FORMED to commercialise an innovative and highly useful technology developed at the CSIRO, K-TIG (short for keyhole TIG, a description of the welding process it uses) is beginning to see export success.
The small, Salisbury-based welding technology company announced its first exports in August 2012 (to customers in Dubai and Glasgow), and it has been developing its global sales network since.
K-TIG has big plans and an offering they believe they can revolutionise the way many weld jobs are carried out, and can automate the fusing of thick gauge materials (up to 16 mm). The process is claimed to be 10 to 100 times faster than conventional TIG, with energy savings of 95 per cent. A six-hour weld can be done in as little as four minutes at a quality meeting nuclear, aerospace and defence standards.
“The problem with conventional welding is that there are long weld times, high power consumption, high gas consumption and the need for edge preparation,” explained the company’s Belinda Latz.
The K-TIG has been steadily growing, and for the year to February 2013 claimed a 600 per cent increase in revenues on the previous period. It has filled orders for six markets so far: Australia, the UK, Norway, the UAE, India and China.
K-TIG’s story began in 1997, with founder Laurie Jarvis’s research at the Adelaide branch of the CSIRO’s Division of Manufacturing Technologies, which he joined in 1989 and which no longer exists.
The keyhole method was developed over eight years’ worth of research and was patented by the CSIRO. Trials, including with Samsung Heavy Industries in Korea, formed a big part of this period.
Then the organisation ended its welding research in 2006 and moved its Adelaide lab to Melbourne.
Jarvis took the IP back from the research organisation and commercialised it.
K-TIG currently designs, manufactures and sells its product. It doesn’t consider itself a welding company, but a “technology and automation company”, and its completely automated welding cell solution is “part product and part service.”
The company’s technology is suitable for a wide range of exotic and conventional metals, and is also cloud-enabled, recording data from every weld and updating software and firmware automatically.
Recent boosts for K-TIG include deals with by two large US companies, one of these a household name. The details will be released in the second half of the year.
Though applicable in many industries, K-TIG sees a major part of its future being in pipeline installations.
“Pipeline welding is an enormous field, with every one of the problems the broader welding industry,” Latz told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“These [include] huge skilled labour issues and weld quality, and we believe that K-TIG will be a huge innovation in that area that can bring costs down and bring up quality. It’ll be an enormous market for K-TIG and will really shape our development and growth.”
The company also says exciting things are coming soon in terms of its product development.
“Arguably the biggest innovation is yet to come – we might be in a position to talk about this next year!” it claims.
Whatever the growth of the company over the next few years and its role in the global welding industry, tipped by BCC Research to be worth $US 25.1 billion in 2019, it will likely remain small.
According to South Australia’s Department of Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, most of the employment pain in the state from the automotive manufacturing industry’s collapse will be felt around Salisbury and Playford.
Could K-TIG, which Latz says employs three at its headquarters, end up taking on some of those who have lost auto jobs?
“As far as us manufacturing goes, we are fairly light manufacturing, so we’ll never be a huge organisation to be able to take up that sort of slack from Holden,” said Latz