by Lars-Erik Stridh, ESAB AB, Göteborg
As a result of increasingly fierce competition from low-cost countries, rapid changes are taking place within the welding industry in Europe. A large part of the heavy welding industry is moving its production eastwards, to countries with low labour costs, leaving behind it industries with skilled and mechanised welding. Europe has a num- ber of major automotive producers with many suppliers, most of whom have introduced robotic welding into their production process.
The consumables these robots use for welding are generally solid wire with a diameter of 1.0mm. The shielding gas is often a mixed gas with a third component to minimise spatter. Continuous developments are taking place within automotive production when it comes to systems for joining sheet metal. These systems include bonding, resistance welding, MIG soldering, laser welding and closing-head rivets. Arc welding still maintains a powerful position in present-day automotive production and, depending on the brand, there are between one and two kilograms of weld metal in every vehicle.
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