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Welding engineering knowledge on the Internet

W. Lucas and G. E. Hale

TWI Ltd

Presented at Commission XII meeting, 54th Annual Assembly, Int. Institute of Welding, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 8-13 July 2001.

Introduction

The internet is being used increasingly by engineers as an important source of information on:
products and suppliers
technical information
patents
standards
companies

TWI has pioneered an interactive web site, www.twi.co.uk providing an on-line advice and information service on materials joining and allied technologies [1,2] . The site also contains corporate information e.g. TWI organisation structure, staff, products and the services offered. As the site contains a wealth of technical information on welding engineering, it is the preferred site for accessing welding related information. The system contains over 4000 content items and links to most of the other sites relevant to joining technologies.

The aim of this paper is to describe the functionality of the TWI web site and to review the information available not only on the site but worldwide via the links.

Web site content

In producing the TWI system the following factors were considered important in meeting the knowledge requirements of users:
  • Ability for companies (large and small) or individuals to access TWI knowledge 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world

  • Users can obtain the information they require, at whatever depth of technical knowledge is necessary for their enquiry

  • Content ranges from simple information e.g. on welding products, to interactive knowledge-based toolkits which can be used for solving industrial problems

  • Users can navigate the site by free text/keyword searching or by a menu-driven option

The system's content can be conveniently considered to fall in the following categories:

Technical Information A range of on-line knowledge products - Frequently Asked Questions, Knowledge Summaries, Best Practice Guides, Toolkits; plus published staff papers and third party content.
News Connect (bi-monthly magazine), weekly updates on joining, environmental/recycling issues and standards (summaries of items from technical and commercial press), news releases, events information.
Information products Access to Weldasearch (comprehensive searchable database covering published literature on materials joining over the past 30 years), image library, supplier information, standards and patents information and links.
Corporate and promotional material Contains general information on TWI, its products and services, technology coverage etc.
The following four major on-line knowledge products (Frequently Asked Questions, Knowledge Summaries, Best Practice Guides and Toolkits) contain an increasing depth of technical knowledge and cover the broad spectrum of technical enquiries received by TWI.
Frequently Asked Questions (Technical Insights) Brief technical 'nuggets' (typically 400 words) on a specific topic, e.g. What are the factors likely to result in distortion? FAQs are seen as the building blocks from which other content can be assembled.
Knowledge Summaries An overview of a discrete technical area, often with a practical bias. Typically between 1000 and 1500 words in length, with illustrations.
Best Practice Guides Cover broader technical areas, e.g. Arc Welding Aluminium - Process and consumable Selection. Normally include a 'How to' message. Size may vary from 2 up to 6 or 7 sections - each available as a discrete content item.
Toolkits Software package for a technical area which incorporates sections requiring user input, e.g. Cutting Selector. Often contain feasibility areas which enable the user to carry out a variety of techno-economic assessments.

An example of the Technical Knowledge contained in the Knowledge Summaries is shown in the articles from the Job Knowledge for Welders series, Figure 1.

Fig. 1. Sample page from the Job Knowledge for Welders series
Fig. 1. Sample page from the Job Knowledge for Welders series

More detailed technical information, or advice relating specifically to the user's application can be obtained from interactive software. For example, advice on the choice of a suitable cutting process and the relative costs of the different cutting processes is shown on the screen display from the Cutting Selector Toolkit, Figure 2.

Fig. 2. Sample page from Cutting Selector
Fig. 2. Sample page from Cutting Selector

Operating the system

The web site is essentially a database system in which each piece of content has a unique record, Figure 3, that contains title, description, keywords, relevant industry, sector etc.

Fig. 3. Content record
Fig. 3. Content record

To search the system, a user may specify free text for a simple search, or can use a more advanced search which includes one or more listed keywords (to ensure consistency of terminology), the type of content, and the industry sector relevant to their requirement. An example of a search screen using several listed keywords is shown in Figure 4 and the search results in Figure 5.

Fig. 4. Advanced Search Page
Fig. 4. Advanced Search Page
Fig. 5. Search results page
Fig. 5. Search results page

Links to other sites

The web site contains a fairly comprehensive series of links to other sites containing welding engineering related information, Table 1.

A description of each site is provided in order that the user can assess its usefulness. An example extracted from the sites on Welding and Joining: Organisations, Academia, Publishers is:

Nederlands Instituut voor Lastechniek, the Netherlands Institute of Welding, is in Dutch and English and offers the following: information on the organisation, their research projects, Dutch regional welding groups, what will appear in their Lastechniek journal next month, vacancies, welding activity calendar, online ordering of publications, demonstrations of welding software (for downloading), a list of approved schools providing welder training and access conditions for EWF-standard training, and a list of people authorised to issue NIL welders approval tests. Large image map on the front page. [last looked at on 25 April 2001]

An example drawn from the links to sites for welding and joining equipment and consumable manufacturers and suppliers is:

ESAB offers information on its wide range of welding and cutting products (consumables, equipment and accessories, and software). There are also ESAB Sweden, ESAB Europe, ESAB Asia/Pacific, ESAB South America and ESAB North America pages.

