New materials call for new joining techniques

Richard Perry of Chief Automotive shows off the company's latest welding equipment.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — October 6, 2015 — The new era of “exotic” materials calls for new methods of joining, both at the OEM and on the shop floor. Chief Automotive Technologies hosted trade press reporters recently to showcase new joining tools the company is making available.

The day-long session provided some fascinating insights into the evolution of the industry. In the introductory information session Richard Perry, Global Repair Product Manager for Chief Automotive, noted that times are good in the auto industry as a whole.

“New sales are rebounding. This year the industry is shooting for 17 million units sold. So there’s a lot of growth there. We’ve seen a 4.5 percent increase in claims over this time,” said Perry.

Many of these new cars are coming out with new mixes of many different exotic materials. Along with high-strength steel, aluminum, carbon fibre, and boron steel, magnesium is also being used today. Magnesium is similar in terms of strength to aluminum, but it’s one-third lighter. The metal can be easily and quickly machined. It’s corrosion resistant. A good replacement for plastic, it’s being used for brackets on the F-150 and GM Corvette, instrument panels, seat frames and the powertrain. It’s another of the relatively new materials being used in cars. New tools are being made available to work with these advanced materials.

One of the key pieces of kit being offered by Chief Automotive is the System Multispot MI-100 Control T Spot Welder. Bryan Brown of Chief Automotive demonstrated the system before allowing the gathered writers to try it out. Turns out it is so simple to use, even technically-challenged reporters could handle it.

The programmable computer and sensors in the vice make the machine incredibly easy to use. The computer can read the electrodes to know what’s going on at the point of the weld. The device can be operated by those with relatively little technical understanding.

“This makes it easy. If you can press a button you can do this,” said Bob Holland, Director of Collision Sales in North and South America for Chief Automotive. Having easy to use tools is a key consideration in an industry constantly struggling to find qualified and experienced techs.

There are other advantages as well. In earlier generations of spot welders the amperage was generated in the device and sent to the hand-held vice. This architecture limits how long the cable can be. In the new Chief Automotive spot welder, the amperage is generated in the vice itself. This allows the cable to be much longer.

The device also features water-cooled tips. This allows a worker to do many welds in a short-period of time. The head is also perfectly balanced, allowing the operator to more easily manipulate the device. Having a balanced head is a legal requirement in Europe. It is not a law here, but it’s still a nice feature to have in the shop.


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