Union of Thompson Friction Welding and KUKA provides advanced manufacturing solutions

Sponsor: KUKA Systems UK Ltd.

Thompson Friction Welding machines, built by KUKA, set standards in terms of precision, dynamics, process control, and manufacturing productivity.

Rotary friction welding or industrial metallurgical joining has been delivered by the iconic Thompson Friction Welding machines for more than 50 years. A pioneer in the field of friction welding renowned the world over, the Thompson machine, the brand itself now an integral part of the global automation powerhouse KUKA’s industrial portfolio, is manufactured at KUKA’s Halesowen facility.

Steeped in history and firmly embedded in the industrial heritage of The Black Country, the knowledge and expertise, accumulated across a generation, have been preserved and are applied to the design, build and delivery of a comprehensive and robust range of friction welding machines that, to this day are held in high esteem across many industry sectors, such as oil and gas, automotive, agriculture and power generation.

The friction welding process affords many advantages, compared to competing manufacturing processes, such as fusion welding – structural integrity being the most obvious. When undertaken by an automated friction welding machine, considerations such as repeatability and accuracy of process execution are met. The machine operates in conjunction with a predefined programmable controller (PLC) adapted to the specific needs of any given manufacturing process.

Value-added features

One point of difference between friction welding and traditional welding processes is the ability to join dissimilar material combinations such as copper and aluminium, and components such as tube-to-bar or tube-to-plate.

As a proven joining process in the manufacture of high integrity parts, rotary friction welding allows us to make cost-effective, high-performance parts and safety-critical components such as axles, drive, beam & half-shafts, drill rods & pipes, piston rods, hydraulic cylinders and end caps, pump shafts and many more.

Friction welding using a Thompson friction welding machine means there is no dependency on human influence, which results in very low defect rates. A critical factor when considering the use of welded components in applications such as drilling in the oil and gas sector. Product integrity is critical when drill pipes and rods are used in processes deep underground.

Such is the reliability and precision attributed to the Thompson machine, KUKA uses them within our subcontract friction welding facility; a service utilised by domestic and international clients, who may not have the means to invest in a friction welding machine. As such, very small production runs to large volume welds and small component manufacture to industrially joining parts up to seven metres in length can be accommodated.

Two brands, one strong partner

This unison across both brands allows for the manufacture of fully automated friction welding cells, that incorporate KUKA industrial robots. Robot periphery such as end of arm tooling, vision systems and linear tracks have all featured in the delivery of industrial manufacturing cells into Europe and beyond.

This ‘one-stop-shop’ approach allows customers to benefit from not only two expert brands but throughout the project build be assured of benefitting from a comprehensive customer support service that is second to none. Our think local, act global ethos dictates that our services out of the UK continue to serve a substantial global portfolio, built upon trust and experience.