Groupe Tremblay

Groupe Tremblay

November 14, 2015 13:21 ET

Soudures J.M. Tremblay Unveils an Innovative Welding Technology That Will Set the Industry Ablaze

SAINT-ANICET, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Nov. 14, 2015) -

This afternoon, Les Soudures J.M. Tremblay (SJMT) unveiled, surrounded by its clients, partners and employees, the very first robotic friction stir welding (FSW) cell in production in Canada. While this welding technology has been known for many years, its implementation is not widely spread in North America.

With over 25 years of manufacturing experience, the Quebec company SJMT was focused on finding a profitable solution to lengthen the life of the cathode plates used in the electrolytic process to refine zinc. An aluminum conductive cathode plate lasts for an average of 12 to 18 months, its efficiency slowly decreasing over time because of corrosion. The desire to find new techniques and solutions to recycle corroded cathode plates and therefore offer groundbreaking and competitive products to their clients, led the company on the path to innovation.

With this in mind, the company turned to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and an ecofriendly technology called "Friction Stir Welding" (FSW). Differing from the usual arc welding techniques, FSW allows the welding of two materials with different characteristics, while preventing the distortion that usually happens with conventional welding means. This system would also reduce SJMT's energy consumption and minimize the welding-related damaging emissions.

Seeing SJMT's growth potential, the NRC introduced the company to the Industrial Research Assistance Program's (IRAP) team, thus giving them access to financing and strategic advice from engineering and technology experts in the welding sector. A grant from the Centre québécois de recherche et de développement de l'aluminium (CQRDA) added to that support.

All teams worked hand in hand, sharing knowledge, pioneering technologies, installations and passion for their field, so the Canadian company could piece together everything they needed to innovate, adapt and stay competitive. This new technology proceeded quickly from an idea in a lab to industrial production and is starting to pique other sectors' interest, such as the mining industry, transportation and aeronautics. In turn, this leads to more effort put in innovation and glimpses to a bright future.

"The technical help received from the NRC, combined with financing from the IRAP, allowed us to grow and diversify our activities", says Gail Comeau, Project Manager at SJMT. After they established that cathodes could be fixed by automatic FSW, the partners took on the ambitious project of creating, building and testing a FSW work cell. This automated system, made of an industrial robot on rail, combined to other ingenious pieces of equipment, could recondition cathodes at a very fast pace, which helped SJMT to keep and even diversify its market share.

"Twelve months after the installation, we have reconditioned around 10,000 cathodes. The deployment of the automated elements cut by 80 percent our production time and by half our work intensity", adds Mrs. Comeau. Moreover, primary waste and metal residues are reduced by 35 percent, while the cathodes' life is doubled.

After five years of research, development and trials, the partners are happy to celebrate what is now the beginning of a new perspective on welding and automation. Necessity is the mother of invention and this innovative robotic FSW technology, the first of its kind in the Canadian manufacturing industry, took SJMT's efficiency and production capacity beyond expectations.

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