Utilizing FIAB 960 RF Traveling Welders in Outdoor Screen Production
For over 80 years, Thermex-Thermatron Systems (“Thermex”) has attained vast technical experience, leading the development of highly engineered radio frequency (RF) and microwave (MW) equipment. Applying decades of commercial insights to innovating dielectric heating processes, Thermex’s RF, MW, and industrial press systems have assisted manufacturers all over the world — driving safer production, upgrading quality, and paring down on critical costs.
Thermex began 2021 with a strategic acquisition — bringing Florida-based JTE Machines’ cutting-edge engineering, design, and automation capabilities for RF, as well as other forms of material sealing, into a key alliance. Since joining forces, Thermex has become the top North American and Latin American distributor of FIAB Traveling Welders. Leveraging a pioneering servo drive, the newly-built FIAB 960 RF Traveling Welder optimizes functionality and comfort — seamlessly empowering operation from two different sides.
FIAB RF Traveling Welders have become a pivotal resource as public demand for motorized screening solutions continues to grow. Traveling welders allow residential and commercial applications to enhance everything from patios, garages, and car ports to outside eating areas, traditional and picture windows, lanais, gazebos, and entry ways. With orders rising and sizes expanding, higher volume manufacturers have shifted away from sewing to RF welding; drawing on the power of FIAB RF traveling welding solutions.
Strengthening the Screen-Welding Process
Using a variety of materials and systems, outdoor screen manufacturers adjust and create adaptable options. This makes it possible to tailor sizes for end-users, allowing them to position and retract the screens with specialized tracks and remote controls. Customized tracks work with zippers, keder beads, and splines — components that are either sewn or welded onto the screen, keeping them under tension. This facilitates mobility for the screen, so that it is able to move freely, up and down.
FIAB 960 RF Traveling Welders revolutionize this process; offering ease and efficiency for manufacturers to RF weld the zippers or keder beads to the PVC coated screen material. Because the welding head travels precisely on an integrated rail and table system with a trough, the operator simply has to position the zipper or keder material into the guide; place the magnets on the mesh material; recall a recipe on the color touch screen; and push a button.
Leveraging technology designed to improve the dynamics of textile welding, the machine automatically welds continuously until it arrives at the end of the screen. Then, the operator shifts and spins the screen to the opposite side until all four sides are welded — all in a rapid-fire process of about three to five minutes. On a 14-foot screen, after positioning and welding the keder, the RF machine cycle times average less than 10 seconds; including time to cool.
When evaluating the sewing process, if you include the time it takes to position and allow for start and stop procedures (including thread and needle changes), the overall production time is comparable. However, with an impulse machine, no matter what size of screen is needed, the time requires at least 40 seconds per cycle for welding and cooling. Positioning within the impulse machine C frame is much less time-efficient and presents an issue of unfavorable ergonomics. As such, operators may need to take frequent breaks when using impulse machines. Conversely, the FIAB RF Traveling Welder delivers the possibility of easy, open space, offering availability for effortless set-up.
Achieving Ideal Keder Tension for the Ultimate Weld
Purchased keder comes on large, coiled rolls; and typically, does not lay flat on the table. Therefore, to achieve a smooth, flat weld without puckers, the keder must be straightened out and tensioned. Mechanizing the placement and tensioning of the keder plays a pivotal role in the material handling process; a central part of RF welding screens.
The best way to straighten out and tension the keder is to draw on the power of the FIAB Keder Guide. Attached to the top of the table, this guide allows the operator to smoothly slide the keder in and out; all while flattening and holding the keder in a perfectly straight position. This supports consistency; assisting precise, pucker-free welding to the screen material.
The quality of the end-product dramatically improves with impeccably straight and square welds. Unlike with RF welding, sewing processes are heavily dependent on the operator’s consistency, which is subject to human error. After all, this approach relies on the operator pushing the material through the sewing machine; not to mention the challenge of sewing two thin components perfectly square. Moreover, sometimes thinner materials together with a non-flat keder or zipper become that much more difficult to line up for a narrow seam.
