At Welding Technology Corporation, the key is not only the welding of two pieces of metal together, but to place the feedback information from the weld on a worldwide network. Lorie Russo explains.
When the company that eventually came to be known as Welding Technology Corporation (WTC) invented a resistance-welding control in a tiny garage in 1936, it did more than simply create a new technology. It made life easier for the users that fall under its technological expertise.
The result of the acquisitions of four major companies — Weltronic, Technitron, Robotron and Medar —WTC is now looking to conquer the world market. The company continues to supply its superior resistance-welding systems to the automotive, industrial, defense, aerospace and furniture industries — virtually anywhere, says Jeff Becker, senior vice president of marketing and development, “where metal is joined together.”
WTC’s technical know-how is now at its highest level, and the company is poised to show some of its state-of-the-art resistance-welding systems at the World Trade Fair for Welding, Joining, Cutting and Surfacing in Essen, Germany, in September. While there, WTC, whose global expansion plans include partnerships and joint ventures, will be looking for ways to complement its existing capabilities. The largest supplier of resistance-welding technology in North America is striving to become the largest resistance-welding technology supplier worldwide, Becker says.
WTC has the ISO 9001, the QS 9000 and the prestigious tool and equipment certifications firmly in place. The company is currently pursuing Ford Motor Company’s prestigious Q1 award, which the auto maker gives only to suppliers that have achieved a certain level of quality. Helping WTC to achieve such recognition is its ability to provide cutting-edge systems to customer specifications. “We house a great deal in intellectual property in the form of our patents, which number well over 100,” says Becker. Among these inventions is the world’s first weld control timer. Today WTC owns patents in every industrialized country in the world.
Becker adds, “We also have the largest engineering development center of any similar company in the world.” This allows WTC to brainstorm with its operations in Japan and create new products and innovations around the clock. “We can start a product here and then turn it over to our facility in Japan,” Becker says, “That gives us more understanding of the marketplace and allows us to formulate value-added products specific to customer needs.”
As it seeks to bring its resistance-welding technology to the rest of the world, WTC is looking to consolidate and streamline its operations at home. Currently, the company has its headquarters in Carol Stream, Ill., and is moving to consolidate its U.S. manufacturing operations in Farmington Hills, Mich. Its overseas manufacturing sites in Nagoya, Japan, and Shanghai, China, allow WTC to deliver controls for major automotive programs far ahead of the competition. Additional facilities in Pelham, Ala., and Oshawa, Ontario, ensure that WTC remains in touch with the changing marketplace. “When we go into a new market, we are able to study the demands of our customers and supply welding systems designed specifically to their requirements because of our diverse product line and engineering expertise,” Becker says.
WTC has generated a high level of excitement from its recent new product development efforts, especially the newly developed Flexible Resistance Welding System (FRS). This new line of controls meets the needs of customers around the world that prefer stand-alone welding control systems. The FRS’ building-block approach to product design allows its platform to be easily adapted to the United States, Europe and Asia, and includes full network and preferred field bus interfaces.
The new platform improves on weld quality through the newly developed constant heat control (CHC) algorithm, which reduces expulsion and dramatically decreases energy costs in excess of 20 percent compared with constant current systems. In addition, CHC’s extended electrode tip life adds to the value of this innovative welding system. CHC collects voltage feedback at the weld, “then it makes adaptive corrections based on what’s happening at the weld at the time,” explains Dan Thibodeau, WTC’s director. The control strategy is now available with WTC’s line of Weltronic controllers.
Rather than merely maintaining a specified current during welding, as with typical control systems, CHC uses voltage feedback data at the weld tip to calculate the resistance, which determines the heat energy at the weld, says Thibodeau. The controller then makes calculations that adjust the process to provide the optimum amount of energy needed for the optimum weld. Constant current-based controllers have deficiencies that CHC is said to correct, he adds. With current controllers, “you might tell the controller you want X amps of current for Y time and the controller would deliver that. But sometimes in that process, depending on the metal or fit-up, you might start blowing sparks, during which you’re starting to mar the material that you’re welding, leaving marks on it.” By readjusting the total energy requirements, CHC not only to improves the weld surface but also saves energy.
For users who prefer integrated controls, the MedWeld 3000 Series is the most advanced resistance spot welding control system integrated with a robot controller. The system uses a common interface device for programming the robot and the weld control, providing the operator with a single point for data entry and fault monitoring. It reduces floor space requirements, hardware components and expensive interconnection cabling, resulting in increased system uptime and simplified maintenance requirements. Because the processor in the welding system is on the same computer bus structure as the robot controller processor, this system provides the fastest interface possible, which equates to increased throughput for the customer.
WTC also offers plantwide network systems that can predict maintenance issues before problems occur. These systems reduce downtime as well as provide statistical process control data to improve weld quality. The newly developed Remote Front End Processor (FEP) system combines the speed and accuracy of the system with new Web Page technology, allowing the user to acquire weld information through standard computers regardless of their operating systems and without the need for special application software.
WTC’s Technitron group offers a variety of micro-based resistance-weld control systems, all with top-of-the-line capabilities. It also produces secondary constant current control systems and a full-function micro-based weld control system. Technitron has just introduced a Micro-Welding line, a group of industrial products for small parts used in jewelry, dentistry and various electrical and electronic components. Technitron also markets the T-6903 welding system, which requires no programming and includes a precision air cylinder, a weld monitor assembly, a displacement sensor assembly and a high-frequency weld transformer.
Technitron also offers the WS-10M Weldscope, which is a lightweight, portable, hand-held current monitor. The WS-10M can measure an entire weld cycle or any one of 50 select impulses, providing an instant, accurate dual-line, 16-character liquid-crystal-display readout of RMS current. The monitor is easy to use and designed to measure secondary RMS resistance-weld current and weld time. The unit can be used as a diagnostic aid for maintenance personnel, welding engineers or machine operators.
WTC maintains that it doesn’t fill orders; it fills needs. The company’s engineers and applications specialists build the ideal welding solution and then follow up with the finest and most efficient service program in the industry. The newly introduced Industrial Technical Services (ITS) group ensures that customers’ needs are met by providing plant-floor support and training to the end users.
Building on its service and support strengths is a major part of WTC’s plans for the future. Says Becker, “We’re known for having a great deal of knowledge in resistance welding and for helping customers through their processes.” This long, successful history will propel WTC forward as it seeks out the intellectual properties of other companies to complement its own ingenuity in its drive to become a global supplier.