One of the most exciting new developments in technology is the Internet of Things (IoT), or the connection of smart devices to the global network of the internet. The possibilities of this sort of integration are staggering when applied to consumer devices. In industry, the possibilities are nearly limitless. IoT in welding, for example, could vastly improve the quality of welds, in turn improving the quality and reliability of sophisticated systems in the fields of power generation, manufacturing, and aviation. It holds the promise of making the replication of qualified welding parameters far simpler.
The adoption of IoT in welding is far from simple, though. Welding across many industries continues to be dominated by legacy processes and legacy systems. While the technology to enable IoT in welding exists, it is relatively rare for welding systems to be equipped with the needed networking technology. The cloud-based systems needed to collect and share data are only recently available. The advantages of IoT in welding, however, are such that even in its current fledgling state, projects that make full use of the technology stand to gain considerable advantages that will only grow as capacity increases.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of IoT in Welding
Welding is a relatively simple process, with many complex factors that must be weighed and balanced before welding even begins. One of the major advantages of IoT in welding is that it allows the data generated during welding to be captured and reviewed. This helps to establish a baseline for evaluating the quality of a weld against the weld parameters provided. It provides a concrete basis against which to weigh the factors that go into welding parameters, and establish the results of changing them. IoT also allows this data to be saved for later review so this refinement is an ongoing process that continuously improves over time.
IoT in welding offers the following advantages:
- Improved Processes: The ability to capture data offers insight into efficiencies and inefficiencies in the welding process. This forms the basis for procedural improvements that can maximize the performance of welding machines in order to improve welding productivity and weld quality.
- Performance Insights: There are factors in any human endeavor that are only clear when they are repeated and the results compared across a significant span of time. By enabling the capture and comparison of data across welds, IoT in welding offers insights on system performance that can lead to improvements in product design, ultimately translating to a better welding machine.
- Machine Management: The most concrete advantage of IoT not just in welding, but in the industries where it has been previously adopted, is that it allows practices to be easily adopted across the entire network of machines. If a new supplier of materials is used, the setting changes needed to optimize welding with that material can be deployed across an entire fleet of machines.
- Predictive Maintenance: The collection and analysis of data can lead to early detection of wearing or degrading parts. Mechanical faults as well as regular maintenance can be anticipated and performed before a critical problem arises, and fixed before they have the chance to do widespread damage.
- Evidence: Another concrete advantage that IoT offers is the ability to produce a record that all welds were performed correctly and as specified by welding procedures. This can ease the path through final inspection and approval of a project, and, if archived, these records provide hard evidence that insulates contractors from liability if something goes wrong with the project.
These advantages are already apparent in industries where the internet of things has been widely adopted, and where IoT in welding is already in use. Over time, the greater accumulation of welding data will allow the use of new analytical tools like artificial intelligence to identify areas and processes in welding that can be improved upon. In the future, IoT is set to bring the changes that are already occurring in the virtual sphere of data and information to the very concrete world of welding and construction. However, IoT isn’t without its disadvantages.
Privacy is a significant concern with IoT in any role. While the possibilities of IoT in welding for managing a fleet of welders by collecting performance data has long interested companies, actual welders on the shop floor are understandably less delighted at the prospect. Anyone who has ever tried to work with someone looking over their shoulder can easily understand why. In countries like Germany, it is actually illegal to record and evaluate an individual welder’s performance. In any case, the ability of a welder to enact changes that are suggested by long-term data capture or AI analysis in manual welding is limited, since the process is heavily reliant on habit, reflex, and muscle memory. Automated or semi-automated welding processes like orbital welding, however, make changes to the welding process easier to implement.
The Internet of Things in Orbital Welding
Orbital welding is not a fully automated process. The operator follows the weld head as the weld is completed to ensure that it is proceeding correctly. If the weld is not going precisely as desired, the operator can make adjustments through a remote weld pendant as needed. The predetermined nature of the welding process and the relatively minor input required make altering the process to improve efficiency or the long-term performance of the weld significantly easier in orbital welding than in manual processes.
As a result, the advantages of IoT in welding are likely to become apparent first in mechanized processes like orbital welding. This is one of the areas where the sensors and cloud storage that are needed to more fully enable IoT in welding are already available from some manufacturers.
Arc Machines, Inc. leads orbital welding into the future with IoT connectivity already available in AMI power supplies and peripherals. Contact AMI to learn more about training, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about AMI orbital weld heads and power supplies.