Extending a Seam’s Shelf Life for Maximum Durability
Features like auto-tuning and soft welding tools help to allow for different thicknesses of material; so that manufacturers can achieve perfect welds every time. By eliminating the need to have needle punches through the material, the strength and shelf life of a welded seam exceeds that of any sewn seam. Consider that patio enclosures often include clear window material. When sewing the window into the side wall’s materials, this exposes those materials to any air passing through; thereby compromising the insulation benefit of the enclosures. One of the most crucial advantages of a welded seam is that it means no holes when producing outdoor screens.
Because a welded seam has no chance for moisture to enter into the fabric, the shelf-life of a welded seam is at least as long as the material itself, if not longer. Notably, sewn seams require puncturing of the material. This threatens the potential for moisture to enter into that material; risking the formation of mold. When mold strikes, the material can degrade quickly at those material puncture points. Considering many screens often serve dual purposes, including hurricane wind resistance, the durability of a seam’s strength is crucial.
The consistency of a PLC-controlled RF weld on a FIAB Traveling Welder is unmatched — outperforming any other seaming solution. Every detail, from the set-up and holding of materials down to advantageous, user-friendly ergonomics has been diligently considered, sharpened, and integrated. That combined with the virtual invisibility of the welded seam provide a high-efficiency total solution.
Harnessing the FIAB RF Traveling Welding Advantage
Hot air, impulse, and other welding methods are almost always likely to yield some kind of inconsistencies and wrinkles. It is imperative to secure a perfectly tensioned flat screen and bead attachment that works well with the extruded track, in order for the motorized screen to be able to operate correctly; and not become stuck or warped.
Because the properly tuned FIAB RF Traveling Welder and tool blends the one material directly into the other, the outcome is smooth and straight — without any flaws; a virtually impossible result to achieve with an impulse or rotary hot-air welder. Additionally, a topical weld like with the impulse method tends to create a shiny surface; an effect that with the right buffers and settings on the traveling welder can be almost eliminated. This is especially impactful considering screen and patio enclosures are exposed to direct sunlight — where a shiny line on the screen becomes even more visible and looks incohesive. High-grade Teflon, slightly scuffed, and a properly tuned RF machine help to prevent this in an RF-welded seam.
With the FIAB RF Traveling Welder, the intelligent design uses special tooling; making different materials easy to weld together without creating a “lip” or edge on the clear PVC. This primes the machine as an effective tool to join screens and weld clear vinyl onto a screen’s material — resulting in optimal, non-puckered windows; durable and resistant to the forces of inclement weather.
Gaining a Value-Added Solution: Consistently and Easily Deliver Exact Results
Custom screens come in all manner of shapes and sizes. Consider that with the extra-wide impulse welders, smaller screens take the same time as larger screens, which costs manufacturers the ability to vary their production costs with the size of a given product; creating inefficiencies and lower margins for those products. Because the FIAB Traveling Welder is the most feature-rich, complete versatile welding solution of its kind, any size screen can be accommodated.
The advanced, PLC-controlled FIAB RF Traveling Welder utilizes customized tooling and fixtures to execute consistent, efficient results, assisting high-volume screen, patio, and shade product manufacturers across the globe. The extra-large color touch screen is made for navigation ease, providing quick access for recipe recall. Moreover, the machine is also equipped with a network port for remote diagnostics and program upgrades, part of FIAB’s key service offerings.
The right tool can be transformative, allowing manufacturers to avoid the hassle of re-work in production and returns from customers. When re-work can come at the price of lost time, lofty material expenses, and the dissatisfaction of customers, delivering exact results the first time is invaluable. Leveraging the innovation of a higher-quality product can mean a premium price with higher profit margins for businesses.
When a customer invests in a FIAB RF Traveling Welder, not only are they receiving the best RF welding solution in the industry, but they are gaining access to a U.S.-based team of application engineers and technicians, available for critical support 24/7. Additionally, the Thermex-Thermatron onsite testing lab — ThermaLab — located at Thermex’s Kentucky-based 30,000-square-foot headquarters, is open for customer use; complete with help from our team of experts, ready to assist in “dialing in” new materials, buffers, and methods for continuous improvement.
Thermex-Thermatron is pleased to introduce our new RF Tooling Service. Assisting many other industries throughout the world, Thermex is now able to provide valuable tooling for residential and commercial screen products. Offering premier service and support, Thermex has optimized RF tooling as the answer to meet today’s advanced textile industry and all its growing demands — without the headaches that have become synonymous with other machines and methods.