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Designing new solutions with our customers

Discovering the Advanced Fabrication Center in Delaware, USA

Our customers are always looking for new solutions to improve their fabrication processes and the competitiveness of their offers. In this context, increasing the quality of welding or cutting represents a key asset, in particular for metal manufacturers. To address this challenge, Air Liquide has opened an Advanced Fabrication Center (AFC) at its Delaware Innovation Campus, in the U.S. — the world’s biggest metal manufacturing market.

Customer-centric

The AFC puts the needs of customers from the automotive and fabrication industries at the heart of its operations to help them improve the performance of their offers.

A true advanced training, testing and development platform, the AFC involves customers and industrial partners early in the innovation process to accelerate the development of added-value solutions – from finding optimal gas compositions for weld quality to operator efficiency and process safety.

Collaboration and open innovation

The AFC gathers Air Liquide’s experts in arc and plasma welding and cutting, laser and additive manufacturing, and OEM1 who design state-of-the-art equipment that will serve for tests. “It’s a win-win collaboration: it enables us to optimize our gas mixtures and flows, our OEM partners to find the best configuration for their equipment, and our customers to benefit from increased manufacturing speed and quality,” says Serban Cantacuzene, Vice President R&D Americas. The AFC will also conduct research with several universities and start-ups.

Speed and agility

A key ambition is to speed up the innovation process, by analyzing from the start the many parameters that impact the quality of metal fabrication – from the properties of gases to their interaction with the different materials and welding techniques used. François Court, Vice President Industrial Merchant Americas: “By getting all stakeholders to test together, we will be better able to rapidly bring to market new solutions in innovative fields such as plasma cutting, cobotic2 welding and additive manufacturing.”

Bringing added value to metals manufacturing

The AFC’s team of experts in metallurgy, welding and electrotechnics will draw on the Group’s extensive research into gas and metals processing. Initial projects will focus on achieving faster and more efficient welding, and improving safety. For example, the teams will focus on optimizing gas composition to reduce the generation of spatters during welding, thereby reducing the amount of post-weld cleaning.

Combining the best of two worlds

The AFC benefits from Air Liquide’s innovation capacity and Airgas’ deep market knowledge, customer database and proximity to a wide network of international equipment manufacturers. By fostering collaboration between R&D experts and business teams across the Group, the center will help address current industry issues while working on more long term developments. These will allow Air Liquide to pursue growth opportunities in the U.S. and beyond.

The Advanced Fabrication Center (AFC) is a co-project undertaken by Airgas, the Delaware Innovation Campus and Air Liquide’s Industrial Merchant world business line. The AFC is a manufacturing expertise center to design new solutions for industrial challenges with customers. The first customer projects began in June 2018.

Beyond traditional metals processing, the AFC focuses on solutions for high growth segments such as laser, plasma, additive manufacturing and welding robotics / cobotics.The new center identifies future innovation projects that will grow the business of Air Liquide & Airgas, equipment supplier partners and industrial customers.

1: Original Equipment Manufacturers.

2: Cobotics (a neologism from the words “cooperation” and “robotics”) is a discipline focusing on direct or remote interaction between an operator and a robotic system. The “cobot” provides assistance to the human operator with his tasks, here welding.