Note: This article first appeared in BIC Magazine
In industry, a growing trend is the idea to use orbital welding as a solution to the mounting problem of welder shortages. It is a well-known fact there are just not enough pipeline welders to go around (no pun intended). By 2020, the American Welding Society expects the U.S. will face a shortage of 290,000 welders. Companies in other business sectors — from food service companies to banks — attempt to solve labor issues and increase efficiencies by utilizing automation to replace workers. Is automation, specifically orbital welding in this case, the way to improve operating factors and productivity?
Look Upstream to Material Fit Up
The first part of improving welding operations is not to look at the welding process but instead examine its upstream aspect at material input. Material fit-up is the first key to improving quality and productivity. Poor fit-up causes overwelding and often leads to weld quality issues. A fillet weld that requires a quarter-inch weld has an unintentional root opening or misalignment of 1/16 inches. It then requires a 5/16-inch weld, which in turn increases weld joint volume by 57 percent. This result means 57-percent more wire, 57-percent more gas, 57-percent more use of consumables and — the most costly issue — 57-percent more time to weld that joint.
Let’s say that same 5/16-inch weld is then welded within tolerances, but the weld size is overwelded by 1/16 inch. That 5/16-inch weld then becomes a 3/8-inch one due to the compounding factors of material fit-up and a very common practice of overwelding. This weld that could have been done to code and adheres to a welding procedure is now 100-per-cent more costly than intended.
Are you buying double the gas and wire you need? Eighty-percent of most welding operating expenses are in labor. What are you paying to have someone weld 100-percent more than what is needed?
What is paramount is we can create precision fit-up and limit overwelding with the use of end-prep and orbital welding. Regardless of welder skill or the type of welding equipment, starting a weld with poor fit-up will result in a weld that costs more to produce. The conversation about quality, productivity and efficiency should not start at orbital welding or about your welder’s skills but should instead begin at end-prep. End-prep equipment, simple to operate and often overlooked because of its necessity, offers machine shop-like precision and fit-up while in the field. With the unfortunate skill gap widening in the trades, it is imperative to start your pipe or tube welding with precise fit-up, as those who can make passable welds become fewer and fewer.
We aren’t replacing welders with automation; we are making them more efficient. The goal is to take the welder you have and select the proper end-prep and orbital welding process for your job so you can possibly create twice as much time for him or her and improve quality along the way.
Meeting the Challenge of Welder Shortages
In order to meet the rising challenge of the lack of qualified welders, we need owners and management as well as welders to come together to increase quality and productivity. Management needs to provide welders with good material and proper equipment to work with, and the welder needs to realize we aren’t attempting to take his or her job but instead attempting to give him or her the best tools to get the best result.
When you look for a company to fulfill your business’ welding needs, you should search out a supplier that offers more than just equipment. Find a supplier that offers not just a few options of welders but solutions.
For more information, visit www.red-d-arc.com, call (866) 733-3272 or email Brian Imhulse at Brian.Imhulse@airgas.com.
Most people who have been in a technical profession know the constant need for a variety of tools. One minute you may need a pliers, then a knife, then a file, then a screwdriver, and once the day is all done, a bottle opener. This is the reason why multi-tools have become so popular; they combine all of these tools into one. In the world of welding, there is something similar to a multi-tool. It is known as a multi-process welder. Red-D-Arc carries multi-process welders because we know that one minute you might be self-shielded flux core welding some dirty, ½” thick steel and then the next minute be fitting up 18 gauge aluminum that you need to gas tungsten arc weld.
Some of the most difficult welds to make are those that require the welding of a small diameter to a plate. Gas tungsten arc welding or gas metal arc welding joints such as these require a high degree of operator skill, take a great deal of time, and can be a quality nightmare. These factors become even more troublesome when the material with the small radius being welded is in the vertical or overhead position. Fortunately, Red-D-Arc provides stud welding equipment that increases productivity, decreases the required operator skill immensely relative to other welding processes, and allows for consistent, repeatable weld quality on materials with small radii.
What is Stud Welding?
Stud welding is a fusion welding process that is commonly used for the joining of small round stock to plate. The process requires a power source, a stud welding gun, a ground clamp, and the materials that are to be welded. To carry out the stud welding process, a solid, round piece of metal, also known as a stud, is placed into the stud welding gun.
Stainless steel contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium which imparts it corrosion resistance by forming an oxide layer on the surface. The most common stainless steel is the austenitic type (300 series) which contains chromium and nickel as alloying elements. Other types include ferritic, martensitic and duplex stainless steels. Most stainless steels are considered to have good weldability characteristics. Most common processes used for welding stainless steel are TIG (GTAW) and MIG (GMAW). But, stick welding (SMAW) is also utilized.
Differences in Properties:
The properties of stainless steel differ from mild steel, and these differences need consideration when welding as below:
- Higher coefficient of expansion, 50% more for austenitic – this results in more distortion
- Lower coefficient of heat transfer – welding requires lower heat input as it is conducted away slowly
- Lower electrical conductivity – using the correct and consistent stick-out distance is more critical when using MIG/TIG, higher wire speed for the same current is required when MIG welding
Inspection, Surface Prep and Non-destructive Testing
Are you in the oil & gas industry? Are you involved in non-destructive testing, inspection, or surface preparation? How about maintenance of pipelines, heat exchangers, or pressure vessels? If you deal with these or similar operations, proper cleaning of surfaces might well be a process you regularly undertake.
Cleaning Delicate Equipment Safely
What is the best way to clean surfaces of such equipment? While there is no one best way for every circumstance, dry ice cleaning is a state-of-the-art method that can save time and money. It uses recycled CO2 in the form of solid dry ice particles as the cleaning media. Dry ice is soft and non-abrasive to most surfaces and can thus be used around delicate components, including electronics, that would be damaged by water or solvents. As the blasting equipment is portable it can be used in place, thus minimizing disassembly and other preparation time. Lastly, dry ice turns to a gas after contact with the surface being cleaned — cleanup time is rock bottom minimum, there is nothing to dispose of, contamination of moving parts is not an issue.