Optimisation of Robotic Welding Process sees Introduction of New Products and Jobs Created for Lyte Ladders
Established in 1947, Lyte Ladders & Towers Ltd. have been manufacturing a range of aluminium and glass fibre ladders and access equipment for over 65 years. Based in Swansea, Lyte is proud to be one of the few companies still manufacturing access equipment such as ladders in the UK. Their current market captures the entire UK, including major customers such as BT, Sky, Screwfix & Centrica.
The quality and performance of Lyte’s product range depend mainly on the quality of weld preparation and fit-up before welding starts, with all their products certified to the relevant BSI Standards. Based on a previous research collaboration with ASTUTE 2020, Lyte recently invested around £300k in a robotic welding platform to speed up production and enhance product quality, demonstrating their commitment to keeping manufacturing in South Wales.
Lyte and ASTUTE 2020 identified three research challenges as part of a multi-phase research project where ASTUTE 2020's expertise in manufacturing systems engineering, advanced materials technology, and computational engineering modelling were exploited to optimise the pre-weld processes, robotic welding settings and quality control protocol.
Lyte was experiencing difficulties in optimising the robotic welding process, resulting in a high number of defective welds with the consequent waste of both material and time. The novelty and challenges of this research project were the implementations of combined techniques in developing the joint quality, focusing on the product that Lyte has had the most difficulty in integrating the robotic welding within the manufacturing process:
- Review of current robotics welding processes technology (pre, during and post welding);
- Understanding jig-clamping control for tolerance reduction in the weld preparation process;
- Review of optimum welding spot shapes for different weld joint geometry;
- Optimisation of welding parameters with regards to different welding patterns;
- Development of a closed loop spatial aware control system for MIG robotic welding process, supported by the computational model.
The conclusion of this research collaboration highlighted the need to improve Lyte’s production technologies and products through perfecting the weld preparation based on a sound understanding of the metallurgy of aluminium alloys and advanced automation integrating advanced smart robots and sensors technology.
The research identified enhancements during the pre-welding and welding stages by identifying the most dominant parameters directly related to the welding quality and thus enhancing Lyte's production technologies and the quality of Lyte’s products.
Further research into computational modelling to optimise the welding process parameters that would be applied to the robot welder resulted in increased understanding of the robotic welding platform under a variety of test conditions.
Lyte’s commitment and implementation of the recommendations of the outcomes of this collaborative research have now been implemented into best practice followed by Lyte during the welding operation. The commitment of both Lyte and the ASTUTE 2020 team have led to extensive, mutually beneficial knowledge exchange.
As a direct result of the collaboration, Lyte has:
- Expanded their existing product range and introduced two new products to the market (Lytepod Podium and Stairlyte Stairwell Tower);
- Created seven new jobs within the operations and quality departments of Lyte;
- Invested in a durability testing machine to reduce the cost of product certification; further investment planned to acquire a laser cutting machine;
- Successfully implemented the new British Standard (BS EN 131), which conforms to the European Standard.
The benefits of this collaborative project will ultimately allow Lyte to advance their manufacturing systems to evaluate and improve efficiency, quality and delivery, leading to increased sales revenue. This will form one of the building blocks for Lyte to further invest and improve the welding division of the business to ensure a long-term future for the company in West Wales and the Valleys.
Rich text format of the video is available here.