Drake Trailers improves output with robotic welding system

DRAKE Trailers has transitioned to a robotic welding system from Machinery Automation & Robotics to improve its product output.

The Australian-owned company specialises in the design and manufacturer of low loaders, mine site transporters and steerable platforms trailers, including ancillary equipment, axles, suspension units and other equipment used in the heavy haulage industry.

The manufacturer had workers manually welding components of varying sizes, and heavy components had to be manually rotated during assembly. This was time-consuming, and Drake Trailers had to increase staff numbers to work load and minimise cycle time.

Additionally, manual welding caused distortions in the workpieces, causing machining to take longer. The finished quality was also imperfect.

The company considered moving the manufacturing process off-shore or importing a finished product from South East Asia, but MAR approached with a robotic solution.

MAR designed and installed a robotic welding system capable of handling a wide range of components. The design consisted of a welding robot on a linear track covering three stations. 

One station includes a single axis rotating positioner that can hold up to 2000kg of product to be welded, and the other station holds a multi axis positioner which can hold up to 750kg. 

The third station includes a long table opposite the previously mentioned stations and is used when longer components need to be welded. The linear track and the stations are designed to allow for continuous work, with components loaded in one station while the robot welds in another.

MAR’s intelligent system design allows the cell to run in a fully automated mode and allow for a manual input via the Manual Jog Station.

The installation yielded significant improvements in production at Drake Trailers, saving money and allowing it to retain its operations in Australia. Its manufacturing time was reduced by 40 to 60 percent, machining time reduced by 15 to 20 percent.

The company also experienced a large increase in productivity. Previously 3 or 4 welding bays, running 2 shifts per day were required. Now, one operator can work within the three station cell. By loading one station, whilst the robot welds in another station, the operation can work efficiently and accurately without interruption, which maximises robot utilisation.

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