Automated fibre laser welding


The first UK installation of a new automated fibre laser welding machine will help Rencol Ltd enhance the quality and repeatability of its welding operations, as well as eliminating a number of on-processes, including straightening, grinding and polishing.

The Amada FLW ENSISe 6Kw will help the Northampton-based company in its ambition of increasing turnover from around £12m to £15m in the next 18-24 months.

The company offers sheet metal fabrication, precision machined components and mechanical assemblies. 

“We currently rely on manual TIG welding, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to source the skills,” said Recol’s Managing Director Ben Guntrip. “We process a lot of high-quality, highly polished stainless steel, and not every welder we see has the aptitude or dexterity to manage challenges such as distortion, weld consistency and aesthetics.” 

The management team at Recol has been thinking about investing in a fibre laser welder for nearly a decade.

“We were waiting for the right time: that time is now,” said Mr Guntrip. “We have completed several successful welding trials on our parts. We’ve also seen machines working at end users in both Japan and Germany, welding everything from small brackets to enormous tanks.” 

The Amada FLW at Recol will feature a six-axis robot with 50kg payload mounted on a travelling track with 3,000mm stroke. The system will also house a two-axis rotary positioning table and 3D offline programming software.

The FLW houses Amada’s proprietary fibre laser engine, which uses technology that ensures optimal beam shape and high-quality, fast laser welding. Key features of the FLW include AI-TAS (Artificial Intelligence - Teaching Assist System), which automatically detects weld lines and uses real 3D images to guide the system to the correct weld location. Automatic nozzle gap adjustment and automatic focus control are among further notable features.

The new machine will be the first such model in the UK. Recol has previously notched up a number of Amada installation firsts, including two ACIES punch-laser combination machines which were the first in Europe, and an Amada REGIUS 3015AJ laser cutter, the first in the UK.

“We like to be first out the gate as it gives us something in that initial 6-12 months that is unavailable elsewhere, potentially providing a path into new customers and markets,” explained Mr Guntrip.

Recol is anticipating numerous advantages from its new fibre welder. Primarily, by automating this notoriously challenging fabrication process, the company will tap into significant quality and consistency gains, not to mention higher productivity and reduced labour cost through lights-out welding. However, there is also the considerable potential to eliminate a number of secondary operations.

“We straighten, grind and polish a lot of our welded stainless steel,” he said. “A major advantage of the Amada FLW is minimal heat input to reduce distortion and maintain the weld aesthetics. We’re currently identifying a list of products for the new machine which can simply cut, fold, weld and despatch. No straightening, grinding, cleaning or polishing.”