Tools that Improve Pipe Welding Efficiency
Tools that Improve Pipe Welding Efficiency
Discovering new equipment is an excellent step in improving operational efficiency. However, the first step of any improvement is changing your thinking about the existing process.
What isn’t working about the “old way” of doing things? How does new equipment address those deficiencies? This article aims to share not just tools used to improve pipe welding efficiency but considerations to make about the welding process before researching equipment.
Tip 1: Support the Weld
Literally. Equipment such as pipe stands helps to safely secure pipe weldments. Safety comes first: an unsafe working environment simply cannot maintain itself as a productive working environment. But after job site safety, one of the best pieces of advice that you can share with a new welder is how to maximize ergonomics: get as comfortable as possible to improve weld consistency and quality.
While pipe stands are used to support a weldment, they are also designed to help ensure good access to the entire weld joint when out-of-position welding is required. So, supporting the workpiece is essential.
But what about the effects of gravity? Consider adding equipment to help support the weld pool during welding. Coupling pipe stands with a pipe turning roll or welding turntable can help to place the weld joint “in position” where higher deposition rate welding parameters can be implemented.
Tip 2: Assess Your Application for Automation
Sometimes “working smarter, not harder” can bring a radical shift in how you perform work; automation and mechanization often make pipe welding easier despite physically distancing yourself from the task. Automation can be as simple or complex as the application and your budget allow. For example, a growing line system assists with fitting up large-diameter workpieces for wind tower manufacturing.
This piece of equipment can be made more useful (although more complex) by integrating welding manipulators and oscillators to provide in-place welding. A mechanically simpler piece of equipment is a “track torch,” also known as a modular drive system. A carriage that holds the welding torch progresses around an out-of-position pipe joint using a special curved track.
Both “automatic” pipe welding solutions require a little more procedure development than welding by hand to produce high-quality results. However, when this “homework” is accomplished, results such as higher productivity and quality can be achieved. Keep in mind, however, that not every application can be automated without prohibitively high costs.
Instead of trying to tackle an entire application head-on, target complex assembly fabrication by welding in subassemblies that are more easily automated. If you are having trouble determining what and how to automate, Contact Us Today to speak with our experienced automation specialists for guidance.
Tip 3: Leverage Technology to Eliminate Avoidable Tasks
Mistakes sometimes happen, but continued rework can be a significant driver of unintended weld costs. Although automation has been mentioned before, it is worth mentioning again. Some implementations can replicate the fine motor skills required for a human to produce a high-quality weld. Some solutions—such as orbital welding systems—do so at the push of a button. Others, such as oscillators incorporated into manipulators, require a welder’s expertise for proper operation but eliminate fatigue as a potential cause of inconsistency.
One area of pipe welding that can be a cause for concern is fit-up and the impact it has on root pass welding. Again, consistency is key. Without this, handheld welding is complicated, and automation may become difficult to implement effectively. Mechanized solutions for improving the quality of thermally-cut or machined bevels help to ensure good fit-up. Coupling these options with newer technology such as Miller Electric’s RMD or Lincoln Electric’s STT waveforms helps to reduce the learning curve for depositing sound root passes and provide forgiveness in situations where less-than-ideal fit up is encountered.
Tip 4: Leverage Technology to Minimize the Unavoidable Tasks
When welding thick-wall pipe and/or high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) base metal, the need for preheating may be unavoidable to ensure a sound weld has a low risk of hydrogen-induced cracking.
Induction heating is an innovation in the welding industry that has numerous benefits over conventional flame and even resistance heating methods. The primary benefit is speed since the process essentially heats the pipe from the inside out without thermal losses that occur at the interface between the heat source and the surface of the pipe.
In addition to being faster, this “inside-out” heating method also helps to ensure that adequate temperature is reached through the full thickness of the component. Surface-only heating does not sufficiently slow the weld/HAZ cooling rate to help mitigate hydrogen-induced cracking issues or the formation of brittle microstructures.
Another advantage of induction heating is that the process has inherently no exposed heating elements. Instead, the process generates magnetic fields to stimulate eddy currents within the component. Since the equipment remains cool to the touch, it can often be left in place during the welding operation. This means that less time is spent on equipment set-up between passes or immediately following welding (assuming that a hydrogen bake-out or PWHT is to be implemented).
Innovation drives continued growth in any industry. But adopting new technology will always encounter resistance since it may incur an upfront cost, add some degree of complexity, or require personnel and processes alike to operate outside of a comfort zone using proven methods.
Remember the old adage that “if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will keep getting what we’ve always got.”
To justify new technology, a change of thinking is required, whether that is considering “support” from the perspective of the weld, keeping an open mind to portions of applications that can be automated, or looking at how technology changes the relationship your operation has with existing tasks.
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