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The demand for production keeps increasing while fewer people are entering the welding trade than retiring from it. This makes increasing productivity the #1 goal for many fab shops today.

Welding automation has been a hot topic lately, but for a good reason. It’s a way to help your welders produce more while eliminating or minimising weld defects and rework.

Welding automation helps improve weld quality and productivity. That’s a win-win across the board. However, welding automation systems are often specialised for specific applications, requiring a thoughtful approach when picking the right systems for your shop.

What Is Automated Welding?

Welding automation can be full or partial. For most shops, semi-automated and mechanised welding systems provide the most benefits. Empowering your welders with tools like welding tractors, positioners, or orbital welding systems helps them produce more and repeatedly achieve exceptional weld quality.

For the most part, automated welding systems ensure maximum accuracy and repeatability of the welding process. However, automation is also highly beneficial for one-off jobs because it can drastically improve weld quality and conformity to welding standards and customer specifications.

Benefits of Automated Welding.

  • Higher productivity per operator
  • Improved weld quality and precision
  • Significant reduction of welder fatigue
  • Reduced or eliminated rework and scrap costs
  • Lower welding costs
  • More efficient use of shielding/cutting/welding gas and consumable electrodes
  • Improved shop capacity
  • Ability to take on complex jobs not suitable for manual welding
  • Decreased labour costs per produced part as one operator produces more
  • Improved profitability

Welding Automation Systems And Their Applications.

You’ll hardly find a welding product today that doesn’t require at least some form of mechanisation/automation during production. Pipes, tubes, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, sheet metal fabrication, ships, aeroplanes, cars, bridges, structural members of buildings, wall and deck panels, and many other welding jobs require some form of automation.

While you could do it all manually, the production would be too expensive and time-consuming.

If an automated system reduces rework, it also reduces the business bottlenecks, allowing a streamlined production process.

What happens if the weld on a pressure vessel has a defect? The inspector, welder, metallurgist, engineer, and even salespeople must get involved more than necessary. The true cost of a weld defect is hard to estimate, but project delays can drag on, especially with new work coming into the shop. That’s why getting it right the first time is better for everyone, and automated systems help you do just that!

Welding Positioners.

Welding positioners can turn and tilt the welded part, automating the part rotation and movement during the welding process. When combined with manual or automated welding, positioners can significantly improve weld uniformity.

Positioner capacity can range from 50 kg to hundreds of tons. Besides welding, they are used for nondestructive testing, cutting, cladding, grinding, weld polishing, and other allied processes.

The most suitable application for welding positioners and turntables is pipe welding or anything round. With precise rotation speed control and a stationary welding head, you can get a perfect heat input and an outstanding weld every time, part after part. It also makes it easier to quote parts as you can quickly develop the feel for how long it takes to weld with it.

Welding positioners are also highly beneficial for cobot integrations. Cobots are a transformative technology that can significantly boost productivity and quality. But, pairing a cobot with a positioner can additionally improve results. For example, ProArc PT-150P is a system designed for cobot application, integrating cobots with the rotational power of positioners. Imagine welding structural supports on a cylinder and having to manually rotate the part each time. That leaves lots of room for error. Instead, use the ProArc PT-150 to harness the power of the cobot fully for all cylindrical welding tasks.

Welding Rotators and Turning Rolls.

Turning rolls and welding rotators are perfect for weld automation on heavy pressure vessels, smaller tanks, and pipes. It’s dangerous and counterproductive to rotate large pressure vessels manually or using a forklift or similar equipment. The fastest and safest way is using turning rolls. They have multiple PU roller wheels that come in contact with the vessel’s sides and rotate it for welding or NDT.

Welding rotators can also be used for spraying as they allow controlled rotation. So, you can treat the vessel uniformly and safely access its entire surface.

Column and Boom Welding Machines.

Column and boom welding manipulators are the cornerstone of welding automation. They quite literally hold the welding head static or travel along the joint instead of you doing it manually.

It’s the welder’s job to use the column and boom equipment to produce sound welds, but eliminating the manual welding action drastically boosts productivity and quality.

You can use the manipulator to hold the welding head while the positioner rotates the welded piece or use a travelling beam to move the welding head over a stationary part. Large vessels and towers are usually welded using rotators and a manipulator. The vessel is rotated while the welding manipulator holds the welding head, producing a uniform weld along the circumference.

These systems can also be used for weld cladding to overlay pipes and other equipment with corrosion-resistant alloys.

We have a large selection of various welding manipulators that can be fitted to almost any industrial application.

Welding Tractors and Carriages.

Welding tractors carry the welding torch/head along the tracks you install to follow the joint. Tractors and carriages are the best solution for highly accurate welding and cutting of large components like storage tanks, ship hulls, and large structural steel members.

These systems are also portable, making them a perfect choice for automating welding/cutting tasks on site.

Tracks can be linear or curved to fully accommodate the weld/cut path. These systems can have excellent traction on horizontal, vertical, concave, and convex components, making them highly versatile. If you plan to weld large components made from thick steel, consider automating the process with welding tractors. Advanced tractors, like the Gullco motorised systems, also give you control over the oscillation speed, width, and dwells. We stock many Gullco systems, including the Gullco KAT, for easy welding and cutting.

Orbital Welding Equipment.

Orbital welding systems dramatically improve productivity, quality, and weld uniformity compared to manual pipe welding. Even the best manual pipe welder can’t consistently match the quality of orbital welding equipment.

However, the biggest benefit is just how easy it is to weld pipes with orbital welding equipment. Not only does it require far less skill, but it puts significantly less strain on the operator. Manual pipe and tube welding can be very exhausting as you hold your body in awkward and uncomfortable positions for hours on end. Orbital welding makes the job much less tiring, letting you produce perfect welds all day long.

Orbital welding applications range from petrochemical to food and pharmaceutical. If the job involves significant amounts of pipe welding, orbital is almost always the way to go.

If you are welding extra large diameter pipes, you can use a welding tractor with a circular track system to achieve a similar setup as with the orbital welding equipment.

Welding Lathes.

Like orbital welding, welding lathes produce circumferential welds on pipes. However, the working principle is different. The welding lathe rotates the pipe while the welding head is stationary. You can use a single or multiple welding torches, making these systems versatile for small to medium-sized cylindrical parts.

Welding lathes are used for vacuum vessels, nuclear, defence, aerospace, and many other industries where weld precision is critical. We have an extensive line of welding lathes that can fit almost any application, including lathes from ProArc.

Seam Welders.

Longitudinal arc seam welders are designed to make seam welds on storage tanks and pipes. They can produce welds with almost absolute precision and eliminate rework. Repairing a weld defect on equipment with thick walls can be very costly, making seam welders an indispensable tool for shops considering offering seam welding services.

We also provide resistance seam welders that work differently than arc welding equipment. For example, the PEI PFT resistance welder for seam welding has circular electrodes that clamp and roll two sheet metals between them, causing them to fuse due to the resistance of the current flow. They are a perfect choice for automating the production of gas tanks, vessel pipes, tubes, air-tight equipment, and other products made from sheet metal.

Westermans International – Your Trusted Source For High-Quality Welding Equipment.

Westermans International has a large stock of used and new welding and cutting equipment for automated and manual applications. Everything from plasma and gas profile cutting systems to submerged arc welders, positioners, manipulators, and welding power sources. We provide individual, modular, and bespoke automatic welding solutions to help you fix specific production challenges.

Whether you want to buy or sell your welding/cutting equipment, Westermans is here for you! Contact us today, and we’ll help you choose the most suitable welding automation equipment for your application.

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