Welding Success Story: A Real-Time Flow Meter Manifold from SMC Seals the Deal

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Facteon have spent the past four decades crafting factory automation and proprietary welding solutions and have grown to become international specialists in factory solutions, smart manufacturing and IIoT technologies.

The company’s welding solutions focus on developing technologies that deliver on weld strength, alignment, and a superior cosmetic finish, as Warren Collenette, Senior Design Engineer from Facteon explains: “We are focused on customer confidence; we want our customers to be confident in each and every solution that we supply.”

Facteon provides robust welding solutions to some of the world’s largest appliance manufacturers and their welding technology can be used to process aluminum, mild steel, and multiple grades of stainless steel. “Irrespective of the industry, consistency and repeatability are key.”

Naturally, finding the right automation partner is central to the success of any manufacturer and Warren says that Facteon looks to SMC Corporation Australia New Zealand for many of its unique automation requirements. “We started working with SMC more than 25 years. The initial relationship was between Fisher and Paykel, who at the time owned Facteon, and SMC.”

“We have a great working relationship with SMC,” explains Warren. “We are happy with their wide product range and commonly make use of their ISO cylinders. They’re always ahead of the curve, re-engineering and developing new products, and we are satisfied with their sales and after sales support.”

Two recent exports projects saw close collaboration between SMC and Facteon once again. “We had the opportunity to discuss several solutions and utilize one of SMC’s new product lines for projects in the appliance and office furniture industries,” says Warren.

SMC’s solution offers seven times the benefit

Warren says that receiving feedback from manifolds have become pertinent to Facteon’s processes. “We use manifolds for spot welding machinery, that have water circuits running through them at a specified flow rate. The manufacturer stipulates the flow rate and if we don’t adhere to these parameters, then things can go wrong, and the customer may no longer be protected by their warranty. This is one of the reasons for feedback manifolds.”

Detailing SMC’s involvement, Warren explains that the application required a multi-station flow meter manifold. “Rather than having many flow meters, each with their own configuration, we wanted to make use of one tidy solution.”

Facteon needed a solution where water flow could be controlled across multiple water-cooling circuits within a machine. “In addition, we wanted to monitor flow rates in real-time.”

This is where the 7-station flow meter manifold (PF3WB07B-W720P-04-LTN-M) with IO link capability from SMC comes into play.

Compared to its predecessor the PF2W, this series offers a refreshed design. It also features 40% smaller volume, enabling shorter entry piping with flexibility. The display is rotatable and has a 3-colour distinct display as well as temperature monitoring.

“The solution has been used in both SPOT welding and MIG welding applications. The first one that we developed was a 7-station unit in 2020 but this year it’s a 2-station unit. It’s a modular solution that can be adapted as needed,” says Shyam Suresh, Global Accounts Manager for SMC in New Zealand.

He adds that this customized solution from SMC is pre-configured and comes as a plug-and-play solution from its head office in Japan. “The customer only needs one part number and it’s configured to their exact specifications. It also features an IO link display for remote monitoring and to demonstrate flow rates.” According to Shyam the delivery time on these units is quick with turnaround times in 6-7 weeks, and some units arriving even sooner.

In addition, it features individual shut off valves for safety purposes and optional flow control valves, to adjust the flow rate for each circuit as required.

Project challenges

The manifold needed to be tested within the confines of Facteon’s premises during machinery commissioning. “We needed to get enough water flow through all the circuits, however, we were struggling with this due to our inadequate water supply in-house. Ultimately, the maximum flow rate through each valve is 12 liters per minute per output, so it shouldn’t be a problem on-site,” explains Warren.

While the team was sure that it would work, based on the initial in-house testing, the solution could only truly be put to the test at the customers’ factories in China and the USA.

Speaking to the safety requirements of this application, Warren adds that they made sure that the manifold was positioned away from any direct line of sparks or danger. “We could also put covers on them if required, and others were mounted to service towers - some meters away from the applications.”

IIOT on the rise - Increased demand for remote monitoring

IO link flow sensors are big draw cards for its customers, as Warren explains: “We changed all our equipment to IO link capability where possible due to customer feedback and demand.”

He adds that the demand for smart manufacturing and remote monitoring remains top of Facteon’s priority list. “Today, customers are asking for a lot more feedback from their processes to ensure tighter quality controls. In addition, it gives them the option to monitor their processes remotely which is of major benefit when you think about the cost of labor.”

It also helps with routine and preventative maintenance. “In the case where welding guns are overheating, faults and/or water leaks, customers can instantly shut down the machine and plan ahead.”

Warren concludes saying that the success of this project can be underpinned by collaboration and forward-thinking. “Together with SMC, we are so pleased that both these projects turned out to be a resounding success.”

Find out more

Speak with one of our team to find out if your business will benefit from innovative factory automation solutions for advanced manufacturing, welding applications and assembly.

Contact Facteon here via our contact page


Warren  Collenette

Warren Collenette

Senior Design Engineer & Laser Welding Expert

Warren found a passion for laser welding early in his career. In the last 15 years, he’s been involved in the design of Facteon roll-up and weld machines. During this time, he’s visited numerous customer sites to deliver on-site support and training. Warren also works closely with our R&D team, assisting with welder set up and trouble shooting. Having seen the technology develop from the original CO2 welders through to today’s cutting edge fibre welders, Warren is passionate about developing technology that delivers quality laser welds for a range of applications.