Table 1 Links to other WWW sites

  1. Links to WWW sites on welding and other joining processes
    An annotated list of links to other websites on welding, allied processes and other forms of joining. Includes national welding organisations, research and educational establishments and publishers.
  2. Links to WWW sites on patents
    An annotated list of links to websites with information on patents, including a number of patent issuing bodies and patent databases.
  3. Links to WWW sites on standards
    An annotated list of links to websites about Standards including Standards-issuing bodies.
  4. Links to WWW sites on materials
    An annotated list of links to websites including professional bodies and other organisations concerned with materials, steel makers, and producers of other metals and alloys, plastics composites and ceramics.
  5. Links to WWW sites for welding and joining equipment and consumable manufacturers and suppliers
    An annotated list of links to websites of commercial companies that manufacture and/or supply equipment for welding and allied processes, other joining processes, filler materials, shielding gases and other consumables.
  6. Links to WWW sites on nondestructive testing (non-destructive evaluation)
    An annotated list of links to websites concerning NDT (NDE) including professional organisations, research and educational establishments and others.
  7. Links to WWW sites on manufacturing industry
    An annotated listing of links to websites concerned with manufacturing and fabrication is presented.
  8. Links to WWW sites on engineering
    An annotated listing of links to websites is presented, including engineering databases and organisations.
  9. Links to WWW sites on health and safety
    An annotated list of links to web sites on health and safety matters.
  10. WWW Automotive links
    Hot links are listed to the web sites of automotive related bodies and to automotive manufacturers.
  11. Useful underwater links
    Links to a small selection of web sites relevant to underwater welding.

Access and service levels

The TWI site is freely accessible to TWI industrial members as part of their membership benefits package. This includes an area exclusive to Members containing TWI Research Bulletin, Who Knows directory of TWI staff and Member research reports. Other companies and individuals can access most of the site freely but a charge is applied to a small number of premium items such as Weldasearch, on-line training courses and full conference proceedings.

Access to the full range of knowledge and information on web site is gained via a user identifier and password that are issued after completion of an on-line registration form. Registration is automatic and free. The user identifier controls access rights appropriate to different types of user.

Usage of TWI's website

The usage of TWI's website is monitored to provide information on the number of users accessing the site daily and to identify those content items which are accessed most frequently.

The number of users in May, 2001 and the average user sessions per day were as follows:

The information is also analysed to identify the type of information required by on-line users and where additional information is required.

Total hits 1,606,705
Total user sessions 42,093
Total page views 134,734
Hits/day 51,829
User sessions/day 1,357
Page views/day 4,346

Statistics produced include:

General Statistics Statistics on the total activity on the site e.g. number of hits, number of user sessions etc.
Resources Accessed Identifies the most popular pages, how often they are accessed and average time spent by the user viewing a page
Visitors and Demographics Identifies the number of users, top users, most active countries, most active organisations
Activity Statistics Summarises the activities for report period and by time increment and activity level by day and hour
Technical Statistics Reliability of the site from total number of hits, failure rate, errors
Referrers and Keywords Identifies the domain name or numeric IP addresses with links to the site
Browsers & Platforms Most used browsers and platforms

Future developments

TWI's immediate objective is to continue to grow the knowledge content available on the site. The aim is to have sufficient depth and breadth that the site is able to provide an answer to more than 80% of the typical enquiries that TWI routinely answers. It is estimated that to achieve 80% coverage of all enquiries the site will need some 8000 content items.

More long term plans include:

  • Develop customised versions for company intranets or as stand-alone products
  • Use the TWI site as the basis for on-line training packages
  • Transfer the web site methodology to other similar organisations in the UK which is an activity supported by the UK Department of Trade and Industry
  • Expand the functionality and user interface to match state-of-the art user interface techniques.

References

  1. H J Powell, S B Jones and A C Churley, 'Technical knowledge - A knowledge trading development for the 21 st century', presented at PICMET, Portland International conference, Management of Engineering and Technology, Portland, Oregon, USA, July 1999.

  2. G E Hale and A D Brightmore, Technical Knowledge - An interactive on-line knowledge base, International conference, Computer technology in welding and manufacturing, TWI, Copenhagen, Denmark, June, 2000.