ARC Specialties in Houston designs and builds automated systems ranging from robotic cells to large multi-axis machines. "ARC Specialties is a vertically integrated company that controls every aspect of a project, including the design and integration of control systems and software for each system," says John Martin, vice president of engineering. "When a manufacturing process requires multiple robots or automated machines, ARC creates centralized control systems that coordinate all the processes performed by these multiple units."
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The systems ARC Specialties has built cover a wide spectrum of manufacturing processes, including welding, cutting, material handling, assembly, inspection and pressure testing. The oil and gas industry is ARC's primary customer, but it frequently builds systems for the mining, consumer, construction and defense industries.
Manufacturers in the oil and gas industry need a variety of welding systems for their applications and welded components, so ARC commonly integrates multiple welding systems, which can be quite challenging.
"One customer purchased three different standard ARC welding systems: a CNC robotic submerged arc welding system, a rotating-head and base-cladding system, and a vertical-bore cladding system," Martin explains. "Each system welded different areas of a large part that weighed several tons. The CNC, robotic, submerged, arc welding system was used to rebuild the part's racetrack-shaped bore cavity. The rotating-head and base-cladding system performed gas tungsten arc welding to clad racetrack-shaped ring grooves on the part. The vertical-bore cladding system was used for smaller components that were later joined to the final part."
ARC Specialties brings a lot of resources to bear on these types of projects. "An R&D robotic lab is sometimes used before a new project to test the automated process," Martin says. "A consulting and engineering services team provides metallurgical testing for welding systems, and automation engineers offer analysis to help manufacturers assess where they can possibly improve their practices through automation. ARC's team of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and software programmers design the automated system, which is then sent to ARC's assembly and machine shop to build," Martin adds.
Afterward, ARC supports the installation. "ARC machines have remote diagnostic capability through Ethernet connectivity, so that, if necessary, ARC technicians can troubleshoot within minutes without travel," Martin concludes.
This article is part of the December 2013 cover story, "System Integration Break Through."