- Development of a technology for automation of the aluminothermic welding process, by including the capability of applying compressive forces and enhanced cooling of the weld prior to and during welding, for improvements of
- Development of a weld finishing technology for application within an automated welding process.
- Development of reporting, data management and online quality control processes to facilitate weld acceptance.
- Field testing of the new variant of the aluminothermic welding process (weld installation, monitoring of service performance, data management).
Design and development of an automated aligning, forging and shearing unit has been carried out, resulting in the prototype ALFONS. The final module consists of a metallic, highly rigid supporting skeleton, a hydraulic for generating the necessary drive and pressing forces as well as a sensor system for controlling the process.
This module 1.0 has also been designed so that in addition to tests for welding, development tests can be performed. In this way it is possible to later amend the concept of the clamping cylinder to provide less clamping force, thereby reducing the number of clamping units and thus approaching more closely to a manageable final weight for in the field.
The enhanced cooling system brings several benefits to welding teams in the field in order to enhance productivity as it helps to create a geometrically stable joint enabling accurate profile grinding. It also allows for the ability to complete final weld inspection within a welding shift. It enables a shorter time in application and removal of hydraulic tensors when restoring SFT (i.e. Closure welds) and ensures high integrity weld with fully pearlitic microstructures. Finally, as it is portable and robust it is simple to use and easy to train welders in its use.
The process and machine control system collates all the incoming data from the welding process and documents the manual inputs of the operator, the specified process parameters and the measured values from sensors during the sequence of the automated process steps. It also records the consumables in order to enhance quality assurance and traceability.
The weld finishing technology, GRIMLI-Module: GRInding, MIlling, LInishing, (Figure 4) is a machine that ensures the contours and surfaces are restored following the alumina-thermic welding process to comply with standards, and the accelerated cooling of the welded joint. Moreover, the profile is monitored during the process, and the surface monitored and evaluated afterwards.
Finally, ALFONS generated welds have been installed, in the Betuwroute track, by PRORAIL in the Netherlands, and are expected to support over 20 Megatons of freight traffic over the last 9 months of the project.