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ESAB Welding and Cutting Products partnered with Aerisyn, LLC, to supply all the cutting, assembly, welding and material handling equipment for North America’s first automated wind tower production facility. Aerisyn, a Wisconsin based alternative energy company, is currently modifying an existing manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. ESAB’s extensive wind tower fabrication experience in Europe led Aerisyn to choose ESAB for the project. The plant is expected to be in full production in August 2005.
“Rising fossil fuel costs and consumer demand make this an ideal time to build an automated wind tower plant,” Marlin Laidlaw, president, Aerisyn said. “Wind power is no longer a novelty item, but rather a viable player in energy production. We are thrilled that ESAB had the technology ready to help America meet its demand for green power.”
ESAB was instrumental in assisting with the plant layout and material flow design. This will be the first installation in North America of the unique ESAB automated assembly. This massive system includes head and tailstock clamping fixtures, with a powerful hydraulic fitup jig, proven in Europe to enable the operator to assemble the tower sections, precisely, quickly and easily.
In addition to the assembly line, Aerisyn will utilizeseveral other advanced and substantial ESAB systems, including two large cutting machines, positioning equipment, specialized welding manipulators, as well as sub arc filler metals, and a variety of hand-held welding and shop equipment.
“There are currently less than ten wind tower production facilities in North America, all of which are operating a peak capacity. As the first automated plant in the U.S., the Chattanooga facility will be able to capitalize on ESAB equipment technologies to produce the highest quality wind towers, quickly and cost-effectively,” said Richard Hadley, General Manager of ESAB Welding Automation Group in North America. “By incorporating ESAB’s global knowledge of wind tower fabrication into this project, we were able to help Aerisyn create what will be the most efficient tower manufacturer in this part of the world, when they come online this summer.”
The key to making superior-quality wind towers is the ability to produce dimensionally accurate parts, withextremely precise weld preparation beveling on all sides. Two large ESAB cutting machines, produced at the Florence, South Carolina plant, will handle the task. The Avenger X, is an 18’ wide plasma contour bevel machine and the Avenger 3 is a 30’ wide model equipped with dual oxyfuel bevel heads, that will be put into service.
The Avenger 1 allows high-speed plasma contour bevel cutting, accurate in thicknesses to 25mm. The Avenger 3 will handle thicker cuts and will be set up to cut two plates simultaneously. ESAB’s exclusive Columbus programming software and plate management system will control both machines.
Several large manipulators are included, equipped with microprocessor controlled DC/AC tandem welding equipment. To enable the remote control of the process, they are complete with seam tracking and video guidance systems. This configuration is in use by many wind tower builders and is proven to increase duty cycle and improve weld quality. The sub arc filler metals will include Spool Arc® 81 and OK Flux 10.72.
Aerisyn is investing more than $7 million in equipment and capital improvements to the Alstom Building in Chattanooga. The company expects to create 75 new jobs initially and may double that number within three years. It is estimated that they will be able to produce up to 200 of the 200 – 300 foot tall towers in the first year of production.