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DesignPro: Pioneering robotic welding

At the cutting edge of robotic welding and welding systems into the industrial engineering sector

21 February 2022

Automating the welding process and employing robots enables manufacturers to achieve significant returns across several areas: application precision, speed and agility of task execution, waste reductions and increased safety. The skills gap is also driving the take-up of automated robotics, as a means to sustain legacy manufacturing processes and support operational resilience.

DesignPro and KUKA have partnered since the inception of DesignPro’s robotic welding provision. KUKA required a company with an established skillset that could pivot into robotic welding, whom they could support through expert staff, equipped with existing robotic welding experience, and high-quality automation hardware and software that caters to the needs DesignPro’s welding customers.

Redmond McDonnell, DesignPro CEO said “KUKA delivers a very high-quality product and because of our model as a company, we are able to deliver a high-quality item at the right price”.

The welding cell currently in development at DesignPro features a KR8 CYBERTECH industrial robot, mounted on a KL 250 linear track. The back-to-back system utilises two KP1 HC positioners: a one-ton and a two-ton. DesignPro specifically chose the KR8 CYBERTECH robot owing to its reach capabilities and its repeatability. The positioner allows DesignPro to overcome accessibility constraints when it could be difficult to access certain areas. It also allows the pioneers to address horizontal welds, as well as vertical using the FRONIUS power source and supports different settings and different programs.

Fergal McGinley, Technical & Business Development, Robotics adds: “The reason we choose to work with FRONIUS is because of their product offering and their position as a market leader. We've undertaken a lot of work with them in the past and find their after-sales service and support excellent”.

“DesignPro are a KUKA Ireland Platinum partner Mark Elwell, Head of Robot Sales, Ireland explains. The support we get from them (DesignPro) is not just as a result of their basic robotics knowledge, or their expertise in the field of digital simulation, but there's a depth of knowledge in automated arc welding, which is of vital importance when you're looking at commissioning an arc welding cell. We've developed an established relationship with DesignPro over four years now, that enables us to develop collaborative projects owing to our combined knowledge within the field of arc welding, supported by a wealth of knowledge in the UK and at HQ, in Germany, that we can call upon, to assist DesignPro if required”.

DesignPro: Pioneers of robot welding

DesignPro have hired a qualified welder and trained them in the art of robotics. They also took a key robotics and service technician and trained them up in core welding experiences, so they can marry both skill sets across welding and robotics, and apply them within their robotic welding division, bringing together key skills into the market that suit the needs of their customers.

“There's a clear skills gap across welding at the moment, Redmond says, so welding isn't necessarily an industry that millennials and Gen C see as appealing career paths, compared to the new technologies coming to the fore in the world. Some of our customers just can't get the right skills on the ground for their products. What our customers really need is a solution that can maintain volume and output but also have a consistency of weld for their product, which a robotic welding platform can deliver:.

So how are DesignPro addressing the skills shortages that exist across Ireland, and further afield? Mark explains “DesignPro’s training facilities takes current manual arc welders and develops them into robotic welders. But in doing so they're also taking on the younger engineers and developing them not only into arc welding engineers but instilling an interest in robotics as well. We (collectively) can make the welding process a cleaner job for existing welders, addressing the quality of the welds and the consistency of the welds”.

Redmond added “Robots can be programmed to repeat a task in the welding industry over and over again, delivering the same quality of welds. When it is a manual process you're really relying on the skill and the artistry of the manual welder”.

DesignPro has close to 50,000 square feet within their Rathkeale facility and are able to drop on their floor, and offer robotic welding cells, from small 2x2 10 kilo robots with single access positioner cells, right up to that featured within the video case study that compliments this article. But, they can go larger and everything done at DesignPro is bespoke.

“We are the only robotic welding integrator on the island of Ireland who can build cells of this size and scale, bespoke to our customers’ needs, Redmond adds “All the programming done at DesignPro is done on digital simulation software, and we use VR (virtual reality) to provide customers a digital replica of what their welding cell might look like before it's installed”.

Fergal substantiates this: “We can pretty much design any fixtures, and using our simulation software can just import the customer’s models into the programme. We can then anticipate how long it's going to take to complete and if there are any issues that need to be identified before we actually get onto the shop floor and building, so for us it's also a cost-saving exercise”.

To find out more about the welding solutions that DesignPro can provide, please click here