As vehicle technology changes, Pro Spot tools up to meet demand
Carlsbad, Calif.—Inside the 56,000-square-foot headquarters it moved into a few years ago, Pro Spot International has incorporated updated machinery and processes to bring nearly all manufacturing and assembly in-house, including an on-site machine shop, research and development department, a fabrication facility, production lines, and classroom and training center.
In the middle of the plant, a five-axis CNC machine whittles away a billet of aluminum into pieces that will end up as clamping arms for welders, as an automated conveyor on another side of the plant takes newly stamped sheet metal cabinets through a four-stage cleaning process, followed by powder-coating, and curing.
During a recent tour of Pro Spot headquarters, Parts & People spoke with President Ron Olsson and Product Support Manager Bob Pluth about enhancements made to the production facility and its equipment lineup.
Since its beginning in California in 1986, Pro Spot International has expanded its product line from offering only spot welders to its full line of equipment that is easy to use, productive, and efficient, said Olsson.
Pro Spot is one of a handful of equipment companies to receive approval by Ford for its National Body Shop Network for both dealership and independent collision repair shops, for which it had high demand last year as shops prepared for the late-2014 release of the 2015 F-150. That equipment encompasses its aluminum repair station (a mobile work station that includes aluminum-specific metalworking tools and a capacitor discharge stud welder); either of its three pulse-MIG welders, including the SP-5 “Smart MIG” welder, which can auto-switch between steel, aluminum, and silicon bronze filler wire and gases, and also allows TIG and stick welding; and the PR-5 Riveter, a self-piercing rivet gun.
Along with the 2015 F-150, more and more vehicles are featuring increasing amounts of aluminum in their construction, along with ultra-high-strength steel, Olsson said.
“The repair procedures call for specific equipment, like (silicon bronze) MIG-brazing and aluminum-specific equipment,” Olsson said. “With the vehicles coming into body shops, there is a need for a shop to have a spot welder and a MIG for, at the very least, silicon bronze and aluminum.”
Squeeze-type resistance welders (STRSW), the original product designed and manufactured by the company, will continue to be essential to tomorrow’s collision repair shop, he said.
“There is still a large need for STRSW in shops because many vehicles on the road today were — and still are being — manufactured with steel,” Olsson said. “And STRSW is crucial for shops to lower cycle time, which increases profits.”
Pro Spot often uses technician feedback in the design process to make sure the units are effective and easy-to-use from the standpoint of the people using the machine, said Ashley Olsson, who manages communications for the company.
Other equipment added over the years to meet the needs of newer repair processes are a nitrogen plastic welder, hot stapler, and hybrid spot welder, which requires only 110 volts to recharge overnight, using battery power to weld the next day.
“It produces strong, quality welds without three-phase power,” she said.
Equipment design lends itself to ease of use
With repair procedures varying for each vehicle make and model, it’s important for technicians to be aware of the correct OEM instructions for proper repairs, Ron Olsson said, noting the i5 welder has 3,000 pages of OEM-specific repair procedures accessible through the touch screen on the unit.
Additionally, while in auto mode, the i5 measures the metal thickness automatically using optical technology, he said, regardless of type of metal, thickness or corrosion protection between the metals. (During the pre-weld cycle, the i5 measures the thickness and resistance of the stack to be welded, then automatically determines the power and time needed to make the correct weld.)
Although three-phase power is preferred, Olsson said the company’s spot welders are designed to better compensate for less-than-ideal power, commonly found in the single-phase service. If three-phase service is available, it can often cost as much to install as a new welder.
“When we did the Ford installations, we found that a lot of dealerships don’t have three-phase power,” he said, noting that inconsistent power supplies are also common, with 210 volts in a shop and 240 volts down the street. “The fluctuations of the U.S. power system are tremendous.”
Of course, the best piece of equipment is useless if a technician doesn’t know how to use it.
“Pro Spot provides ongoing training to all of our distributors and their technicians so that all owners of Pro Spot products receive complete training firsthand,” Olsson said. “We have ASE-certified training programs that are I-CAR alliance approved and a training facility at our headquarters for groups to train on any and all products. We also offer My.ProSpot.com, which includes interactive training courses for shops and technicians to access online.”
Olson added, “Whatever technology shops have to have, we feel they will look to us as the provider and solution.”