The Elements of an Orbital Welding System

Orbital weld head clearance

Since the inception of orbital welding in the 1960s, wide-ranging industries continue to adopt its advanced abilities. Industries that once relied on manual welding now leverage the benefits of greater precision and higher productivity through the automated approach of the orbital welding system. In critical applications like nuclear plants, petroleum pipelines, or food-grade applications, orbital welding systems can offer clean and error-free welds crucial to maintaining system integrity.

The orbital welding system is composed of various elements that enable parameter optimization during the weld. Here, we’ll explore the functions of these elements and their importance in creating a high-quality weld.

What Is Orbital Welding?

Orbital welding denotes an automated welding system that can continually perform the weld by rotating the arc 360 degrees around a stationary workpiece. Generally, orbital welding is used for tube-to-tube or tube-to-tubesheet welding applications. The reliability and safety provided by orbital welding have allowed industries to minimize human error in welding while creating consistent, high-quality welds.

Weld consistency requires a highly repeatable process, which is the major drawback of manual welding. Orbital welding addresses this concern with the help of controllers and orbital weld heads. Additionally, the elements of the orbital welding system provide options for parameter optimization. With the ability to control the feed rate, arc distance, and current, manufacturers can create an ideal process where the operator can continuously monitor the weld and ensure that stringent specifications are always met.

Elements of Orbital Welding

Industries typically utilize an orbital welding system for advanced and critical welding applications. Orbital welding system elements, such as power supply and weld heads, contribute to achieving purity, consistency, and productivity during the welding process. 

AMI model 317 power supply

Power Supply

The welding power supply, or controller, facilitates the control of weld parameters. The power supply converts electrical power into the suitable current type for the weld. In processes like GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding), the power supply system can comprise power inverters and control tools to help optimize the voltage, amperage, and polarity required for the weld.

It is possible to choose between AC or DC when deciding on the power supply. DC power supply is suitable for working with ferrous metals, such as steel, while AC power supply can be an appropriate choice when working with aluminum. However, a DC power supply with pulsed current generally offers enhanced efficiency with better bead formation and heat control capabilities.

A modern power supply system, such as Model 317 from Arc Machines Inc. (AMI), provides advanced programming options for improved data collecting and analyzing ability. The capability to control the weld schedule, optimize the specifications, and monitor progress allows industries to improve performance significantly.

Orbital Weld Head

Weld heads are crucial elements in the orbital welding system. Orbital weld heads connect to the power supply system, enabling the weld heads to implement the welding according to the programmed parameter specifications. In addition to their consistently precise welds, faster speeds, and remote monitoring capabilities, orbital weld heads help ensure quality, productivity, and cost-efficiency in the orbital welding system across wide-ranging applications. 

Closed Weld Head: The closed weld heads in an orbital welding system create an enclosed environment around the workpiece due to their compact design. The inert atmosphere created in the enclosed area with high gas shielding allows weld heads to create a clean and precise fusion weld. Accompanied with the GTAW orbital welding system, these weld heads enable high-quality welds for high-purity applications. 

Open Weld Head: The open weld head is commonly used in pipe welding. The weld head utilizes filler wire to perform the weld after multiple passes. These weld heads can be clamped or utilize a guide ring attached to the workpiece where the weld head can be mounted.  

Depending on the application, different weld heads can be available for each unique application. However, advanced weld heads are now available with the flexibility to adjust to different diameters, which offers greater cost-efficiency in welding.     

Benefits of Utilizing Orbital Welding Systems in Industries

Industries have applied various orbital welding techniques to meet their unique welding specifications and standards. These techniques include GTAW, GMAW (gas metal arc welding), FCAW (flux core arc welding), and laser welding—each of which can provide situational advantages.  For example, GMAW is suitable for welding thick or thin materials in an indoor setting; FCAW, on the other hand, is preferred for welding materials that are thicker than 20 gauge because of its ability to penetrate thick weld joints. Considering the amount of defects GMAW or FCAW may induce in the weld, industries may prefer to utilize an orbital GTAW process for its excellent repeatability and high-quality and pure welds.  

Industries can leverage the many advantages offered by an orbital welding system to improve their different welding processes.

  • The precision and optimization offered by weld heads and controllers ensure repeatability and consistency in welding to create a smooth weld with consistent bead and excellent penetration.
  • With the inert gas shielding and enclosed environment provided by some weld heads, it is possible to keep out impurities to create a clean and quality weld.
  • Orbital welding also ensures flexibility and safety with the weld heads working on complex geometries and difficult-to-reach areas.
  • The more advanced weld heads can adjust to different pipe sizes and foster cost-savings for industries.
  • With automated control, it is possible for industries to increase productivity and efficiency.

Orbital Welding Solutions for Efficient Results

The main goal of orbital welding across industries has been to ensure consistent, high-quality welds while increasing productivity. By implementing an orbital welding process, manufacturers can reach productivity goals and meet required weld specifications and standards.  

Over the years, AMI has provided orbital welding solutions to various industries, including nuclear, manufacturing, and petroleum pipelines. A better understanding of the elements in an orbital welding system can enable manufacturers to leverage its benefits for weld quality and productivity.  


Arc Machines, Inc. specializes in a wide range of welding elements to provide control over your orbital welding system. For inquiries regarding products, contact For service inquiries, contact Arc Machines welcomes the opportunity to discuss your specific needs. Contact us to arrange a meeting.