Trailer builder boosts production while improving weld seam appearance

Partnership

8/13/2020 / USA
Eliminating a whole step from a manufacturing process while making a stronger, better product is a dream. And that’s exactly what happened when Look Trailers went searching for better aluminum welds. They found benefits that reached all across the shop. 
Look Trailers' Sport utility trailer makes hauling toys easy
Look Trailers' sport utility trailer makes hauling toys easy

Look Trailers is a manufacturer of open and enclosed trailers of all kinds, from concessions trailers to car haulers and goosenecks to small utility trailers. They have five manufacturing facilities across the nation and are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. Their focus is to provide the best quality trailers and service to their dealers and customers. To this goal, they found a need to improve the quality of their welds on their line of open trailers.

Open style trailers are useful for hauling lawn care and contractor equipment, off-road vehicles, and the occasional large purchase or move across town. By using aluminum, manufacturers like Look Trailers can keep the overall weight down, making them easy to tow and better on gas mileage. But the open style means support rails—and their welds—are visible, and those welds need to be attractive as well as secure. If not, smart consumers may wonder at the overall quality of the trailer.

This was the challenge that led Look Trailers in search of alternative welding solutions. Aluminum is already tricky to weld but add in the shortage of experienced welding staff and the challenge can seem insurmountable. Look Trailers knew they wanted that stacked-dime appearance for their welds, but cost, skill, and production time made finding equipment to do the job difficult. After a lot of research, they conducted a head-to-head test with three different brands of machines with five welding professionals from their shop. After both destructive and nondestructive testing of the welds, and the opinions of their team, Look decided that the Fronius TPS 320i best suited their needs.

The system gave the attractive welds they needed and worked with a lightweight, inexpensive push torch, instead of the bulkier, costly spool guns or push/pull style torches typical for aluminum. The Fronius push torch allows for up to fifteen feet of movement and fits easily into whatever position welding is needed, at a fifth the cost of a push/pull torch. The torch works with an adaptive arc to help overcome common problems such as lack of adhesion, porosity, or burn through, to create a solid, beautiful weld.

“The welds come out of the machine with a row of dimes that are shiny, pretty much from the start,” said TJ Repaich, General Manager of Indiana factories. “That means we don’t have to go to another station to wire brush or phosphate wash the weld just to get it to look nice. It eliminates a whole step from the process, and we can build trailers faster.”

Consistent attractive welds and removing post-weld clean up were just parts of the equation for faster production. Another slowdown was a human element they didn’t think could be changed. For these trailers, welding employees move from station to station and have to set up their welding parameters at each step. Thanks to the job-mode of the TPS/i, each welder can select their pre-saved parameters and get right to welding. Each employee has a customized job letting them do their best welding every time. This ensures the right parameters for every weld and allows for easier training of new staff.

Trying to find skilled welders in a competitive job market is proving to be challenging for many manufacturers. Look Trailers is finding that the easy-to-use interface and intuitive arc of the TPS/i helps improve the overall consistency of their welds no matter who is using the machine.

“There is so much you can do with the Fronius welder that you can take an inexperienced welder and make them look like a really good welder. And the experienced welders like it even more because it’s faster,” says TJ. “I believe the ease of use will have an impact on new hires, too. It helps someone who is only used to one process, say steel, learn aluminum welding.”

The variability was another component that interested the Look team. Currently, they use all manual welding, but the future may include some robotic elements. The TPS/i line up is modular and versatile, which fits the Look Trailers mindset. According to Doug Moats, Director of Marketing, “We like to say, ‘Look trailers is behind you for the road ahead.’ And we’re proud of our partnerships that support that kind of focus on the future.”

By Rhonda Zatezalo. Rhonda is a freelance writer for the fabrication industry, www.rhondazatezalo.com

To learn more about Look Trailers and their product line, check out www.looktrailers.com. 
For more information about Fronius welding solutions visit www.fronius.com/en-us/usa/welding-technology