthetics of the welding, much appreciated, for instance, when welding the chassis of motorbikes.
When welding elements of different thickness, the perfect integration between the robot’s control and the power generator allows an automatic fine-tuning of the welding parameters during the spiral rotation. This therefore allows to go from the high power needed on the thicker element to the more controlled power for the thinner one in a very fast and precise way, gauging the heat input, a decisive element when welding light alloys, in the best possible way”.

Automatic plant for welding stainless steel or aluminium tanks
As well as the consolidated capacity of supplying robotised welding solutions, Roboteco-Italargon can also confirm its historical know-how in the domain of dedicated machines, designing and manufacturing standard or customized welding solutions so as to satisfy clients’ requirements fully.
“In this context, one of our most recent projects”, Santamaria further recalls, “concerns a new plant meant for the Asian branch of an important client in the transportation tank manufacturing segment. The request was, being able to weld sheets and pipes of different materials, including aluminium alloys and stainless steels, in a range of thicknesses from 2 to 10 mm and with a welding quality such as to match the most stringent rules in the industry. The machine we designed to weld sheets and pipes up to 10,500 mm long and with a smaller diameter of up to 1,600 mm may be set up with different welding heads, based on clients’ requests”.
Roboteco-Italargon, besides designing the entire mechanical and structural part of the plant (weighing over 20 tons), also took care of the process management software, of the welding parameters and of remote monitoring and recording.