Fronius International is an Austrian company in the electronics industry that was founded by Günter Fronius in 1945. What began as a local one-man venture has grown into a global player with more than 5440 employees worldwide working in the areas of welding technology, photovoltaics and battery charging systems. Its export ratio of around 93 percent is achieved with 34 international Fronius subsidiaries and sales partners and representatives in more than 60 countries. Moreover, its innovative products and services and its portfolio of 1,264 registered patents make it an innovation leader on the world market.

Interview with Harald Langeder, CTO and Head of Research & Development of Fronius International GmbH.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Harald Langeder: The Business Unit Perfect Welding is an innovation leader for arc welding and a global market leader for robot-assisted welding. Our customers are active in the automotive industry, the yellow goods and commercial transportation industry, as well as the metal working industry worldwide. As a systems provider, Fronius Welding Automation also implements customized automated complete welding solutions, for the construction of containers or offshore cladding for example.

As experts for sustainable energy, Fronius Perfect Charging provides customers with intelligent and sustainable charging solutions. The Business Unit offer customers holistic solutions for intralogistics and car repair shops that reduce running costs, increase productivity and ensure sustainable operations.

The Business Unit Solar Energy develops energy solutions to generate, store, distribute and consume solar energy cost-efficiently and intelligently. 24 hours of sun is the vision and Fronius works every day to make this vision of a future, in which the world’s energy consumption is covered by 100 percent renewables, a reality.

E.E: What’s the news for 2021 about new products?

H.L: In the field of welding technology, Fronius will be launching two new products in the field of automated welding: A handling to welding robotic cell and a new cobot cell will offer highest flexibility as well as increased efficiency in production. For robotic welding, Fronius will moreover launch a solution for switching the welding wire easily in order to work with two different wires in a single robotic cell and production step. For manual welding, Fronius will present a new TIG machine series (power class 300-500 ampere) in 2021.

The Business Unit Solar Energy is enriching its portfolio with new inverters for residential and commercial PV-systems, efficient storage solutions, helpful digital applications and its own Fronius e-car charging solution. In addition, the first Solhub hydrogen compact turnkey solutions will be built.

The automotive industry is facing new welding challenges for electric cars – like the welding of battery trays, for which Fronius is offering high-tech solutions.

E.E: What are the ranges of traded products?

H.L: Fronius welding technology for manual, automated and robotic arc welding. This includes solutions for MIG/MAG, TIG, MMA as well as LaserHybrid welding. Moreover, the product portfolio offers a wide range of digital solution for welding data management, virtual welding systems for training, personal protective equipment and service.

The Business Unit Perfect Charging offers battery charging technology for intralogistics for different battery ranges and charging infrastructure like fully equipped charging stations. Moreover consulting, digital solutions as well as a wide range of services complete the portfolio.

Fronius Solar Energy develops and produces high-performance inverters for grid-connected photovoltaic systems and system monitoring solutions. In recent years, the renewable energies specialist has developed from an inverter manufacturer to a solutions provider for generating, storing, distributing and consuming renewable energy smartly and efficiently. The portfolio of products and solutions ranges from energy storage solutions and photovoltaics for generating hot water to solar e-mobility and green hydrogen production, storage and refuelling infrastructure.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

H.L: Fronius is active in different markets. The welding market is saturated, nevertheless in many industries market trends are causing a demand for new welding solutions.

The photovoltaics market, on the other hand, is growing worldwide and is key for a clean energy transition. Also, hydrogen as an energy storage medium and the fuel cell technology is developing fast. Both technologies are important when it comes to achieving climate goals.

Harald Langeder, CTO and Head of Research & Development of Fronius International GmbH

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

H.L: In the welding market we see a trend towards an increased need for high tech solutions that are easy to operate. Many companies are struggling to find well trained welders and are looking for equipment that supports employees ideally in creating a high quality welding results. Moreover, especially in the European market, more and more companies are using automated solutions like robots or nowadays even cobots for welding. In addition, the automotive industry is facing new welding challenges – e-mobility requires new solutions, for example for the welding of battery-trays.

For the field of solar energy, we expect that in 2050 more than 40 % of the global energy is covered from sun power. We notice, that more and more people want to cover as much of their energy needs as possible with solar power in order to be self-sufficient. Therefore, sector integration clearly is gaining momentum. Fronius partners and installers support their customers as energy consultants and therefore need versatile PV solutions and smart monitoring tools. Green hydrogen technology also plays a key role. It allows energy to be stored easily and without any loss, thereby helping to drive the use of renewable energies and, as a result, the decarbonisation of the energy system.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

H.L: In the field of welding, the Fronius Cold Metal Transfer (CMT) process revolutionized the world of welding. The digital process control detects a short circuit and then helps to detach the droplet by retracting the wire: the wire moves forward and is pulled back again as soon as the short circuit occurs. As a result, the arc only introduces heat for a very brief period. This enables the welding of very thin materials (aluminum, steel, stainless steel) and it also reduces spatter. The welding machine TPS/i provides the necessary control in order to apply this process. CMT also enables high quality additive manufacturing (WAAM – wire arc additive manufacturing).

In the business unit Solar Energy, the new Fronius GEN24 Plus hybrid-inverter is a versatile solution for solar energy supply. Whether it is used for generating energy, as a storage system, back-up power, heating or e-mobility, it offers a unique range of solutions and is therefore playing a pioneering role in the energy revolution. When it comes to green hydrogen, the Fronius Solhub is a complete turnkey solution for local hydrogen generation, storage and refuelling. It is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels for mobility and can be used as seasonal long-term storage for solar generated energy. Therefore, it offers a wide range of applications for logistics, tourism, agriculture, local government and more.

Features of modern welding machines like the Fronius TransSteel Pulse, support the welder ideally in manually creating a high quality weld seam.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?

H.L: Many markets and industries are of course dealing with the COVID-19 situation, which means less growth than expected this year. Therefore, also Fronius has to adapt its goals for the coming year. However, we are optimistic that the world economy will recover quickly and that we will be able to continue to pursue our international growth path in 2021.