Orbital Welding in Pharmaceuticals: How Automation Meets Hygiene Standards

Pressure vessels in pharmaceutical processing plant

Not so long ago, an aspirin a day was considered a habit for good health. As the saying went, “An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.” Over the years, a variety of newer drugs have joined aspirin to improve health and increase life spans. In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry enjoyed global revenues of $1.25 trillion. And the medications responsible for those staggering revenues were manufactured in factories, which require sanitary processing, storage, and transport procedures regulated for patient and consumer safety. Likewise, these pharmaceutical processing systems require high-spec welding to operate reliably and produce safe drugs. 

Let’s examine the hygiene standards these operations must adhere to and how automated orbital welding in pharmaceuticals provides the best solution to ensure those standards are met.

Hygiene Standards for Pharmaceutical Welding

Medication manufacturing is often linked with food production since both manufacturing processes produce biological consumables. When welding for bio-pharma and food systems, the most important consideration is safety. Beyond typical safety concerns such as OSHA regulations or periodic inspections for piping systems onboard ships, the primary concern for biopharmaceutical is protecting the end-users of the products. 

To ensure that user safety receives the highest consideration, standards are in place that should guide your welding project. The most important among these are the following: 

Important Hygiene Standards for Welding Pharmaceutical Systems

AWS D.18.1:199 Specification for Welding of Austenitic Stainless Steel Tube and Pipe Systems in Sanitary (Hygienic) Applications

Many consider this the most important and comprehensive standard for all pipe and tube systems that process, transport, or store potentially contents that could cause medical harm to consumers. This Standard includes:

  • Welding process qualifications
  • Welding performance qualifications
  • Material preparation instructions
  • Why and how to use samples before construction
  • Type of examinations and acceptance criteria
ASME BPE Bioprocessing Equipment

This standard includes equipment requirements and specifications for hygienic welding systems. It covers the following:

  • System design
  • Materials to use
  • System fabrication
  • Which inspections to perform
  • Testing regimens and requirements for certification

As indicated by the details above, stainless steel is the most often used piping material for sanitary or hygienic systems. However, there are additional challenges associated with its use.

Additional Challenges of Pharmaceutical Welding

Stainless steel has its advantages. For example, it is smooth and can adapt to a variety of applications. Additionally, stainless steel can be easily shaped, and it is resistant to oxidation. However, welding challenges arise when using this metal for pharmaceutical systems, as listed below. 

Stainless Steel Welding Challenges

  • Toxic fumes
  • UV radiation
  • Electric shock

The most important consideration when working with stainless steel is the risk of exposure to toxic fumes due to the chromium content. As chromium is essential in the production of stainless steel, addressing this issue is critical. UV radiation presents another challenge when welding stainless steel. And as TIG welding is the preferred method for welding with stainless, which is reflective, this is also a significant concern. The threat of electric shock presents an added stainless steel welding challenge. Fortunately, a welding solution exists to effectively mitigate these challenges and meet the industry standards for welding pharmaceutical systems. 

Why Orbital Welding in Pharmaceuticals is the Answer

Today, almost all industries, including sanitary systems that rely on hygienic welding, utilize mass production to meet volume and efficiency demands. For these systems, manufacturers must implement a safe welding process that can satisfy industry regulations and standards while creating reliable and consistent high-quality welds. Orbital TIG welding, or GTAW, is the best solution for meeting these objectives. 

Advantages of Using GTAW Orbital Welding in Pharmaceuticals

High-quality welds

GTAW is considered the best process for producing high-quality welds. However, the process can be tedious for manual welding. The use of orbital equipment, which automates the process, delivers the high-quality needed for pharmaceutical systems.

Meets standard requirements

The AWS D.18.1:199 standard is explicitly written for TIG welding when using stainless steel for hygienic applications. Therefore, employing orbital TIG welding should ensure the fulfillment of requirements.

Worker safety

Employing orbital TIG welding not only introduces automation but also removes the welder from the weld puddle area. This provides welding fume safety by eliminating direct exposure to the fume cloud. 

The advantages listed above describe a few fundamental reasons why GTAW orbital welding in pharmaceuticals is the best process to meet hygienic standards while producing the best welds—welds that offer the highest quality and reliability while ensuring the safety of both end-users and workers.


Arc Machines, Inc. leads the industry in producing the most advanced TIG weld heads and orbital welding equipment to enable you to fully take advantage of this automated process for your orbital welding in pharmaceutical systems projects. For inquiries regarding products, contact sales@arcmachines.com. For service inquiries, contact service@arcmachines.com. Arc Machines welcomes the opportunity to discuss your specific needs. Contact us to arrange a meeting.