The Benefits of Automated Welding in Three Dimensions

Ideal Welding Machine - Marlin SteelFor most automated welders, the welding heads can only move along a flat plane. You can program X and Y coordinates into the welder, but all too often, there are vertical welds that need to be completed as well.

For the vast majority of automated welders, a vertical weld requires that either:

  1. The weld is handled manually, slowing the welding process down which drives up production time and cost and reduces quality and negating the advantages of automation.
  2. The piece being welded is removed and re-positioned manually so that the “vertical” weld can be done. This reduces the chance of a quality part since when removing the part from the work holding fixture, it is time consuming and likely to cause accretive tolerance issues.

Neither of the above solutions are truly optimal. Both require manual labor to work around the limitations of the automated welder, and carry with them all of the risks associated with doing the weld work manually.

This is why an automated welder with three-dimensional weld capabilities is the best way to ensure the best weld quality in metal forms. Thankfully, with the arrival of the IDEAL welder, Marlin Steel now has a welding machine with the ability to handle welds on the X, Y, and Z axes.

Benefits of 3D Welding

Marlin Steel Ideal Welding Machine - 10 ft tablesBecause the IDEAL welder can move in three dimensions, it can perform all of the welding actions that are required to complete large parts (10’ feet x 4’!). This ensures a consistent quality of welds from the first part that goes into the machine to the last.

Unlike people who get fatigued after performing repetitive tasks for hours on end, an automated welder will never miss an intersection. Not only that, but automated welders can complete weld operations much faster than a human can, reducing the chances that blisters and other heat stress deformities will occur.

Also, because the machine can move the welding head vertically as well as left and right, there is no need for a human operator to move the piece being welded, which means there is no downtime as the part is manually adjusted so that the welder can reach a specific intersection. Less downtime equals more welds being completed, which means more parts being finished per hour than what would be possible if the machine required manual assistance to reach certain intersections of the parts being welded (and far more than doing it by hand would).

For many parts that require a high level of precision in the final dimensions of the product, the IDEAL welder is perfect for performing welds. Not only does an automated welder never miss an intersection that it’s been programmed to weld, but with the minimal deformity of the welds made by this machine, large-scale welding of parts for a product line can be made almost effortless. Every weld done by the IDEAL welder will be consistent, from the first weld to the 10,000th weld, so delicate parts with specific shape requirements can be mass-produced using one of these machines.

Bringing an IDEAL Level of Safety

One of the biggest benefits of a 3D welding capable machine is that it provides a greater level of safety than a standard machine that needs manual adjustment and assistance in completing complex welds.

With a machine that only welds along a flat plane, human operators have to step in and help the machine by hand flattening the part. Sometimes they warp the part too much one way or the other and certainly stress all the welds almost breaking them.

With a 3D-capable welder, the operator can safely stay away from the part being processed, and minimize his or her exposure to welder-related work injuries.

In short, the three-dimensional weld capabilities of the IDEAL welder makes weld jobs quicker, more consistent, and safer than ever before. To learn more about our new automated welder and how it affects the manufacture of your wire forms, contact Marlin Steel today!

Controlling the IDEAL Automated Welder

Ideal Automated Welder - Marlin SteelFor any piece of automated manufacturing equipment, whether it is a metal wire bending arm, a precision laser-cutter, or an extraordinarily sophisticated welder with multiple adjustable welding heads, it takes both hardware and software in order for the machine to work right.

The control mechanism for the Versaweld CSR102-1230-3-MFDC NC Jig Welding System from IDEAL is no exception to this rule. In fact, this revolutionary new welding machine possesses two different sets of controls: one for controlling the motion of the machine (CNC) and a separate, dedicated control for the welding heads themselves.

Controlling the Machine

The CNC controller for the machine itself is a SINUMERIK 840 DSL 32-Bit-Microprocessor from Siemens. What does this particular controller do? It enables:

  • Digital control of up to 32 axes. Basically, it can control every joint of the machine at the same time, in different directions.
  • The ability to store 500 different motion programs on an included 1 gigabyte flash card.
  • Teach-in operation for programming the travel of the machine’s parts.
  • Program testing and correction.
  • Diagnostics of current production run.

These are just a few of the capabilities of the machine controller that the IDEAL welder uses to control the movements of the machine’s arms while in operation. This device boasts a LCD display with an alphanumeric keyboard to make it easier for the operator to program operations manually when needed.

This control mechanism also sports a USB-based interface to allow the import or export of data.

