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The Advent of AI / Robotics in the Welding Industry

Welding is one of the most common processes in metal fabrication used by industries. In other words, welding is a process used to join metals together using heat and pressure and this is also known as fusion. The inception of welding dates to the 18th century (ref: www.weldinghandbook.com ), when metals were joined by merely heating them together. In the modern world, welding is an integral part of industrial work environments; from shipbuilding to aeronautics to car manufacturing, it is essential for any type of metal fabrication. Starting from its inception, welding now incorporates the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Robotics in a new age welding technological feats.

Welding went through many evolution stages, and different types of welding are defined below:

Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG)Welds using an electric arc. Uses consumable electrode
Tungsten Inert Gas Welding (TIG)An arc between metals uses a tungsten non-consumable electrode. Inert gas acts as a shielding agent.
Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW)Two types of FCAW – Self Shielded, Gas Shielded. Self-Shielded – Flux produces gas and slag in the electrode.  Gas Shielded – Gas shielding, flux is tasked with slag production.
Stick weldingWelding is done using flux covered consumable electrode

The Challenges in Welding and the Need for Advancements

welding professionals in welding industry
Welding processes were not always straightforward. Due to complex procedures, complicated systems, the job never attracted a colossal labor force. Further, due to hazards involved in the work, the turnover rates remained high. The number of young people who took up welding jobs declined because of their risk and precision experience.

In addition to the employment challenges, the industry’s designs and automation also demanded consistent innovation and upliftment of the welding techniques in the industry.

Early developments in welding advancements included automated technology solutions. Robotics or computer-controlled machinery are common ways the industry has found solutions for optimizing welding performance and consistency. While it may seem like these methods replace the need for a welding professional, automated solutions enable welders a speed and precision not possible through manual practices. This process has always led to welding being in high demand again in the industry.
Automation is not an umbrella solution for better welds, hands-on welding professionals will always be needed.  Robotics isn’t sophisticated enough to replace the welding workforce. The welding profession requires dexterity and affinity for problem-solving that robots can’t compete with. Automated welding solutions help these essential welding professionals to accomplish larger projects, faster and safer.

The Advent of Robotic Welding

robotic welding arm in welding education
The welding industry saw its first robotic welding solutions in1962. (Ref: www.robotics.org/). Robots allow welders to not only automate their process, but even program systems to dynamically solve complex problems for them. This also reduces a lot of risks from high complexity welds for the welding professionals.

Robotics has helped industries to improve productivity for their welding workforce, introducing a contemporary skillset to a classic profession. Robots help perform fast, repeatable jobs so welders can focus on detail-oriented tasks. This tremendously improved the welding industries’ efficiency and scope for potential high complexity projects.

As robotics grew to hold an integral role in the welding industry, the scale of their potential gradually became realized. While robots handling basic, repeatable tasks was an impressive feat, researchers were actively identifying ways for them to be able to perform smarter and more independent welding practices.

Collaborative Robots (Cobots)

collaborative robots cobots in welding education
Collaborative robots (cobots) were introduced in the year 1996 (ref: https://wiredworkers.io/). Cobots are built for direct human interaction within proximity and were different from traditional robots isolated from human contact.

Till now, Robots fall into two categories; domestic service robots and industrial robots.  Service robots require human interaction for proper use while industrial robots can be programmed to do jobs on their own.

Introduction of AI to Welding Processes

intelligent welding technology artificial intelligence AI
Further to the introduction of robots in welding, there was a need to make them independent of the handler. Also, initial robotic welding was for standard product size, and any deviation in product size impacted the production or quality was compromised. Therefore, an intelligent welding system was required to reduce workers’ risks from challenging welding operations and improve flexibility, quality, and productivity.

Introducing sophisticated robotic solutions enabled industries like the Internet of things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, so fabrication could be meticulously tracked and optimized. As a result, we see a recent innovation, where the fusion of Cobot and artificial intelligence is further strengthening the welding system and improving the welding industry.

These AI-based Intelligent cobots help industries perform some non-redundant welding jobs with little or no supervision. Particularly, AI-driven Cobots allow complex welding solutions in ecosystems where human health is at risk or workspaces that need to be carefully climate or environmentally controlled.

Advancements of AI Technology in Welding

collaborative AI artificial intelligence welding in welding industry
Artificial intelligence is continuously evolving to advance the capabilities of the welding profession. Here are a few examples of the recent developments of AI in welding:

  • Data sharing over ethernet.

In industry 4.0, all industrial equipment is capable of ethernet communication, and data is shared to a joint analysis source. This analysis helps in monitoring welding processes. For example, welding parameters monitoring can continue through the data transmitted, and it can highlight any potential anomaly proactively. This allows systems to better predict problems and helps in reducing production breakdowns.

  • Sensor capabilities

Sensors are adding additional value to the welding robots. A robot or a cobot cannot deliver good results without sensor systems allowing for analysis of performance. Different types of sensors are available like touch, laser, vision, and through-arc. Each sensor can be used as per industrial need and the welding function. With continuous innovation in welding, sensor innovation is critical for better understanding how to further assist industrial improvements.

  • Arc welding robots

Earlier robots in arc welding systems worked two-pass systems; the First pass was dedicated to learning the seam’s specification, and the second pass for the analysis, tracking, and then welding. Recent technology developments allow for systems to simultaneously weld and assess the proper technique necessary for an ideal weld.

Spool Welding Robots (SWR)

spool welding robotic arm in welding industry
With recent advancements, pipe spool fabrication now supports robotic technology. With the new technology, features like machine learning algorithms and cameras can be used, built directly into the SWR’s arm. The camera captures different weld images and uses them as a reference for learning how to weld properly. This method establishes a neural network that enables it to identify a new workspace and then configure its mechanisms independently. This enables welders to treat robotic solutions not just as tools, but as reliable coworkers for overcoming ambitious industrial projects.

Enhancing the Welding Industry

welding training using artificial intelligence AI in welding
The expectation from welding is to consistently perform steady weld operations with precision. Therefore, it is necessary to find technology solutions that can help the human arm achieve tasks with even greater intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robots/cobots have enhanced welding technology far beyond what was initially conceived. Machine learning algorithms and advanced data availability will continue to drive advancements at a pace never seen before. All these advancements are helping the welding industry move forward. The demand for re-education of existing welding professionals to make them understand and work with the cobots is high. With welding tech schools introducing these exciting curriculum in their welding education, welding technology students who are professional welders in the making can make full use of the opportunities and become trained and certified welding professionals. Knowledge of these welding skills and familiarity with advanced systems in welding will give their career greater highs and make them sought after welding professionals in the industry.

With one of the top tech trade schools in Philadelphia, you can give your career a boost with their welding technology technician program where you learn welding taught by welding industry professionals not only in theory but through hands-on experience and technological advancements like virtual reality (VR) systems in welding education and gamification techniques. This unique experience is bound to train you in a far better way and standard and help you become a sought after, trained and certified welding professional in the career of your choice. The opportunities for you are endless. With guaranteed employment opportunities, you are set to build a better, brighter and stable future in the career of your choice.

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