Laser Welding & Durable Design: How Our Customer Made More than 5 Million Products in 5 Years

When the world’s leading manufacturers need an automated production line, they turn to Facteon. The reason? We have extensive experience in appliance manufacturing and factory automation design. We’ve built our expertise over 30 years, starting with our own lines before branching out to help other manufacturers around the globe. 

Facteon production lines are highly sought after because of their quality, longevity and innovation. Just recently, one of our Drum lines in China celebrated a significant milestone. It has produced more than five million washing machine drums since it was installed 5 years ago and is still churning out product for the customer. In fact, the line has been so successful that it’s outlasted the factory. We will now uplift and relocate this equipment to a new state-of-the-art factory. We will also look to upgrade the old CO2 welder to a new fibre laser to deliver welds that are far superior to what was previously the norm.

 

 

Unique Technology

Along the way, Facteon has developed proprietary innovative techniques and processes, ensuring our clients are always ahead of the game. We have considerable intellectual property in automated manufacturing and in building intelligent and flexible automation. All factors that enhance a Facteon customer’s ability to develop their competitive advantage.

Examples of our innovation are plenty and it is rooted deep in our history. We were originally founded as the internal engineering division of world-class appliance manufacturer, Fisher & Paykel Appliances. Back in the 1990s, we developed a unique laser welding process for making the highest quality stainless steel washing machine drums. Something not seen anywhere else in the world at the time. The result is a superior product that is both safe and performs better than less sophisticated alternatives. We have continued to refine this process over the years. Today, customers benefit from our depth of expertise in this area.

Facteon’s laser welding process has been refined to the point where it is able to join two metal edges without leaving discolouration along the seam. This offers two very important benefits for clients. Firstly, the metal retains its shiny silver look. An aesthetic that is of utmost importance for high-quality domestic appliances and allows manufacturers to command premium prices for their product.

Secondly, the weld is much safer. Facteon laser welding techniques provide best in class results. Washing machine baskets are a critical part of the device. They can spin at high speed, up to 1,400 revolutions per minute, which means there are massive forces at play. If it should fall out of balance, the results could be catastrophic. Facteon’s first class welds help protect companies from product recalls, litigation, loss of reputation and loss on the bottom line. While at an operational level, it means fewer support calls and few product returns. This reduces costs, improves channel relationships and leads to a longer product life which means greater customer satisfaction.

In order to achieve perfect edges for welding, we roll up and weld unformed sheets. Next, we form and press patterns into the drum. To ensure this pattern aligns perfectly with the drain holes, we use the latest technologies. An added advantage of processing the pattern after the drum has been welded is that interleaved patterns are possible. This results in a structurally stronger and quieter bowl.

 

Design for Manufacture

Facteon is not just sought-after in the appliance space. Our intelligent manufacturing expertise is applicable across multiple industries, including medical equipment, automotive, aerospace, building materials and any other industry where automated machinery is required.

Our early engagement with customers aids in the development of production-line-friendly products. This optimises manufacturing efficiency, reduces costs. Most importantly, this allows for the production of exceptionally engineered products.

While most of our design and build capability is delivered out of New Zealand, we also have a growing team of people in China who support and service equipment, help manage our supply chain and build equipment for our customers.

 

Continuous Development

It’s not enough for us to be just leaders in the field. Just as innovation is rooted deep in our culture, so too is continuous improvement. By staying ahead of the curve, we’re able to give clients access to the best possible modern manufacturing technologies. Facteon is part of the Haier IEP family and is weaved into a network of related businesses that exchange expertise. We share knowledge and work with partners on research and development projects. We have people, who work full time, on keeping up to date with the latest developments in welding, vision and related technologies. They research new techniques and refine existing ones.

Consumer and market expectations drive much of the process of continual improvement. They demand ever higher standards in a competitive marketplace. A few years ago, it would have been OK to deliver a weld that looked slightly brown. That shiny silver weld we can now deliver arrived as that’s what our customers demand, but it is also what their customers expect. 

Manufacturing is a highly competitive market. You need to be passionate and the best in the world to survive, moving ahead requires all that together with superior skills and first-class people. We stayed at the forefront for over 30 years because we have all that and we are committed to providing the best possible products to our customers.

Another aspect of Facteon that provides tremendous value to our clients is that we have service and support people who are embedded at customer sites. They provide feedback direct from a live production environment. We then incorporate this feedback as part of our continual product improvement process to benefit both the current customer and all future Facteon customers. As noted previously, manufacturing is highly competitive so if you're not continually improving, then you're not moving forward. If you're not moving forward, then you're falling behind.

 

Digital Monitoring and Intelligent Welding

Innovation and exceptional engineering are only two benefits of Facteon. The other, equally important part is inspecting the weld and ensuring it is up to standard. This is a major part of our current research program. Our state-of-the-art digital welding solution, currently under development, inspects the weld to decide if it’s up to standard. It’s just another automated process that we use to ensure superior quality and robust checking. It also delivers the results of the inspection direct to laptops, phones or tablets so engineers can check on performance remotely. Engineers are able to check a batch of welds, or dive down to inspect a single weld.

Facteon has been a world leader in building drum lines for decades. We have a track record delivering value to leading manufacturers and continue to stay ahead of the curve. Now, as we add further value with innovations in Industrial IoT technology and advanced digital technologies we’re poised to once again exceed customer expectations.

Brad Abraham

Brad Abraham

Head of Operations

Brad is a mechanical engineer with a background in the aerospace industry. He joined Fisher & Paykel in 1994 and has held a variety of roles in areas such as Machine and Product Design, and Business Development. His current role as Facteon's Head of Operations is focused on ensuring our customers’ projects are delivered on-time and to specification.