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Advances in Welding and Joining

Arc welding and joining processes continue to evolve. TWI works with its Industrial Member supplier network to understand advances in equipment and consumable technologies, and pass this on to its wider Membership. Below are some of the more recent developments in welding and joining – many of which featured during our 2019 Welding and Joining Exhibition.

Increased productivity solutions

Improving joint completion time continues to be a focal point for many arc-process OEMs, who look to maintain output quality in parallel. Lincoln Electric have recently developed Hyperfill, a twin-wire GMAW/MIG process variant offering up to a 50% increase in deposition rate (up to 11kg/hr) utilising a single power source. Along a similar vein, OTC Daihen have developed their D-Arc system to attain high joint completion rates through the application of a ‘buried arc’ capable of delivering a weld of up to 19mm-thickness in a single pass in thick-section steel.

For site welding, the Miller Arc-reach system looks to increase welding duty-cycle and productivity through local control of weld parameters, immediately next to the welder – used in conjunction with their Field-pro welding systems.

Moving from arcs to alternative process developments, Renishaw additive manufacturing (AM) systems look to remove joining from the equation where possible. Systems such as a RenAM500Q quad laser additive manufacturing system offer high build rates for complex part geometries. A diverse range of companies are now exploring performance of AM processes for specific applications and sectors with TWI as part of two TWI-led joint industry projects.

High productivity through electron beam (EB) welding is extending to out-of-chamber (low-vacuum) welding. This is linked to the development of local-vacuum systems that offer high-thickness single-pass welding (e.g. pressure vessel applications); as demonstrated by Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, with their ebflow system.

Industry 4.0

Improving productivity from a ‘digital manufacturing’ perspective, several OEMs continue to develop network-linked shop floor production systems to link and optimise design, production, quality control and maintenance activities.

The EWM Xnet 2.0 supports planning through to production; whereby CAD drawings and relevant welding data can be transmitted via LAN or Wi-Fi to welding machines. This is linked to a welding torch display configured to allow feedback to the welder on weld sequence and completion. Welding coordination personnel can view welding data and sequence plans using a tablets or smart phones linked to the same system; extending to monitoring and control of weld procedure specification and qualification data.

ESABs Weldcloud allows approved procedures and parameters to be pushed out to multiple machines on the shop floor using a 3G/Wi-Fi platform; which extends to feedback from the machines. The Fronius Weldcube system integrates documentation, production monitoring and service scheduling within one system.

Along the same lines, Air Products have developed the Q-sensor, linked to Bluetooth technology to provide ‘time-to-empty’ data via smartphone or tablet apps. This is just part of the Integra e2cylinder, developed to reduce gas usage. Early trials indicate gas use reductions of up to 50% during MAG welding of structural steel.

These developments can be incorporated into robotic welding and position systems from the likes of ABB, with their FlexArc systems. Kawasaki robots – meanwhile continue to explore the automation of novel joining processes such as refill friction stir spot welding (RFSSW).

The OTC D-Arc high weld penetration system
The OTC D-Arc high weld penetration system
Ebflow high weld penetration system
Ebflow high weld penetration system
EWM weld torch display
EWM weld torch display
Kawasaki Robotics RFSSW process
Kawasaki Robotics RFSSW process

Multi-process options

Flexibility of arc-process systems has continued to evolve. Miller offer a multi-process system in their Dynasty 280DX. It combines AC/DC/pulse TIG (GTAW), Stick (MMA) and MIG (GMAW) within a single system, for those who require multiple process options from a single system.

Mechanical Fastening

Nuts and bolts are one of the oldest technologies – the use of threads can be traced back to 400BC; but their application and development continues to this day. Some joining applications may benefit from this option, where fusion/melting of parent materials and its effect on material properties may introduce excessive risk to loss of product performance.

West Special Fasteners produce stainless steel and nickel alloy products for high-integrity applications, moving to the adoption of NORSOK standard requirements across every stage of their manufacturing process – to improve consistency and performance of the resulting products.

Maintaining Quality

High integrity welding relies on adequate monitoring, control and the application of key ancillary systems – which continue to develop in parallel with welding and joining process technology.

Minimising oxygen content when purging/shielding titanium, duplex stainless steel or other high integrity materials is essential. Products such as Huntingdon Fusion PurgEye 200 enable this by reading oxygen levels down to 1 part per million (PPM); coupled with PC-recording of data to support quality control process requirements.

For weld procedure and qualification control, TWI Welding Software offers a recently upgraded software package. It continues to combine control of welding documentation with built-in code-intelligence from ASME, EN/ISO and AWS – to ensure fabricators comply with all major codes and standards.

Health and Safety

Welding fume continues to be a risk factor within industry. To combat this, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection run the Breathe Freely initiative (addressing welding) aimed at reducing occupational lung disease in the UK.

For their part, OEMs are taking a dual approach of reducing fume through improved control of metal-transfer mechanisms, and innovations in fume removal. Lincoln Electrics’ Low Fume PulseTM process states a 66% reduction in fume levels compared to conventional processes; whilst increasing travel speeds and reducing spatter.