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Welder shortage: Key is efficiency, not automation

02 April, 19 1:31 pm · Leave a comment · Colin Brown
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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?

 

Quality Welds Begin With Pipe End-Prep

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.

Axxair Orbital System Makes Welding Small Pipes Easy

18 October, 18 3:12 pm · Leave a comment · reddarc
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multi pipe welded array
Welding small diameter tubing can be difficult.  The tight radii often require expert welders to deliver precise torch manipulation with finesse.  If the welder is not skilled enough, the out of position areas are at risk of poor quality due to gravity affecting the weld pool and ineffective torch angles.  If out of position welds cannot be completed satisfactorily, the part must be rotated.  However, some assemblies can’t be rotated because of size constraints or they might rotate off of center.  If a mechanized welding solution is desired for small diameter components, look no further than our Axxair Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Head Systems.


Closed-Head Pipe Welders

Axxair Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Systems are comprised of two main parts: the
Axxair Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Head
and the Axxair Orbital Inverter Power Supply.  The Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Head fully encompasses the assembly being welded.  This means that an inert gas environment can be created around the part, preventing it from the risk of oxidation that it might be exposed to during a welding operation that relies solely on a gas nozzle.  The Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Head also has a ring drive that enables full 360 degree motion around the weld joint, all the while keeping a consistent torch angle.  Furthermore, it is capable of going over 360 degrees for when slope-in and slope-out parameters are needed.
Closed Welding Heads

“The Orbital Fusion Closed Welding Head also has a ring drive that enables full 360 degree motion around the weld joint, all the while keeping a consistent torch angle.”

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Strengthening Metal Parts with Hardfacing

27 April, 18 2:42 pm · Leave a comment · reddarc
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Metallic parts sometimes fail their intended use at a lower stress than they are designated for.
Various forms of wear such as abrasion, impact, metal to metal contact, heat, and corrosion can compromise the strength of metal pieces. This is where hardfacing comes in. Hardfacing is a technique which can be applied to minimize the damage from these types of wear, helping to prolong the life of metal pieces.

What is hardfacing?

Hardfacing —often called hardsurfacing— is the covering of the metallic part with a wear resistant metal by welding. Alloys which commonly need to be hardfaced include carbon alloy and low alloy steels whose carbon content is lower than 1 %. These include stainless steels, manganese steels, cast iron as well as nickel and copper-based alloys.

Metallic parts sometimes fail their intended use at a lower stress than they are designated for.

Techniques, Materials and Costs

The particular hardfacing technique for a job depends on the geometry of the part and relative cost of the hardfacing method. Costs can vary with the deposition rate of the material.

These cost variations can be summarized as follows:

  • Flux cored arc welding (FCAW) 8 to 25 lb/hr
  • Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) 3 to 5 lb/hr
  • Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), including both gas-shielded and open arc welding 5 to 12 lb/hr
  • Oxyfuel Welding (OFW) 5 to 10 lb/hr

 

Applied materials commonly include cobalt based alloys such as STELITE, and nickel based materials like chromium carbide alloys. More advanced materials such as complex carbides containing columbium, molybdenum, tungsten, or vanadium can also be used and provide more overall abrasion resistance. They also have a very low friction factor, which can be used in situations involving severe abrasion.

Hardfacing can be applied to both newly manufactured pieces, in order to prevent deterioration, or to strengthen and extend the life of worn pieces currently in use.

Red-D-Arc provides welding machines suitable for hardfacing using techniques including SMAW, FCAW and GMAW.

The Importance of Welding Surface Preparation

28 March, 18 2:08 pm · Leave a comment · reddarc
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By guest blogger David H.

welding surface preparationHaving worked in shipyards for seven years, I’m familiar with how dirty this type of job site can be. Ship repair worksites and welding surfaces are often filthy with rust, dust and other contaminants. Even in shops and yards where fabrication is ongoing, cleanliness is often lacking. If fabricated or refurbished pieces are being installed onboard, the surface to which the piece will be welded could be rusty, coated with scale, or have other types of corrosion.
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Fast, Efficient Flux-Cored Welding with Semi-Automatic Wirefeeders

29 January, 18 2:43 pm · Leave a comment · reddarc
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Flux cored welding with semi-automatic wirefeedersBy guest blogger David H.

Some years back I was working in a shipyard in San Francisco. The yard had several small repair jobs going, plus a fairly large project building six ocean-going barges. The supervisor who was in charge of the barge-building project was looking for volunteers to operate semi-automatic wire feeders, using flux-cored wire, to weld stiffeners to the skin of the barges. I had never used a wire feeder before, so I volunteered out of curiosity.

After a very short training period, possibly all of 30 minutes but I think a bit less, I was off and running. I was impressed by the quality of the welds and the speed at which they were deposited. Without question I was outpacing anything that could be done by stick welding, and I felt it was easier to maintain a uniform weld size too. The machine itself was light enough and small enough to move without difficulty, and the spools of wire lasted long and were quick and easy to replace when the spool of welding wire was finished.

Red-D-Arc has nearly a dozen semi-automatic wire feeders available for almost any application. We also carry fully automatic wire feeders, which are faster still and appropriate in certain circumstances – like building storage tanks –  especially for large-deposition welds.

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