Kuka Systems in Germany has developed an induction welding head and accompanying software that allow a 6-axis robot to bond hollow 3D thermoformed shells. The system has two small (2-cm-wide) pressure rollers. If the joint is supported by a surface, only the upper roller is used. If there is no support, the second roller applies counterpressure. Heat for welding is generated by induction heating of steel mesh strips placed in the welding zone. Kuka, with U.S. offices in Sterling Heights, Mich., says this is the first 3D welding process of its type. It was developed in a German research partnership involving Jacob Composite GmbH, a thermoformer with matched-metal vacuum molding technology; the Institut fur Verbundwerkstoffe (IVW); material supplier Bond Laminates GmbH; and the Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Production Systems (FBK). Initial welding tests were done on hollow sections of glassreinforced nylon 6 for auto bumper beams, but Jacob is now testing it on hollow thermoformed PP parts with automated insertion of the steel mesh. Potential automotive applications include underbody panels and interior parts. The technology will become commercially available after the threeyear R&D program ends next month. +49 (821) 797-0 • www.kukasystems.com
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