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Precision engineer and sheet metal fabricator, William A Lewis Engineering of Shrewsbury, has illustrated how versatile a single robot can become once its full potential is realised.

A subcontractor predominantly to the defence sector, WA Lewis is using the robot cell to weld, at coded level, the widest range of materials and also for plasma-cutting plate up to 2in thick.

The Fanuc Robotics System 100 welding cell comprises a six-axis Fanuc Robotics Arcmate 100iB robot within a self-contained enclosure.

Components loaded into jigs on a manually operated table are loaded outside the cell while the robot welds components within the cell.

The system is designed and manufactured by Fanuc Robotics as a self-contained unit that is delivered ready assembled and only requires services to be connected before operation on site.

Up until two years ago, WA Lewis had no automation and all work was manually welded by its, largely coded, welders.

Chris Eardley, project engineer at WA Lewis, said: ‘The company had no previous experience of robotics and its introduction was looked upon with trepidation by the existing team.

‘I had experience from a previous employer and realised the positive impact a welding robot would have on the business.

‘It was a major investment by the company and by keeping the team involved with progress and by loading the “less interesting mainly volume” jobs onto the robot, it became clear very quickly just how important it was to the business,’ he added.

More than 100 jobs are now programmed to run on the System 100 with volume products including aluminium window housings for armoured vehicles and spare wheel carriers for military off-road vehicles.

‘Since we’ve had the Fanuc Robotics welding cell our business in this area has trebled,’ said chief accountant, Liam O’Neill.

Although the robot was ready for operation after delivery in a matter of hours, in reality it has taken 12 months to fully integrate it with operations.

This process has included having the robot cell coded through Lloyds for welding various thicknesses of materials to military specifications.

‘Time savings and consistency of quality are both significant benefits we have received from the implementation of the System 100,’ said Eardley.

‘One example is a component that took two operators three days to produce 10 components – we are now able to complete 27 components in three hours.

‘In addition, it allows our skilled operators to concentrate on lower volume specialist welding while a semi-skilled operator manages the robot cell.

‘We laser cut all our components in-house so together with the jigs, which we also design and manufacture, and the Fanuc robot’s high degree of repeatability, we are assured of a high-quality weld every time,’ he added.

Now in operation for approaching two years the robot cell runs three shifts, five days a week and has not required any unscheduled maintenance attention.

FANUC UK provides industrial automation solutions ranging from the supply of CNC controllers, robots, drilling machines, EDM and injection moulding machines through to the complete integration of factory automation systems.

Providing a single customer support portal for its three core businesses, FANUC comprises FA — CNC controllers, motors and drives; robotics — industrial robots and systems; robomachines — EDM, injection moulding and drilling machines.


FANUC’s FA business manufactures CNC controls, drive systems and laser systems. With a 65 per cent market share in the global CNC control sector, FANUC is the market leader. FANUC CNC is the controller of choice for the world’s leading machine tool manufacturers; continuously developing functionality sees FANUC CNC control being used in a wide range of applications — combining powerful control and high precision with unparalleled reliability.

FANUC servo drives and motors are well proven — aimed at the machine builder, they offer the widest range of high-performance compact designs.  The high availability and ease of maintenance together with world-class, energy-efficient designs make them the motors of choice for thousands of OEMs around the world.


FANUC’s robotics business manufactures the widest range of robots in the world for applications from micro-electronics assembly to the forging of precision aerofoils for jet engines — in industries as diverse as pharmaceutical and potato processing — and with maximum payloads from 1kg to 1,350kg. More than 280,000 FANUC robots are operating worldwide, with production currently geared to meet demands of 5,000 per month. FANUC robots are truly ‘out-of-the-box’ automation designed to be totally flexible and, with application-specific options, straightforward to integrate.


FANUC’s robomachine business manufactures Robodrill machining centres, Robocut EDM machines and Roboshot electric injection-moulding machines. Using FANUC components throughout, the robomachine business builds on the advanced technology, reliability, energy efficiency and innovation of its own controllers, drives and motors. With a focus on energy efficiency and high reliability, the robomachine business developed the first all-electric injection-moulding machines — Roboshot — changing the mould shop into a much cleaner and quieter environment.

Customer support

From initial sales contact with FANUC through the life of the product, FANUC provides one single contact point to make sure support is always at hand with up-to-date advice, genuine warranted parts and, whenever possible, obsolescence avoidance solutions that ensure the lifetime delivery of maximum efficiency.

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