Research team behind Fredriksons Verkstads AB’s investment in new welding technology and a new factory: Niklas Wenström (Fredriksons), Mattias Igestrand (University West), Peter Norberg (Svetsmaskinservice AB), Linus Elf and Reine Eriksson from Fredriksons.
Fredriksons in Vadstena, an industrial enterprise more than 100 years old, has plenty of experience of designing and manufacturing large, complex products made of stainless steel. Production of large tanks for the food industry is one of their specialities. However, completely new challenges and opportunities presented themselves when a client asked for the company’s help with manufacturing a new type of product.
“The assignment involves a large tank used for long-term storage of energy from wind turbines and solar panels, for example. The tank acts as an advanced heat exchanger and has been designed by an innovative company,” says Linus.
“The tank is large and has to contain aggressive substances, so it’s made from several different alloys. This means that very stringent demands are made of the welds. We realised early on that we needed to use a new welding technology for certain welds, but we didn’t know which one would best match the requirements. “Both we and Svetsmaskinservice, our supplier, had previously been in touch with welding researchers and research engineers at University West when we were working on the Replab project, so it was obvious that we should contact them again,” says Linus.
The three of them – Fredriksons, Svetsmaskinservice and University West – went on to establish a partnership to explore whether Force Tig welding technology met the requirements. When Linus and his colleagues had mastered the technique, they then conducted tests using the same material as that used in the tanks.
“We were then able to conduct a number of different welding tests together with research engineer Mattias Igestrand at the Production Technology Centre in Trollhättan. We tested a number of process parameters there, and performed simulations that would reveal any deviations. This allowed us to pinpoint how the welding technology works for the alloys to be used when manufacturing the tank.
“We concluded that Force Tig is a robust, fast and energy-efficient welding technology resulting in high-quality welds for this type of product. Having such substantial decision data meant that we were confident in our choice of welding technology and could take on the new assignment with confidence,” says Linus.
Manufacturing the new energy storage tank required not only new welding equipment, but investment in a new, modern production unit as well. The company decided to build a factory in Vadstena covering an area of 700 m2 to accommodate a new tank production line. The manufacturing process here is almost fully automated. Robots do 95 per cent of the welding and assembly work, while the remaining steps and tasks are done manually.
“We opened the factory in February and production is up and running. But we’re still in the start-up phase and are constantly fine tuning everything,” says Reine Eriksson, Key Account Manager at Fredriksons.
“This has been an extensive project, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. This initiative is fully in line with the company’s aim of working in partnership with companies and products that address climate challenges with sustainable technology solutions. We have development and manufacturing facilities in both Sweden and China, so we can also contribute internationally in this area.”
The energy storage tank is a couple of metres high and about the same width, and requires about 40 metres of welded joint.
A spectacular presentation was held for the new energy storage tank when Fredriksons Verkstads AB inaugurated its new factory in Vadstena in February 2022.
University West’s collaboration with Fredriksons Verkstads AB is a good example of how the test bed at the Production Technology Centre (PTC) in Trollhättan can be used by small, medium-sized and regional enterprises to build expertise in production technology.
University West has been funded for several years by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and Region Västra Götaland in order to develop the Production Technology Centre in Trollhättan into a knowledge node and test bed for specific manufacturing processes and automation.