January 2, 2014
Schweissen & Schneiden, Europe’s premier and most comprehensive welding and cutting tradeshow, had plenty of technology and innovation. Twelve exhibition halls housed more than 1,000 exhibiting companies from more than 40 countries. Roughly 55,000 attendees from 130 countries made their way through the aisles during the six-day event, where they were able to view the latest advances in welding and cutting technology, hand tools, safety gear, consumables, and other equipment.
Traditionally, the late September and early October timeframe tends to be synonymous with Oktoberfest. Celebrated all over the world, the festival is an iconic event in Bavarian culture. More than 6 million people on average flock to partake in the 14-day celebration at the festival’s epicenter in Munich.
But every four years another fair debuts just a few hours northwest, in Essen, that doesn’t necessarily have the same cultural following as Oktoberfest, but it does have far-reaching implications in the metalworking world. Schweissen & Schneiden, Europe’s premier and most comprehensive welding and cutting tradeshow, unites industry professionals from all over Europe and abroad at the Messe Essen trade hall. Twelve exhibition halls housed more than 1,000 exhibiting companies from more than 40 countries. Messe Essen and the German Welding Society, show co-partners, reported that roughly 55,000 attendees from 130 countries made their way through the aisles during the six-day event, where they were able to view the latest advances in welding and cutting technology, hand tools, safety gear, consumables, and other equipment.
Aside from the hum of busy exhibitors and attendees milling about the aisles and spilling over from crowded booths, Schweissen & Schneiden looked much like any other tradeshow. But a couple of show exhibitors highlighted a few important differences.
First, explained Sue Bartholomew, director of global MARCOM and marketing operations for ESAB Welding & Cutting Products, people in Europe have a different initial perception of welding than people in the U.S.
“People in Europe, both welders and nonwelders, recognize welding more as an art form than a dirty job. Welders in Europe and the U.S. are both very proud of their work, but the nonwelding community in the U.S. sees welding as a dirty job. That’s their first perception of it anyway. But everyone in Europe views welding as an art form, a craft,” Bartholomew said.
Another key difference, explained Susanne Szczesny-Oßing, executive board vice president, EWM, is European companies do have a focus on clean systems and on creating a clean environment.
“In the U.S., your petrol is cheaper and your energy costs are cheaper, but that’s not how it is in Europe. Everything is more expensive. Our own philosophy is, we started as a developer and producer of components, so we know everything inside the machines that we build and we have very clever control systems and we can do things that use less energy.”
Technology advances are vital for anyone looking to maintain longevity in the welding and cutting marketplace, but they are especially important for European equipment manufacturers to stay competitive, said Gerald Obritzberger, director of sales and marketing at Fronius USA LLC. That’s not to say that innovation and technology aren’t staples in North America and elsewhere, for that matter, but in Europe the competition is particularly fierce. Obritzberger has a unique perspective in that he is a native of Austria who now lives in Chicago and works at Fronius’ U.S. headquarters in Portage, Ind.
“There’s a lot of competition among European welding equipment manufacturers. In the U.S. you may have only a handful of major players. So here [in Europe] you’re always driven to stay a step ahead of your competitor because there are so many technology companies. Certainly, in the U.S. we benefit from what happens here in Europe from an innovation and technology standpoint,” Obritzberger explained.
Innovation and technology advancements on display weren’t necessarily in the form of laser or plasma machines only, for example. Some advancements were designed to help address an industrywide problem, a trend, or a material shortage. That was the case for Umicor Technical Materials of Belgium, a company that unveiled the BlueBraze brazing alloy with 10 percent less silver content than conventional brazing alloys.
“Our customers approached us and wanted us to work out a way to remove silver because of the skyrocketing costs,” explained Dr. Jörg Beuers, CEO.
The company reports that the lower silver content does not alter the alloy’s quality and properties. The alloy, suitable for steels, copper and copper alloys, and nickel and nickel alloys, can be applied to any brazing process as well as to induction heating.
ESAB Welding & Cutting Products introduced the Warrior™ multiprocess welding power source that performs gas metal arc welding (GMAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), and arc gouging.ESAB’s Hendrik Rohde explained that the power source can weld with short arc or spray arc and consumes less energy than older SCR models thanks to the company’s TrueArcVoltage™ control.
Swiss welding helmet manufacturer Optrel Corp. had one of the show’s most interesting new products. According to Peter Eicher, director of sales and marketing, the company’s market research revealed that 80 percent of welders are hobbyists performing light-duty welds, and many of those welders don’t want or need a conventional welding helmet. From a PPE perspective, any welding performed without proper eye protection is a dangerous gamble for welders to take. So the company developed the WeldCAP for light-duty face and eye protection that is fitted with an autodarkening lens but with head and side protection made of textiles. The company said it brings together the comfort of a normal hat with the advantages of a welding helmet. The optical unit features a well-defined nose line that promotes a balanced, ergonomic feel and a visual display that is closer to the eyes, increasing a welder’s line of sight by 2.7 times, the company said.
Another interesting innovation, this time in air filtration, was unveiled by Kemper. Its CleanAirTower air filtration machine is designed for applications in which mobile exhaust arms or overhead filtration isn’t possible. The unit takes in contaminated air, filters it, and recirculates clean air back into the environment. The tower requires only a small footprint on the shop floor and functions according to the displacement ventilation principle recommended by health and safety bodies.
Fronius International GmbH found a way to merge its background and expertise in battery-charging systems with its experience manufacturing welding power sources. The AccuPocket 150/400 SMAW/GTAW power source operates on a lithium-ion battery that recharges to at least 90 percent capacity in 30 minutes. Even when connected to the unit’s ActiveCharger, the power source still can continue working in hybrid mode. During run times, the energy from the battery is used to ensure a constant arc under all operating conditions. The unit then recharges the battery during welding-off times.
German welding equipment manufacturer SKS Welding Systems GmbH debuted the eReam electronic torch cleaning system that works with all
robots and automation systems. Functions such as torch clamping, cutter rotation, cutter stroke, pump drive, and the optional wire cutting are performed by an independently controlled electric motor, and each motor is controlled by a configurable program. The controller processes the actual electrical parameters for the program functions and status messages. The product is designed for gas nozzles with outer diameters of up to 1.3 in. Martin Stenger, SKS marketing and public relations, emphasized that the electronically powered unit provides several safety advantages over air-powered models.
Staying in shape is an important part of keeping a welder on the job, said Jan Hasselbaum, international marketing director for Abicor Binzel Schweisstechnik GmbH & Co. KG. That’s why the company put together a fitness manual for welders, with an instructional DVD and poster that provide statistics, preventive health measures, and exercise tips to help keep welders comfortable and on the job longer.
The manufacturer of welding guns and torches also introduced several new torch designs, as well as announced extended offerings in its ABITIG® GRIP torch line. The new 90- and 180-W torches are suitable for use where a welder’s access to the component is restricted. The new 500-W model provides reliable gas coverage in applications up to 500 amps, the company reports. Each model has an ergonomic GRIP handle for extended comfort and a short ball joint that provides mobility and flexibility.
Koike Europe B.V. introduced the Monotec, a compact plug-and-cut machine, rail, and cutting table. The CNC touchscreen was designed for simple operation similar to an iPod® or an iPad®, said Sydney Sohier, sales engineer. The compact system has a rear exhaust for fume extraction. Positioning accuracy is facilitated through the precision AC servomotors and planetary gears attached directly to a linear rail with rack and pinion.
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