One of the world's leading manufacturers of haulers and wheel loaders knows what drives their business forward. Swedish company Volvo Constructions Equipment is committed to the goal to be the best supplier in the industry. By trusting in partnership with Pemamek and investing in the latest technology they keep on succeeding at full speed.
The main factory for Volvo wheel loaders
locates in Arvika, south-western Sweden.
Volvo Construction Equipment Ab, established in 1832, has had its main wheel loader factory in Arvika, south-western Sweden, since 1966. During its long history, the company has created an innovative and safe working environment that inspires to reach targets sustainably. Volvo utilizes the latest innovations and technologies in its manufacturing processes and has constantly developed new solutions for better fuel economy, improved safety, increased productivity, and a more comfortable operator’s environment.
At the Arvika hauler and loader business line the company manufactures frames and booms with 900 employees at this moment. Heavy machines require heavy welding equipment and Volvo has trusted in PEMA production automation for 30 years already. The fruitful partnership between companies started in the early 1990s with an automated welding station for lifting frames. Multilayer welding made the production 10 to 15 times faster than manual welding, providing good and solid quality.
In 2006 three PEMA robot stations were installed for front frame welding and they have been running smooth and well for 15 years in four shifts. Last autumn manufacturing capacity got a boost in the shape of the new upgrades, which extended the machines’ lifetime at least ten years forward. This not only decreases the need to invest in new machinery but also increases the energy efficiency of the existing machines remarkably.
In Volvo’s machinery manufacturing, the core philosophy is to always maintain superior performance. Investing in modern technology ensures that the job can be done with high quality. With the front frame welding process, the company decided to invest in the retrofit and upgrade all the three existing PEMA robot welding stations.
“A typical weld measure for us is about A5, A6, or A8. We have quite much large joints, so multipass welding is very typical for us. The welding cycle is approximately from 2,5 to 4 hours per frame, so there’s a lot of welding included to manufacture these heavy frames”, tells Martin Elvén, Project Manager at Volvo Construction Equipment Ab.
These stations are customized especially for Volvo’s needs and are a result of the development work of both companies together. PEMA X-Y-Z gantry robot stations with the 3-axis Skyhook type of positioners have worked over 50 000 hours arc-on-time in multilayer MAG welding. Final products can be over two meters long and weigh several tons. Front frame parts are made of steel plates with thicknesses varying between 10-40 mm.
Such heavy parts require the manufacturing machines to be capable to handle them without effort. An appropriate environment creates efficient and safe working circumstances for operators. As the weld seams are big, Pemamek’s in-house software makes the multilayer programming easy and fast offering data collecting and development tools to track and optimize the production process.
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Volvo Arvika has three similar PEMA robot welding stations. All of them are getting retrofits with new robots, power sources, welding equipment, and some mechanical parts and components.
The existing three similar PEMA robot welding stations will serve Volvo Arvika’s wheel loader front frame manufacturing for at least the next ten years with normal maintenance. The refreshed stations have updated mechanical parts, wear parts, also a new robot, and welding equipment. The software was upgraded with PEMA CellControl 700.
The control system is tailored especially for Volvo’s production needs. “We upgraded the process equipment to give us the possibility to take advantage of the improved processes. Our investment included three offline programs and with them, we could easily do the final programs in the robot cells for eight different models”, Elvén says.
With the PEMA software and assistance of welding and robot engineers, the knowledge and welding experience was turned into practice in robotized MAG welding very smoothly and fastly from the start. Among the new programs, the existing ones were fine-tuned to meet the current needs. Updated Volvo’s offline program tools ensure a fast and visual method to control the robots giving more efficiency. The control system gives a flexible way to combine different functions, controlling the work cell at the same time. Production monitoring and data collecting give tools to minimize risks and develop the production process further.
Minimizing the production downtimes and having a quick ramp-up was important to Volvo due to the high production volumes. From the start of industrialization, it took six weeks for the company to take over the equipment and continue to trim the products. “After eight weeks the production started in two shifts and programming was carried out in the daytime. Since December all the products have been produced in this cell”, Elvén tells.
“The results have been really good. We have much fewer adjustments after the robot welding. Our long-term target is zero adjustments after robot and this project was a big step in that direction. We have also managed to decrease the cycle times by around 10%”, he continues.
The improved working environment ensures effortless facilities for operators. Robot stations are producing good quality products reducing manual work and finishing tasks. Shifting to new updated robotic welding stations keeps the company competitive as they can utilize the collected data in multiple ways in the wheel loader manufacturing process. Volvo also had support via remote assistance in their route to implementing the new solution.
“All the expectations were fulfilled with two first welding stations, and we managed to reach all the goals we had with this implementation. It was easy to work with Pemamek and we were on the same level. We appreciated the way we were taken care of and we are ready to plan our next summer project with the third robot station”, Elvén summarizes.
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Volvo’s software was upgraded with a visual and easy-to-use PEMA CellControl 700 control system.