Changing the welding process or investing in new technology has its benefits benefits:
Wasted time and lost productivity are enemies in any welding operation. Contractors, manufacturers and fabricators alike are always looking for ways to reduce costs, improve quality and finish projects faster so they can be more competitive.
However, the right solutions may require a willingness to change to new welding processes or procedures. Making these changes can deliver benefits and savings to help a company reach its goals.
Don’t overlook the benefits that new welding processes and technologies can provide to help reduce costs, improve productivity, shorten project timelines or impact quality.
Welding power sources are evolving from the heavy, analog machines with dial-in knobs that used to dominate the industrial landscape. Today’s power sources are lighter, more powerful machines with digital screens. Thanks to features such as simplified interfaces and automatic parameter adjustments, these machines are becoming easier than ever for operators to use.
That’s good news as the industry struggles with a skilled welder shortage and many companies seek ways to improve productivity and do more with fewer workers. When a power source delivers greater ease of use and improved arc control, it’s easier for welders of various skill levels to produce high-quality welds and reduce mistakes.
Select your goals:
The shortage of skilled welding operators is being felt across the welding industry. A company may want to find ways to improve productivity and decrease training time for new welding operators. Even in markets where labor is plentiful, there may still be a push to reduce the time it takes to train a skilled laborer and get them on the job. The faster that workers can be trained, the more productive the operation.
Or perhaps the welding operation must adapt to changing materials or an increased pressure to meet shorter project timelines.
Whatever the challenges, it’s important to determine the key goals in the welding operation. This will help in finding the right solutions to deliver the desired results.
Meeting those goals may require changing from standard welding processes to advanced welding technologies that offer greater reward — but that may require additional investment or training. Rather than seeing this change as a risk or a barrier, look at these solutions as an investment that can positively impact the bottom line.
New welding processes and equipment, filler metals and pre- and post-weld heating techniques can offer benefits above and beyond traditional welding processes and procedures.
Welding Technology Advancements
Just as all technologies advance—from cell phones to televisions—welding power sources also are evolving as innovations result in smarter equipment with more capabilities. In many cases, these power sources even provide greater capabilities in smaller and lighter packages. These welding technology advancements help address several challenges in the industry:
Experienced Welders Are Leaving the Workforce:As more experienced welders reach retirement age, younger welders are taking their place, and they have different expectations about their work environment. They expect to use welding power sources that are more reflective of the technology around them, such as smartphones. Fabricating shops that use this advanced welding technology are able to keep the interest of younger welders and get them up and running faster than a previous generation of welders that had to rely on their own skills and not technology.
The Push for Greater Productivity Continues:Greater competition is pushing many companies to increase output and productivity while maintaining or decreasing costs. That’s why advanced processes, such as pulsed gas metal arc welding (GMAW-P), are being used more. GMAW-P is a modified spray transfer process in which the power source switches between a high peak current or voltage and a low background current or voltage between 30 to 400 times per second. During this switch, the peak current pinches off a droplet of wire and propels it to the weld joint. At the same time, the background current maintains the arc but produces such a low heat input that metal transfer can’t occur, allowing the weld puddle to freeze slightly and help prevent burn-through. This action differs from a traditional spray transfer process, which continuously transfers tiny droplets of molten metal into the weld joint. Because of this arc activity, GMAW-P reduces the need for post weld cleanup when compared to more traditional constant-voltage GMAW.
Older welding power sources often require more steps and effort to set up pulsed welding; newer machines are designed to make the pulsed welding process easier. This allows more companies to adopt advanced processes, even with less experienced or fewer welders.
Setting up the Machine:Some manufacturers provide all the equipment and accessories needed to start welding—including the power source, wire feeder, weld and control cables, gas flow regulator, and GMAW gun—in one package to significantly shorten setup time. Sometimes much of the equipment is pre assembled as well. This simplifies preparation of the machine for welding.
Many newer welding power sources use digital screens with push-button simplicity. This saves time in setting and adjusting processes and makes it easier to set the proper parameters to achieve high-quality welds.
Interfacing with the Machine:Newer welding power sources often are designed for easy setup in just a few steps. With some technologies, operators simply can select the thickness of the material they are welding, and the machine automatically sets all other parameters. If one of the parameters is adjusted, the machine automatically adjusts the others as well. Eliminating the need to set voltage and wire feed speed manually helps make setup faster and operation less intimidating. From a quality control perspective, it ensures that proper parameters are being used.
Monitoring the Weld Digitally:Monitoring weld data also is easier with new welding technologies. The ability to gather information digitally rather than by hand helps companies track and measure productivity, quality, and costs.
Welding intelligence tools help identify potential problems in welding operations. They can improve productivity and quality by providing an in-depth look at arc-on time and detecting missed or defective welds. As a result, rework is reduced in the welding department, and more parts get out the door faster.
As welding power sources have been simplified over the years, machine capabilities have advanced. This combination is especially beneficial in helping less-experienced welders produce high-quality welds—even when using advanced processes like pulsed welding—so they can be trained and on the job faster.