Zeppelin Group invests in its Friedrichshafen site

12.05.2019

Around EUR 5 million on new welding system

Friedrichshafen, May 13, 2019. Zeppelin-built silos can be found all over the world. Some years ago, new methods for constructing these containers were developed in order to maintain competitive standards in regions that are distant from the Friedrichshafen production site.The large silos are not transported fully assembled and welded, but are dismantled into compact segments that can be easily delivered to the construction site in containers, for assembly on-site. This approach saves on transport costs and reduces risk. Zeppelin has now taken the process one step further, implementing an innovative welding technology for aluminum, which enables individual segments to be produced far quicker and at less cost.

The new assembly technique welds segments together without using welding rods and shielding gas, and is up to three times faster than conventional welding methods. It is based on an innovative technology known as friction stir welding; this was patent-protected until 2015, and had previously only been used in lightweight construction, for example in the aerospace industry and in automotive production. It involves a rotating heavy-duty tool being pushed into the meeting point between two components, generating friction that heats and melts the materials together, resulting in a homogeneous bond after cooling.

This production process is not only unique within the industry for its speed and cost benefits, but also yields other major advantages over conventional welding. The fully automated production system enables hybrid processing by combining cutting, drilling, and welding to ensure excellent, high-quality reproducibility. Plate thicknesses of up to 20 mm can be welded in one layer, with no flashes or welding smoke produced. The quality of the weld is also far better than anything that conventional methods can deliver.

The new machinery, which has a total length of 34 meters, is 14 meters wide, and weighs 80 metric tons, is currently under construction in the Zeppelin production hall, with commissioning scheduled for May 2019, when the introduction phase to optimize the new process and ramp up production volume will commence. This will open the door to series production of silo segments, promising a competitive edge for the Zeppelin Group in its distant markets, but also a real boost to European orders. The system can be viewed during the Long Night of Technology and Innovation to be held on May 17 at Zeppelin Systems in Friedrichshafen.

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