Controlling the Welder

The operations for the welding heads are managed by a separate control mechanism than the one responsible for the movement of the “arms.”

Ideal Welding Machine - Marlin Steel

The weld controller is responsible for controlling:

  • Weld, squeeze, and hold time,
  • Memory for weld programs,
  • Up and Down slope,
  • Pulse weld operation; AND
  • Heat percentage (current intensity).

By placing these operations on a separate controller, the IDEAL welder is able to have millisecond-fast operations for the welding head, even as the arm is in motion.

The controller for the welder is a Medium Frequency DC (MFDC) Welding Controller. It is the 1,000-cycles technology of this controller that enables the welder to achieve its 2/1,000 of a second weld speed, allowing for a higher-quality surface finish of welded parts and reducing spatter, sharps, and other undesirable deformations to a welded part.

Overall, the highly sophisticated controllers and the software that run them allow the Versaweld NC Jig welder to fulfill a variety of welding tasks that would be deemed impossible for other machines. With the unit now on the Marlin Steel manufacturing floor being the only one outside of Germany, we are in a unique position among American manufacturers to bring quality engineered quick with the best quality welds.

The IDEAL Welder’s Turning Heads

Ideal Automated Welder - Marlin SteelWhen we were on the hunt for a new automated welding machine, we knew we needed a machine that would be quick, reliable, and versatile. With the ability to finish welds in two milliseconds, the CSR102 from IDEAL definitely met the quickness requirement. Also, the ability to make welds in three dimensions allow this new welder to make welds at every intersection in a wire basket by itself, which translates into incredibly consistent, reliable welds.

But, what about the versatility of the machine? What features help to make this machine able to adapt to nearly any welding job?

Lower and Upper Z-Axis Welding Heads

The use of four welding heads sounds like a good start to ensuring versatility. That’s right, the CSR102 comes with two pairs of welding heads, one pair on the upper Z axis and one pair for the lower Z axis.

All of the welding heads, both for the top and the bottom are equipped with servomotors that allow for height adjustments on the fly. Needless to say, this feature is invaluable for objects that have welds which need to be made at multiple heights – not on a flat plane. The upper welding heads can shift up to 400 mm up and down, while the lower welding heads can move up to 200 mm.

Two pairs of welding heads allow the CSR102 to make welds along both the upper and lower areas of a given part or wire form with ease. Sheet metal fabrications like housings and consoles and electronic panels in three dimensions are also welded precisely, consistently and fast.

The Pincer Welding Head

Ideal Automated Welder - Marlin Steel Beyond the upper and lower z-axis welding heads, the CSR102 also possesses a special pincer-type welding head that it uses to make vertical welds.

This particular head comes equipped with two separate servos, one to raise and lower the head and one to allow it to rotate 359° of a full circle! One of two heads that can swivel 359 degrees.

A typical welding machine can only do welds at a 90° angle. If all of your welds are taking place on perfectly square forms, this is fine. However, for rounded shapes, such as our round wire baskets or wire guards or wavy shapes, completing intersection welds can be tricky if you can’t rotate the welding head to match the actual shape of the basket or wire product. This often leads to production craftsman having to do welds manually, or trying to move the part into place for the machine to weld while it’s in operation (which can be insanely dangerous and we recommend that you avoid doing this).

The free range of motion that the pincer welding head enjoys allows it to complete complicated, rounded welds quickly and efficiently, without the interference of the operator. This keeps the operator away from the moving machinery and out of harm’s way, while minimizing the amount of time it takes to complete weld operations and time spent adjusting parts in the machine.

Thanks to the number of welding heads that the IDEAL welder employs, and the free range of motion that the attached servomotors grant them, the Versaweld CSR102 certainly lives up to the versatility implied by its name.

See how our new welding system can be used for your own production lines today!

An IDEAL Welding Speed

Ideal Automated Welder at Marlin SteelRecently, we proudly announced the arrival of a new IDEAL welding systems welder to the Marlin Steel production facility. In that announcement, we briefly discussed a few of the benefits that this machine will bring to our company’s manufacturing capabilities.

Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the advantages that the welding speed of this new automated welder provides, but first…

How Fast is it?

The Versaweld CSR102-1230-3-MFDC NC Jig Welding System from IDEAL Welding Systems can complete a weld in two milliseconds. That’s 2/1,000 of a second. That is literally many times faster than a human eye blink (which takes 100-400 milliseconds). That’s right, in the time it takes you to blink, this welding system could, in theory, complete up to 50 weld operations.

Most other automated welding machines take 60/1,000 of a second to complete a weld.

