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Robots help Dairytube Engineering Ltd to branch out

How ABB’s robot technology is helping Dairytube Engineering expand its range of stainless steel tubing products for new applications

Robots help Dairytube Engineering Ltd to branch out


Improved precision and flexibility delivered by ABB's technology is helping Dairytube Engineering to seek new business opportunities outside of the dairy industry and expand its range of steel tubing products. Equipped with a Thermal Dynamics Ultra-Cut 100 High Precision plasma cutting system and XTR High Precision robotic torch, an ABB IRB 4400 six-axis robot is now being used to manufacture products for automotive companies as well as specialist parts for dairy industry applications.

Based near Kells in Ireland, Dairytube Engineering Limited has traditionally specialised in the manufacture of stainless steel tubing products for the dairy industry, including dairy bends up to 10mm, manifolds and special fittings to order. With the improvements brought by the robotic system, Dairytube now also supplies bull-bars and stainless steel trims for the automotive sector.

Norman Shekleton, managing director for Dairytube Engineering Limited, explains: "We supply a wide range of metal goods for different industries which often involves cutting preformed sections of tubes into highly complex shapes. This seemed like the perfect operation to automate, and therefore a robotic solution was called for, to help us handle the often varied cuts needed."

Norman continues, "What we got was a system that provided the best of both worlds for us. For example, the dairy industry requires dross-free cuts and weld-ready cut surfaces to prevent contamination, whereas automotive components need to look aesthetically pleasing and be consistently accurate, especially when it comes to lettering. Our new robotic system is perfect for both."

Capable of handling loads up to 60kg, ABB's IRB 4400 is enabling Dairytube Engineering to achieve fast and simple production across its entire product range. The high precision ensured by ABB's TrueMove path control technology, coupled with the improved cut quality delivered by the plasma cutting system and robotic torch is helping Dairytube to achieve a high quality product finish.

The compact design and protected versions enables use in situation where conventional robots cannot work, such as foundry and spraying applications. The foundry plus versions are ideal for harsh environments because they are IP67 protected and can be washed with high-pressure steam.

Further improvements have been achieved by the system's use of an innovative technique known as Water Mist Secondary (WMS) as part of the plasma cutting tool. In most plasma cutting systems, an expensive argon-hydrogen mix is used as a shield gas to obtain high quality results. The WMS process allows Dairytube to use ordinary tap water as the plasma gas, obtaining excellent results at a much lower cost.

This process has been designed by Thermal Dynamics to deliver outstanding cut quality on non-ferrous materials at speeds up to three times faster than the traditional argon-hydrogen method. As the majority of the water used during the process is converted into gas, there is no need for disposal.

Norman comments, "I was very impressed with the quality of cut I was able to achieve from our new automated solution. By using Water Mist and nitrogen on thin gauge material we were able to achieve results comparable to laser cutting. It is a great solution that will enable us to expand our product offering whilst simultaneously reducing costs."

For further information on ABB's IRB 4400 six-axis robot, please email or call 01908 350 300. Further information on Thermal Dynamic range of plasma cutting systems can be found at

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