As technology advances, it often brings additional benefits such as less time wastage, greater productivity, lower costs, improved quality, shorter project timelines, and better finishes. Now in the first half of 2023, predictions for the year are being revealed in the welding industry, including education, professional innovation, and technology. Many benefits are there to be had, but they’re often only leveraged by those with an inclination towards innovation. Many will say “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, but these are the ones who get left behind.
Equipped with this knowledge, here is some insight into the welding technology trends which have already thrived in 2022 as well as a look ahead at what technology appears best placed to dominate the future.
Advanced Arc Welding
Professional welders know that arc welding is simply the process of using an electric current to fuse two metals together. Heat is generated to melt a filler metal that creates the arc and a successful metallurgic bond. The process involves the use of two or three different metals, giving it great strength, which is why it’s critical to aerospace and automotive engineering. Additionally, advanced arc welding is well known for being corrosion resistant, making it perfect for chemical, nuclear, and toxic welding operations.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Welcome to the new generation of welding. Budding welders are now able to leverage augmented reality for training purposes, making the whole experience more visual, attractive, and educational. AR welding also reduces the cost of consumables, moderates risk, and allows educators to train more new welders simultaneously. It’s no wonder it’s being used to help fill the welding skill gap
While it is a common misconception that AR and VR are the same, there are some important distinctions between VR Welding and AR Welding. Virtual Reality brings the user to a 100% computer-generated world and provides an environment where one can pretend to weld. The experience is similar to that of a video game. Augmented Reality allows the user to enter a real environment, touch and feel a real-life item and “augment” that item into a new shape, realistically changing its appearance.
In the case of Welding, AR allows a welding student to take a plastic-based piece and interact with it while it behaves as a Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Aluminum piece would when it is welded. Also, Augmented Reality welding is the closest to reality
Is it possible to talk about future technologies without discussing robotics? Of course not. When the term ‘robotic welding’ is used, it is not talking about a blowtorch used by one of Tesla’s recently announced humanoid robots, but rather the need for Industry 4.0 technology advancement. Industry 4.0, or the 4th industrial revolution, is about changing the way manufacturing production is automated through the use of smart technologies to create a more resilient supply chain and a circular economy (read more).
With the use of machine learning, computer vision, sensors, robotics, cloud computing, and the 5G network, the bar has been raised completely regarding the capability of programmed welding. Advanced technologies, as well as the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), will see interconnectivity and smart technologies on scales that are yet to be fathomed. For the welding industry, this means better data, flexible manufacturing, near-perfect quality, and more accurate reporting and documentation.
Robotics has been linked to welding for some time now, and Global Robotic Welding is already expected to be valued in $10B by 2026, with manufacturing industrial robots experiencing an 80% growth.
Tailored Welding Training
Retraining welders is a crucial task for industrial companies that rely on professional, experienced welders for their manufacturing. It is extremely important to keep them up-to-date on the latest trends and as well as to ensure that they understand the advancements relevant to their specific tasks. Companies not only need experienced welders, they need welders who know how to perform specific welds required for their industry and products.
This is critical for companies due to the cost of welding errors both consumable and productivity expenses. New technologies such as Augmented Reality and 3D printing have tackled this issue directly. It is now possible to replicate specific Welding joints with all their requirements in Augmented Reality, so welders can train on industry-specific tasks before moving on to the real deal.
Laser Beam welding (LBW) is a style of welding that utilizes a concentrated heat source which creates a narrow, deep weld; it is very penetrative. LBW is an innovative method that eliminates the need for filler materials and allows the materials being welded to have a superior bond. The process allows for conduction, conduction-penetration, and keyhole welds to be performed. Laser welding is also a non-contact process, with the concentrated energy from the laser allowing the metal to heat faster in a pre-programmed route.
Laser welding allows engineering companies greater flexibility with thinner, high-alloy metals due to its accuracy and finish quality, making it perfect for electronics and, even jewelry. There are some challenges and limitations in Laser Welding, however, welding thick metals for example. The amount of energy required in a lab setting is thought to be as much as 100kW, which can weld 50mm in a single pass. However, typically the power generated is much lower. This process requires experienced, trained welders as well as continued research, development, and training.
Many impressive evolutions in technology surrounding welding are now available and widely used; this article barely scratches the surface. There are levels of precision and microscopic control that welders 50 years ago might have thought impossible to achieve. Every five years, the welding industry leaps forward. Now with the help of digital technologies creating disruption, both theoretically and practically with advancements in training with AR and VR welding, the welding industry will, undoubtedly, advance further, faster.
What this means is that it’s possible to envision a future where projects can be completed quicker, cheaper, and with less risk. Technology can and will be used to address the skills gap, putting trained welders on the job faster, which benefits not only industries and welders, but also the world.