Our Pro Spot tour began with a close look at the assembly process for the top of the line welding and repair products. As one of the manufacturer’s approved by Ford to supply aluminum repair equipment for the collision repair industry, Pro Spot is also well known for its resistance spot welding equipment. In particular, Pro Spot was approved by Ford to supply their Collision Repair Program with SP Pulse MIG welders, Aluminum Dent Repair Stations, Fume Extractors and the SPR Riveter.
Ron Olsson, the company’s founder and president, an electrical engineer, grew up in Sweden before moving to California in the 1980s. With a passion for riding motorcycles, Olsson’s inventive engineering started by creating a frame straightening machine for motorcycles. He soon realized there were more cars on the road than motorcycles and opened Pro Spot in 1986 to focus on creating quality collision repair equipment for vehicles.
Ron’s daughter, Ashley, the company’s Director of Communications, explained about the different products Pro Spot designs and builds and gave us a brief history about the company. She recalled memories of the early days of the business and the change they’ve experienced over the years.
Now settled after moving two years ago to its fourth location, Pro Spot manufacturers more than 30 products. With nearly 100 employees at their facility, the company owns and manages its own machine shop, a research and development department, a fabrication facility and production lines for various welders.
Ashley said the benefit of manufacturing the equipment on-site is the ability to maintain the quality of their products. “We’re really big on quality, we have control to make sure each product leaving our facility provides our customers with the best product available.”
This past summer they visited Ford’s Deerborn Plant near the Detroit River, where Ford started building cars in the 1920s.
Inspired by Henry Ford, Olsson modeled some of his own business practices on Ford’s ideas. “Ford did everything he could so that there would be no bottlenecks in his production process,” said Ashley. “He had his own trains, trucks, forests, etc.”
Like Ford, Ashley said her father is a true inventor and visionary. “For example, we were at Ford walking around, an idea came to him and immediately he’s drawing out designs for new equipment on the first sheet of paper he can find,” she said.
Pro Spot has worked with Ford over the last five years in regards to the F-150. “Ford really considered the repairability in the design process,” said Ashley. “This is huge because we’re working with them on the possibilities of creating a collision repair program.”
“With Ford announcing they are making America’s best-selling vehicle, their F-150, out of aluminum,” said Ron. “Any body shop anywhere, wherever they are, is going to be fixing a few F-150s every month and some of them are going to be doing it everyday.”
In order to meet this need, Ron said the company is focused on supplying the necessary equipment to collision repair shops. “We work with the technicians, using their feedback to make sure our equipment is user friendly,” said Ashley. They designed a special research and development area where engineers can build new things and test them out.
During the tour, Ashley explained some of the challenges with aluminum during the repair process. “Aluminum doesn’t have a memory like steel and is also sensitive to heat. The repair process requires a different approach. It’s not impossible, it’s not harder, it’s just different,” she said. “These shops are just going to have to learn a new procedure for preparing the aluminum.”
“You can’t weld on aluminum the same way you would on steel because on a spot weld pressure and heat creates a resistance,” said Ashley. “With aluminum, you can’t heat it up because it becomes brittle and will break.
The following is a first-hand account from two (female) editors at Autobody News who recently learned how to weld with I-Car Certified Instructor Toby Chess:
ASSISTANT EDITOR STACEY PHILLIPS...
"Looking through my heavy mask, I was carrying the torch with shaky hands and holding my breath. Then I saw the first sparks light up the room. I realized at that moment that I was actually welding. With an abundance of patience and a touch of humor, Toby Chess from I-CAR Training & Certification, recently spent a good part of his morning teaching Victoria and I how to weld. First, he gave an overview of the type of welding we would learn – MIG weld brazing. That’s metal inert gas, he explained.
The advantage of MIG brazing is the lower heat input. The wires typically used for MIG brazing have a melting temperature of 1,000 degrees, which puts less heat on the vehicle’s panels. After installing the wire, Toby talked about gun angle. Whether welding steel or aluminum, he stressed the importance of always holding the gun at 80 degrees.
He gave a quick demonstration of the weld we were going to do using the state-of-the-art Pro Spot welder we were lucky enough to learn on, and I was ready. Mask on. Gloves up. Glasses down. After completing my first weld, Toby put it to the test: did it fall apart under stress? He said I passed with flying colors. Now I was hooked and wanted to learn more.
However, I realized it takes more than just skill and training. If done improperly during a collision repair, a poor weld can compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity. Although I may have just welded, I still had a long way to go to become a technician. Realistically would a collision repair shop hire me? Shop infrastructure and equipment are both important components as well. I-CAR offers these courses as well as an on-site assessment.
Looking back at my first welding experience, it gave me a new appreciation for all of the technicians who weld on the vehicles we drive everyday. A proper weld can save lives.
'What’s next?' I asked Toby. 'Learning how to weld aluminum.'"
ONLINE EDITOR VICTORIA ANTONELLI...
"When Toby told Stacey and me he wanted to teach us how to weld steel, we looked at each other nervously, and proceeded to say how excited we were.
I never thought I’d be taking a welding class as part of my job, but I also never thought I’d be an automotive journalist, so I guess it comes with the territory. The nervous and excited feelings returned when we arrived at Pro Spot International, also in Carlsbad, CA. By the end of our tour of the facilities, I was looking forward to using the state-of-the-art welding equipment.
Before I knew it, I was putting my gear on. The mask and eye protection felt awkward, but I appreciated their purpose.Toby explained the equipment further before we used it, cracking jokes and asking surprise questions at every turn - just to make sure we were paying attention. I watched Stacey complete the first MIG weld with flying colors, and then it was my turn.
Toby guided my hand, and proceeded to tell me multiple times to slow down as I moved the thin point from top to bottom, sparks flying the whole time. That was fun! I did the same one a few more times, and after only a couple of tries, I was able to successfully complete a MIG weld on my own. I couldn’t wait to take pictures of my completed weld, and a selfie with my mask on.
'You girls are better than a lot of the guys that come in here,' Toby exclaimed.
Next was the Spot Weld. This one gave me a little bit of trouble, but then again, drawing circles always has. Toby patiently worked with me until I came close enough to completing the small circle with a filled-in middle.
After more pictures and gear removal, we headed back to Autobody News, feeling accomplished and ready for our next challenge - welding aluminum!"