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ESAB's state-of-the-art welding equipment for fabrication and repair of fired boilers for steam locomotives

ESAB Group : 24 March, 2005  (New Product)
R K Pridham Engineering is an unusual company in that it still manufactures new fired boilers for steam locomotives, as well as carrying out repairs on old boilers. Few companies in the world are able to perform this type of work due to the scarcity of the specialist skills and equipment required, which is why R K Pridham Engineering has a healthy forward order book.
Nevertheless, the company is keen to improve its productivity so as to reduce the lead times for its customers. One area that warranted investigation was the welding of copper plates for fireboxes. There is nothing new about welding copper fireboxes, but R K Pridham Engineering saw that there was scope for doing this much faster using newer equipment. A sub-contactor with a suitable welding set was therefore called in to see how much time could be saved without compromising quality.

As a result of the investigations carried out, R K Pridham Engineering had no hesitation in purchasing a set of the ESAB 500-amp super/pulse synergic MIG/MAG welding equipment via its local distributor, Wellington Welding, Plymouth.

As well as the equipment recently purchased, R K Pridham Engineering has also been buying ESAB and Murex consumables for around 20 years. Roger Pridham, the company owner, says: 'We first started with ESAB and Murex all those years ago simply because they had what we needed and could supply it at a reasonable price. As time has gone on we have found that we can always get the copper, steel and cored wires that we need, as well as steel stick electrodes, any other consumables, and now the new machine. In addition, we occasionally call them to ask about selecting the right grade of welding wire, gases or for advice on particular processes, and the answers we get are always spot-on. When we bought the new machine, ESAB also sent two representatives to give us two days of training, which was very helpful'

While the new welding equipment was purchased primarily for welding copper, it is also being used for repairing steel boiler shells, fabricating and manufacture of press tooling, some of which are up to five inches thick, for use in their 700 tonne press. Previously R K Pridham Engineering only had arc welders, so being able to work with MIG equipment has led to dramatic time savings with these other applications too.

Fired boilers have to be welded to extremely high standards due to huge thermal stresses incurred. R K Pridham Engineering's welders therefore have to work to standards such as BS EN 287-1:2004 (Qualification test of welders. Fusion welding. Steels) and welds have to be non-destructively tested, using methods such as X-ray imaging and ultrasonic scanning, in accordance with other appropriate standards. Using the new, faster welding equipment has therefore been proven not only to cut time but also increase the quality of the welds achieved.
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