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Rubber liner acquires CNC welding machine

September 1, 2008
by Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal
In: News with 0 Comments
Fuller Industrial, a Sudbury-based company specializing in pipe fabrication and rubber lining, has acquired a fully automated Rotoweld CNC welding machine for prefabrication of industrial pipe.Featuring machine vision, adaptive controls and robotics technology, the Rotoweld 2500 produces X-ray quality welds with minimal human intervention. The first and currently the only welding machine of its kind in Ontario, the Rotoweld 2500 will assist Fuller Industrial with a $10 million fabrication and rubber lining job for Sherritt International’s new nickel concentrator and hydromet plant at its Ambatovy nickel project currently under development halfway around the world in Madagascar.

“You program the type of weld you want and a camera watches it and adjusts the amperage, the wire speed, the rotation of the fitting, the depth, and the side to side, so it gives you a perfect weld every time,” said company president Jeff Fuller.

The Rotoweld 2500 is faster and more accurate and gets around the problem of recruiting welders because “there aren’t a lot of them around,” according to Fuller. “We’re not replacing jobs. We’re doing work that we wouldn’t have been able to do because we couldn’t hire enough welders to do it.”

The machine operator sits at a control station and watches a camera view of the weld in progress.

Twin workbays maximize arc-on time by allowing re-loading of one chuck without interrupting the welding on the other.

“With this machine we can handle any piping job in the world,” said Fuller.

The company has been in business since 2004, but Fuller and his father, Bill, have a wealth of experience in pipe fabrication and rubber lining, having operated Abrafex Ltd. until Bill’s retirement in 2002.

Jeff worked in retail banking for awhile and spent some time on the road with a rock ‘n roll band before deciding to pick up where his father left off.

“When we opened for business four years ago, we immediately took an international focus,” he said. “We knew that if we did that, we would need quality systems and the best equipment and facilities.”

According to Fuller, there are a lot of small players with a regional focus in the rubber lining business.

“In Sudbury, there are five companies that can do rubber lining. In the rest of Canada, there are another five, but most of them are focusing on local markets. It’s a sideline for them. They do conveyor belts or something else and do rubber lining on the side. Our focus is strictly on rubber lining.”

The Rotoweld 2500 is just one example of Fuller’s determination to build a world-class rubber lining business.
Cutting-edge enterprise resource planning software acquired by Fuller Industrial has streamlined its business and production processes.

“Every step of every job is bar-coded, so we have real-time capture of where we are with every job,” said Fuller.  “Customers can also use the system to track their jobs. It used to be that they’d call and you’d tell them what they wanted to hear, but now it’s transparent.”

Spool drawings

Fuller has gone one step further and fully automated the production of spool drawings, detailed drawings showing the dimensions and fabricating instructions for every section of pipe.

“It’s OK to have an engineer make them if there are only five or six, but if you have 20,000 pieces, you’d need a whole team of engineers. Instead, we use a software solution that takes the plant design model and creates all of the spool drawings for us.”

Another big advantage is that because the drawings are based on the model with no opportunity for human error, customers no longer have to review and approve them.

Fuller’s next step is to create a library of pipes and fittings that engineers can use within their plant design software packages.

“With a library of pipes and fittings, they wouldn’t have to ask us what we can rubber line and what we can’t. If a man can’t reach his hand in a fitting, you can’t rubber line it, but the people doing the model don’t always know that.”

On top of all this, the company recently moved into a new 23,000-square foot building in Sudbury, opened a branch in Edmonton, Alberta, and purchased a state-of-the-art, 1,500-square foot paint spray booth.

A massive 55-foot autoclave with an interior 11-foot diameter was acquired earlier this year for curing rubber-lined pipes.

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