Which butt-weld solution is best?

90° and specialist welds have seen exponential growth, so if a new machinery platform is on your shopping list what are the pros and cons of each? Joe Hague, Promac discusses.

Innovation in welding technologies has driven a step-change in PVCU manufacture. Growth in the PVCU window market, for example, slowed to 1.2% last year but that’s less of an issue when installed values increased by 5.5% to £2.38 billion (Palmer), driven by demand for foils, flush casements and timber-effect joints.

It’s the difference between your top and bottom line. It has to be about margin and, as long as margins continue to grow, a small drop in volume is less important.

If you can demonstrate a tangible difference in the design or the finish of your product, then you don’t have to fight it out with everyone pushing commodity products – you can command higher margins.

Promac Group has contributed no small part to setting the industry in its current direction towards higher value products.

The demand seen for foils, including both woodgrains and solid colours, is up 45% since 2013 almost coinciding to the day with Promac’s introduction of the Graf SL4FF seamless welder.

Pre-cleaning to exacting tolerances then zip welding the corner joint while controlling the flow of sprue, its development has gone hand-in-hand with the increased demand for foils.

The latest developments in the SL4FF welder type – the SL4-H FF, and the SLS Seamless Sill Welder – were introduced by Promac Group in summer last year: the SL4-H FF introduces a new capability to insert welded transom and mullions into a seamlessly welded frame or sash; and the SLS cutting bay window and conservatory sill has a cycle time of less than two minutes per weld.

Promac has also had a major influence on automation of process in the manufacture of traditional timber-type joints in PVCU. It’s a growth market but one that relied heavily on mechanical manufacture and ‘gluing and screwing’.

The opportunity to accelerate growth through increased automation is huge.

So, if you’re going down the route of automation, what are your options and the pros and cons of each?

Timberweld probably sets the benchmark. It’s unique in that it delivers a twin-sided butt weld and 90° joint inside and out. It’s not necessarily a volume solution but it is probably in a class of its own on finish.

The Timberweld manufacturing process is licensed. In addition to that you’re also going to need the right machinery. The Urban AKFU 250 and 330 millers and an AKS4310 welder from Promac provide an entry level solution. Modelling by Promac suggests that this will trim manufacturing time per sash back from 15-20 minutes to just eight.

The solution is also scalable so that with six millers, two welders and two operatives, manufacturing times are cut to as little as 3.5 minutes.

If you want manufacture a Timberweld product you have to have a license and that won’t necessarily appeal to everyone but it deskills the process, has a massive impact on labour costs, and delivers a far higher degree of flexibility.

There’s also scope to build in additional capacity depending on your milling process. The Kruba CNC can handle up to eight bars simultaneously and can also work two different systems if you dual source.

ProfteQ’s External/Internal TimberLook machining centre is an affordable high-yield alternative to Timberweld. It gets you started in manufacture of 90° butt-welded joints for the purchase price of just two high-yield machines. What it doesn’t give you is an internal and external 90° joint – it’s internal or external, not both.

The upside is that cost of entry is far lower: there’s no license and the ProfteQ solution also delivers additional flexibility and capacity to manufacture a standard 45°.

We introduced ProfteQ last year. Although its profile in the UK has been up until now, comparatively low, it’s one of the new stable of companies that sits within the FOM-GS Group, which was formed at the tail-end of 2016.

ProfteQ shares a similar design philosophy to the other companies within the group and that’s evident in what is a very low cost, high-yield and high-quality machinery platform.

This features a highly flexible cutting module, capable of machining almost any shape of profile. This also has the capacity to switch between profiles without changing tooling.

The ProfteQ twin or quad welder brings this same focus on flexibility to profile welding, delivering a 90° weld externally or internally, or a standard 45° joint.

It’s very difficult to overplay the flexibility that this platform gives you. 75% or more fabricators dual-source, so flexibility to switch between profiles and at the same time to add to your standard welding capacity is a very clear advantage.