In Inovaweld’s production line, more than 40,000 stainless steel barrels can be manufactured in a single year. As part of their manufacturing process, they must clean stainless steel to remove oxides from welding joints (including butt joints and lap joints). Once stainless steel is cleaned, they must make sure that it is passivated to protect it from corrosion.
In 2018, Inovaweld implemented laser cleaning in their production line, replacing conventional cleaning techniques in an important part of their production. The following video shows their new production process as well as welding joints that are oxide free with perfect repeatability as soon as barrels are out of the machine.
Why Inovaweld Chose Laser Cleaning?
At first, Inovaweld used conventional methods (chemical and mechanical cleaning) to remove oxides from stainless steel. When they analyzed their production processes, cleaning was the bottleneck in their production line.
Since they decided to optimize their cleaning step, they took advantage of this moment to identify pain points related to cleaning: dust production, noise levels, consumable costs and management, and a slow production output were some of them.
Here’s how they addressed those pain points with laser cleaning.
Production Output and Process
With conventional cleaning methods, some cleaning steps weren’t integrated in Inovaweld’s production line. They were performed by operators who are—as is naturally expected— inconsistent and prone to error. Inovaweld wanted to reduce the time required to achieve a consistent product. To do so, they wanted to replace manual operations with automated ones.
They didn’t only want a solution that required fewer workers. They also wanted a solution that would improve their production output. This was especially true for chemical cleaning, which was a bottleneck in their production line.
The time required for oxide removal varied greatly with chemical cleaning, ranging from 1 hour to 48 hours. With laser cleaning, we now have the certainty that stainless steel is oxide free when it’s out of the machine."— Stéphane Massicotte, Director of Operations
With laser cleaning, they now have an automated solution that provides a high return on investment thanks to fewer workers, instant results, and little maintenance.
Health and Safety in the Workplace & Employees' Happiness
With conventional cleaning methods, Inovaweld had to implement multiple health and safety measures in the workplace. With laser cleaning, Michel Lévesque, Vice-President and Cofounder, is now proud to say that Inovaweld has improved health and safety in the workplace.
Here’s a list of work conditions that were improved where laser cleaning was implemented:
- Employees no longer need to handle chemicals
- The need for protective equipment has been reduced
- Dust production has been reduced
- Noise levels have been reduced
Improving health and safety has also contributed to employees’ happiness. Inovaweld’s employees didn’t like performing manual operations related to cleaning: they had to handle chemicals, perform repetitive tasks for equipment maintenance, and wear protective equipment in enclosed spaces. These tasks have now been removed or replaced with automated operations, allowing employees to focus on more important, motivating tasks.
Consumables and Maintenance
Inovaweld often had to replace consumables when they were used up, or when dust produced by mechanical cleaning damaged machines. Integrating laser cleaning has helped Inovaweld reduce maintenance caused by mechanical components. Indeed, their new laser cleaning solution has no mechanical components and, as such, requires little maintenance.
One Year After Implementing Laser Cleaning
With laser cleaning, Inovaweld’s cleaning step is now faster, integrated in their production line, safer, and requires little maintenance.
One year after its implementation, Mr. Lévesque says that even if laser cleaning represented an important investment, the return on investment is worth it. It has allowed them to reduce production time, and they’re now ready to handle orders on a larger scale.