Welding and testing technology in the production: every welding seam is the most important

The quality of every welding seam is of decisive importance. This contributes decisively to the service life and therefore the cost-efficiency of a machine. Reasons enough why work is carried out according to the highest quality criteria in the welding and testing technology workshop at Plasser & Theurer.

Around 80 welders are employed by Plasser & Theurer. These welders work in three welding shops where small components, machine frames and bogie frames are manufactured. They also work in four assembly workshops and in one maintenance workshop. At Plasser & Theurer all standard welding processes usual in steel construction are applied: metal and wolfram inert gas welding (MIG, WIG), metal active gas welding (MAG), autogenous welding, spot-welding, submerged arc welding and of course robot welding. Particularly the welders in the assembly department are held in high esteem by their colleagues. These welders have to work reliably even in areas that are difficult to reach and be capable of welding in all situations. Highly qualified welders are also responsible for programming and operating the ten welding robots.

Well-equipped workplaces.

It is not easy to be taken on as a welder at Plasser & Theurer. Only trained all-round welders who absolutely fulfil the high standards demanded by Plasser & Theurer have a chance.

However, once the welder has managed this, he enjoys the benefits of a workplace that is not only well paid but also excellently equipped. Commensurate with the required results, the welders at Plasser & Theurer work only with modern and high-quality equipment. Work clothing, protective equipment, etc., is provided by the firm which goes to show how highly these specialists are valued.

Comprehensive system for consistent high quality.

This large investment in qualification and equipment of the employees is part of an integrated system that encompasses the entire welding and testing technology workshop at Plasser & Theurer. The philosophy behind it is clear: the cost-efficiency and safety of the machines depends quite decisively on the quality of the welding seams which is why the highest standards have to be set here.

This philosophy is put into practice in the context of the standard series EN 15085. This is the first European welding standard that was specially developed for rail vehicles and is regarded as one of the most comprehensive welding standards world wide (formerly DIN 6700). Since 2008 welding is performed at Plasser & Theurer according to the guidelines of this European standard. Due to the high costs associated with this, a specialised international welding engineer (IWE) has been employed solely with the task of optimising the necessary framework conditions, checking that the specifications are met and performing the regular tests.

An internal welding standard and a company welding manual give clear and verifiable guidelines.

A welder is also a craftsman and therefore his skill depends to a certain extent on the qualifications he has obtained. To guarantee that every single welder and design engineer adheres to the defined quality criteria, the internal “P&T welding standard” and the welding manual which overrides it are available. These contain the descriptions of all standards, certificates and design criteria relevant for the company. At the present time the manual contains more than 2,500 welding instructions. This means that every single one of the 2,500 welds is laid down exactly according to position, process, additional substances, materials and current intensity. This ensures that the quality of the welding seams remains of an absolutely consistent standard. Every welder supplies the equally high level of quality at all times.

It goes without saying that the welding manual and the welding standard are expanded and updated continuously. A task that demands a great deal of effort but whose value cannot be appreciated highly enough.

Tests every two years.

A very important element of the quality system in the Plasser & Theurer welding and testing technology workshop are the regular examinations which the welders have to take. The examinations are held every two years. Each individual welder is only allowed to carry out welds in accordance with certain certificates, these are tested in detail. Work samples are produced and subjected to macroscopic structural investigations and/or fracture tests and these serve to verify and document the qualification of the welders. Apart from the examinations that have to be taken every two years, after a longer absence every welder at Plasser & Theurer has to re-qualify.

Company personnel for ongoing tests.

The output that the eighty welders produce is enormous. The expenditure for testing is equally high. Therefore the company employs its own testing personnel who can check all regular products (metal sheets, castings and forging pieces and welded constructions) in compliance with the certification as per EN 473 in the test processes visual test (VT) and surface crack test (MT, PT).

In addition to this, testing personnel from accredited laboratories are entrusted with volumetric tests (UT, RT). Over and above the testing capacities in the firm’s own factories, there is also a growing need in relation to the suppliers. Here only certified companies are considered primarily for safety-relevant components.

The future within the enterprise.

Which welded seam was carried out by which welder can be traced back to the 1990s at Plasser & Theurer. For roughly the same length of time, work has been performed in all factories according to internationally valid welding standards. Annually the 80 welders have to undergo approx. 250 tests. Since not many qualified welders are available on the job market, Plasser & Theurer trains its own apprentices.

The effort and expenditure that Plasser & Theurer puts into welding and testing technology is exemplary. And there is nothing to indicate that this might lessen in the future. The opposite is probably the case. Simply because at Plasser & Theurer the quality of every single welded seam counts. For the benefit of the safety and cost-efficiency of every machine.

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