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.
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).