With the constant development of technology and the development of construction and infrastructure, the global welding equipment market is expected to reach over 12 billion pounds by 2026 (over $14.7 billion).
Technological advances in the welding industry can bring a wide range of benefits that change the way welding operations are performed. Among many other things, they can increase efficiency, reduce downtime, increase safety, offer better precision and improve the quality of welding processes in general.
So what are the latest, most innovative tools driving the sector forward? Let’s take a look at some of the technological introductions that are already beginning to shape the future of the welding industry.
Over the years, more and more sectors have used robots to facilitate their daily operations. More recently, the welding industry has followed suit and adopted robots to ensure consistent quality, maximize productivity and facilitate garment applications.
In this regard, Bastien Gerard, Business Development Director Consumables from Welding Alloys, said: “Yes, there is no hiding that these ingenious tools have a high initial cost, both in terms of equipment investment and staff training.
“But in the long run, they will probably pay off the large expenses by greatly increasing efficiency.
“Another advantage of using robots in certain processes is that they can save staff from being exposed to dangerous fumes or radiation and can significantly reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
“And for those operations where supervision of human welders is necessary, there are collaborative welding robots (welding cobots) that can make the job easier.
“Equipped with sensors that allow them to work safely with humans without the need for barriers, cobots are designed to help workers with the more repetitive, physically demanding aspects of welding.”
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) welding simulators are being used in the sector for training purposes. These high-tech headsets offer an immersive environment where employees can practice their skills in a safe and controlled manner.
In the case of VR welding training, the equipment simulates a 360-degree scenario in the real world where the welder can try to perform specific tasks. With AR, the welder instead uses a wearable device to access digital overlays that provide guidance and instructions as they perform a real-life operation.
The beauty of both VR and AR is that they can offer instant feedback, help welders achieve their skills and identify areas that need further training. In turn, this can help both workers and companies improve the quality of production and minimize potential errors or defects.
Equipped with sensors, cameras and robotic arms, welding drones are innovative tools perfect for inspecting hard-to-reach or dangerous locations.
Regardless of a welder’s experience, performing welding processes on bridges, high-rise buildings or offshore oil platforms can be dangerous. So using drones can eliminate unnecessary risks or safety concerns as they can be remotely operated to check locations from a safe distance and make adjustments as needed.
Since drones are able to access both remote and hard-to-reach locations without much hassle, businesses can save valuable time and money. In fact, there will be no need for scaffolding, which can both delay operations and have an impact on a company’s finances.
Friction pipe welding and laser welding
One of the most difficult challenges for workers is welding dissimilar metals. In some cases, it is borderline impossible.
In recent years, however, a new technique called ‘friction stir welding’ (FSW) has been introduced. This process utilizes mechanical friction by applying pressure and rotating the metals at high speed, which in turn causes them to fuse together and form a strong bond.
FSW is a particularly handy technique as it provides a clean, precise weld without defects or porosity.
Similarly, another powerful and innovative technological advancement is laser beam welding (LBW). This process uses a focused beam of light to melt and join dissimilar metals while maintaining control over heat input and weld penetration.
In addition to guaranteeing precision and consistency, LBW can speed up what is normally a lengthy, time-consuming operation. Thanks to its reliability, this technology is increasingly used in automotive, medical equipment and aerospace manufacturing.