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Metal structures are at risk of distortion during robotic welding. In order to eliminate this, manufacturers have been investigating solutions based on Low Stress No Distortion (LSND) welding. The aim is to identify a process that guarantees the integrity of the welding joint but does not impede or restrict ease of welding.
The BOC solution
Cryogenic cooling technology from BOC, a member of The Linde Group, underpins a new robotic welding system offering a solution to this problem. Cryogenics are central to the MALCO initiative, a collaborative research and development project between British industry and academia.
The MALCO (Manufacture of Lightweight Components) project addresses the distortion that can occur in the welding process. It is a pioneering Low Stress No Distortion (LSND) welding system that uses CO2 cryogenic cooling. In conventional processes, cooling is applied to the underside of the plate to be welded. With MALCO, the cryogenic CO2 cooling is applied to the topside of the plate, to the actual weld site, without extinguishing the welding arc.
MALCO overcomes the problem of delivering and extracting the coolant in an industrial environment as it does so without interfering in the welding process.
Innovative mathematical modelling of the LSND process helped bring the venture to life.
This predicted optimal material performance and eliminated expensive and time-consuming trials.
Interdisciplinary collaboration is behind MALCO. As well as BOC, Bentley Motors, Comau-Estil, Dytel Technologies Isotek, Komatsu, ThyssenKrupp Tallent Ltd, TWI and the University of Strathclyde all contributed to the engineering project. The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) co-funded the project.
MALCO’s cryogenic cooling technology is a major step forward in robotic welding systems. The reduction in distortion means consistent product quality and greater productivity. This new technology cuts manufacturing time and costs because it mitigates the need for additional measures and materials to counteract distortion. It also reduces the overall weight of the assembly.
The MALCO project is an excellent example of industry and universities coming together to deliver a practical solution with measurable business benefit. The technology has huge commercial potential around the world. In the automotive industry, for example, it translates into energy-efficient engineering and lighter vehicles with lower emissions.
MALCO itself has won international acclaim for engineering excellence. It won ‘Best Research and Development Project’ in the Metal Working Production (MWP) Awards 2010, a coveted accolade in advanced manufacturing technology. It was also a finalist in the UK Engineering Technology and Innovation Awards 2010.
After four years in development, the MALCO innovation is the subject of a joint patent.
"The significance of MALCO is that it enables cooling on the weld side of the plate. Critically, the CO2 used in the process is contained close to the weld pool but does not interfere with it. This overcomes the problem of delivering and extracting the coolant in a manner suitable for a production line. The solution does not restrict access to the welding joint but it significantly reduces risk of distortion."
- New robotic welding system.
- CO2 cryogenic cooling technology significantly reduces distortion during welding.
- Stronger welded structure.
- Does not restrict access to the weld site.
- Energy-efficient process.
- Interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Huge commercial potential.