In April of this year, Felling Trailers' engineering, fabrication and maintenance staff began working in conjunction with Central McGowan, of Central Minnesota and Bug-O Systems Inc., of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to create a Custom Beam Welding Gantry. With the sales of Felling's Rigid Neck Semi trailer division growing strongly, the company felt it would beneficial to have the capability to manufacture custom beams for the construction of these trailers. By having such a machine in the manufacturing facility, it would reduce lead-time and ensure the proper strength of beams where available on the production floor when needed.
The process started when Jack Ellingson, Felling's Plant Manager, contacted Brian Semroska, Automation Team Specialist with Central McGowan. The two talked over the requirements that the finished system would need and from that point Brian contacted Bug-O Systems regarding the application. The three companies worked closely together to ensure that each of the requirements of Felling Trailers were taken into account.
An initial concept drawing was created by Bug-O's Applications Engineering Department in "Solidedge", (a 3-D CAD program which produces views of the solid model), allowing Felling Trailers to see the shape and size of the proposed machine in three dimensions and in conjunction with the proposed welding tooling. Particular attention was paid to the relationship of the joint follower to the beam and the welding gun.
After a couple of modifications, a final design was selected and presented to Felling Trailers. The system would include motion equipment from Bug-O Systems, water cooled welding guns from Abicor Binzel along with the welding equipment from MILLER Electric. The design was then approved and the welding equipment was drop shipped to Bug-O for integration where the wire feeders and wire spool holders were mounted to the travel carriage to allow the best access and convenience for the operator.
Upon arrival of the system at Felling Trailers, the machine was assembled with the assistance of Pat Ryan (Regional Representative for Bug-O Systems), Brian Semroska (Central McGowan), Todd Skalbeck (Felling Trailers' Engineer), and Jack Ellingson (Felling Trailers' Plant Manager).
Todd Skalbeck had designed the beam fixture with the help of Jack Ellingson, Pat Ryan and Brian Semroska, who worked on the system design and integrating the weld system into it. From there a five-man team (Greg Deters, Doug Feela, Kenny Unger, Marty Holmquist and Brad Meyer) from Felling Trailers built the fixture and assembled the system. Doug Feela (Felling's Head of Maintenance) was instrumental in the design of the hydraulics and other extras as well as safeties that were built into the system. When completed, Felling had designed and built a hard automation dual torch system for welding trailer beams. The system utilizes a roller tracking system to follow the joint. Felling Trailers elevated the power source and bulk package wire remotely and off the floor.
Felling Trailers worked in conjunction with Lincoln Electric to set up their new dual torch beam welding system with Lincoln's MIG wire. Utilizing Lincoln's wire resulted in very consistent wire feeding and joint tracking for the entire length of the beam. Additionally, the arc wetting of Lincoln's wire allowed for a push-angle with a short stick-out, which provided a clean uniform weld with ideal penetration.