British Steel’s PACS Centre had various pieces of kit for making different types of can, one of which was a Soudronic welder, which takes a rectangular piece of tinplate, forms it into a cylinder and then welds the overlapping edges of the cylinder to make the body of a 3-piece can.
Although the machine was often used to produce feedstock for other purposes (e.g. can performance tests or filling tests), the main trial it was used for during my time at Tinplate R&D was the welding of lightgauge can bodies from tinplate produced in Ebbw Vale. The standard gauge of commercial cans used to be 0.16 mm, although some had already gone as far as 0.14 mm.
Ebbw Vale had first trialled out the rolling of a 0.12 mm gauge material, followed by a 0.10 mm gauge. These we had then cut up into blanks of the correct size for a standard size 3-piece can – the 0.12 mm material we could do in-house, but for the 0.10 mm material we had to call in the help of Impress in Grantham. Even then we had to sort the blanks by hand so that we could feed batches of the exact same size into the welder; unfortunately there was such a size variation in the unsorted material that the welder couldn’t handle the changes in overlap.
And that’s when the welder started to misbehave, so we had a technician brought across from Switzerland to give the machine a good looking into. Turns out that the only thing the machine really needed was a proper oil service: what we didn’t know was that a Soudronic welder only starts to lubricate itself after extended runs, something that over all these years had never happened. Meaning that we were basically running the welder without any lubrication for the best part of 10 years. No wonder it started to misbehave.
Once this obstacle was out of the way, the machine managed to weld can bodies from 0.10 mm feedstock, thereby successfully completing that part of the project. Shortly afterwards I left Tinplate R&D for Ebbw Vale and ever returned. I don’t know what happened to the Soudronic welder – was it moved to IJmuiden or sold off ? It definitely was in good enough condition to handle the production of run-of-the-mill cans, but maybe there were other, more capable machines available by then, so I don’t know.
All I know is that when Welsh Labs shut down, the two main people of the PACS Centre moved to its equivalent in IJmuiden, but their forte was more DWI can making, so I don’t know whether the Soudronic followed them or not.