What are the Benefits of This Speed?

Ideal Welder - Marlin SteelFaster welds, in and of themselves, mean that this machine can complete more welds than a traditional welding machine. In the time it would take a standard automated welder to complete 2 welds, our new IDEAL welder could finish 60 welds. This means that this welder could significantly increase our production capacity.

However, the ability to complete more welds in less time is only the beginning of the advantages offered by the two millisecond weld speed of our new automated welder.

By finishing weld operations so quickly, the Versaweld CSR102 uses less flash, which translates into less blistering. Typically, joining two pieces of metal with a welder takes time, heating the metal and causing discoloration or bubbling. Because our new welder from IDEAL can make welds so quickly, the metal being joined doesn’t get as overheated and doesn’t form as many blisters.

Fast weld speeds also prevent other deformities in the weld, such as sharps or upsets that can deform a delicate wire form’s shape ever so slightly. Even worse, with a slower weld speed, parts can begin bowing (curving like a potato chip) instead of remaining flat. The more intersections that need to be welded together, the more chances there are for a severe deformity in the wire form to occur.

Typically, such deformities place extra strain on the wire form, causing it to become more prone to failure. By eliminating the possibility of such stresses on the frame of the final product, 2 millisecond welds allow the wire form to last for longer without failing.

In short, faster welds help to ensure the best weld quality possible in metal forms.

With the addition of the IDEAL welder, we can deliver quality engineered quick better than ever before. Contact us to learn more.

Ask Congress to Support Permanent Bonus Depreciation

During the week of July 7, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill – H.R. 4718, sponsored by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) – that would restore and make permanent the 50 percent first year expensing provisions that have been in effect for the past several years (until they expired at the end of 2013). Allowing companies to write off half of the cost of their capital investments in the same year that the investment is made will go a long way towards ensuring that companies of all sizes can make the best business decisions for their specific business situation and not be paralyzed by constant on-again off-again pro-investment tax policies.

For example, let’s say that a manufacturer needed to invest a significant amount of their budget into the acquisition of some fixed assets (such as automated manufacturing equipment) in order to remain competitive with foreign competitors. H.R. 4718 would make it easier for such a company to make that investment so that they can stay competitive and continue to add new jobs.

In fact, that’s exactly the kind of investment our company, Marlin Steel, made when we acquired the automated manufacturing machines we use to precision engineer wire forms such as material handling and parts washing wire baskets. With this investment, we were able to open up new markets and grow jobs at a time when we were faced with the very real threat of extinction.

If passed, this resolution can help countless other small businesses make similar investments more readily, growing jobs and keeping American companies competitive.

Other Benefits of H.R. 4718

H.R. 4718 also allows companies that have Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) credits to use those in lieu of taking the 50 percent first-year expensing. In the absence of comprehensive tax reform, manufacturers need critical pro-investment tax policies enacted permanently to allow them to plan for future investments based on business need and not on temporary tax policy.

Expensing is not just a matter of timing. By reducing the after-tax cost of investments, policies like H.R. 4718 allow manufacturers to stretch critical resources and make the investments they need to compete in today’s competitive global economy.

Capital investment is the key to economic growth, job creation and competitiveness. Pro-investment tax policies like this will allow manufacturers to better compete, invest and grow as well as helping to drive increased sales of capital equipment. Please contact your Member of Congress today and urge them to vote in favor of H.R. 4718 and support permanent 50 percent first year expensing.

How Workplace Automation Brings Safety

Marlin Steel SafetyIn the manufacturing industry, worker safety has long been one of the biggest concerns of employers. Manufacturers have worked long and hard to overcome the public perception of manufacturing as a dangerous field of work.

Of course, the notion that manufacturing jobs can be hazardous is not completely unfounded. In the past, on the job injuries were common among manufacturing industry workers. A century ago, it was common for workers to toil away for hours doing hard, repetitive tasks that were dull and exhausting. Exhausted, tired laborers became prone to making mistakes, causing accidents, many of which caused permanent injury.

Even as recently as the 1990s, injuries among the employees at Marlin Steel were fairly commonplace. Workers were making bends, cuts and welds in wire forms by hand. The labor was repetitive and physically demanding, lowering alertness and the ability to respond quickly when necessary.

Fatigued workers combined with a plentiful supply of power tools and sharp, small pieces of metal proved to be a ready-made recipe for disaster. Injuries plagued the manufacturing floor, some of them severe. In fact, at one point, there was a major safety incident as often as four times per year. Workman’s comp costs were through the roof, and production slowed every time there was an incident.

Clearly, something had to be done to improve the safety of the manufacturing process. The real question was: “how?”

At the same time, Marlin Steel’s owners were faced with another challenge: maintaining market share when foreign competitors were selling the same commodity baskets for less than the cost of the steel.

Improving Safety

As luck would have it, there was a way to meet both goals at the same time: by investing in manufacturing automation.

By making the switch to automated manufacturing processes, Marlin Steel’s workers were able to craft parts with a margin of error much smaller than was previously possible. This improved level of precision opened up new markets beyond the simple bagel baskets that Marlin Steel was once known for.

With the machines doing most of the heavy lifting, Marlin’s workers quickly found that they were not suffering from fatigue the way that they once did. In addition, workers didn’t have to handle sharp parts and potentially dangerous equipment by hand, limiting their exposure to injury.

Now, if a weld sends off an unexpected spark, the worker overseeing the welding machine’s operation is well away from it, largely eliminating the possibility of injury. With human workers being able to stand back and monitor the assembly of intricate parts rather than having to be up close to the process, safety is greatly improved.

“How improved,” you ask?

Thanks to the adoption of automation, the Marlin Steel production floor has gone more than 2,000 days without incident. That’s almost five and a half years without any kind of injury. Previously, the accident rate was once one incident every 91 days. This means that since the adoption of automated manufacturing techniques, the accident rate is 4.5 percent of what it used to be (and shrinking).

By combining manufacturing automation with a dedicated safety effort, manufacturing jobs can be made safer than ever before throughout the entire industry.

Custom Wire Baskets to Hold Sensitive Parts

Marlin Steel - Parts Holding BasketOne of Marlin Steel’s core products is our wire mesh baskets. Wire baskets were Marlin’s main product back when our current owner, Drew Greenblatt, first acquired the company years ago. However, the wire mesh baskets that we make nowadays are worlds away from the commodity bagel baskets that we were once known for.

Now, Marlin’s baskets are precision-manufactured specialty products. Where the old bagel baskets could have a margin of error up to an entire inch, the products we make for customers these days have microscopic margins of error: 1/4,000 of an inch or less. Thanks to our investment in modernized manufacturing equipment, we are able to fulfill what would have once been impossible orders quickly and efficiently.

Making Better Wire Baskets for our Clients

When a customer puts in an order for us to produce a custom basket for them, we make sure that we know:

  • The maximum dimensions of the basket.
  • What the basket is being used for.
  • What temperatures/chemicals the basket will be exposed to.
  • How much weight the basket will have to support.
  • The dimensions of any parts the basket will need to hold.

Knowing the purpose of the wire basket in addition to the chemicals and temperatures that it will be exposed allows our engineers to recommend the best combination of alloys and coatings to meet the demands of your specific process. Knowing the dimensions of the machine that the basket will be placed in, as well as the dimensions of the parts the basket will be holding, gives our engineers the ability to design a basket that will fit your machine like a glove.

Once we have the information we need for your wire or perforated sheet metal material handling basket, our engineers get to work. They create a design for your material handling basket using computer software, select an appropriate grade of stainless steel, choose a coating for the basket that will provide the best protection for your process, and put all of this information into a proposed design document for you to review.

In many cases, we can go from a basic proposal to full-scale production in about a week.

The Design Proposal

One of the most critical concerns when designing a custom-made wire mesh material handling basket is that the dimensions of the basket are just right. Too much space, and a part could rattle around excessively, creating a risk of damage to that part. Too little space, and the part will not fit in the first place. Naturally, the tolerance for extra space in a materials handling basket will differ based on the individual parts and washing processes involved.

Marlin Steel Wire FormThis is part of the reason why Marlin generates a design document for every project for our customers to review. Each proposed design document records not only the dimensions of the wire form and the materials and coatings used therein, but we also make notes about the final design to address potential concerns. For example, in our design doc for a parts washing basket for one of our clients, we noted the specific type of welding that would be used, and that weld spatter from that type of weld would not be a risk to their parts.

The design documents with our annotations show our customers exactly what they can expect when they receive their wire forms once they’re approved. Because our wire shaping and laser cutting processes are done using precise, automated manufacturing equipment, our customers can rest assured that they will receive consistent results once their custom wire forms are put into production. Every basket from the first unit off of the line to the 10,000th unit will be of uniform quality and error-free.

Take Advantage of Marlin’s Expertise Today

Our team of experienced manufacturing professionals is here to help you. Contact us today and discover how we can fulfill your parts handling needs.