Understanding the Orbital Welding Process

Applying manual welding skills to critical weld projects requires years of technical training and experience. And the process can still result in slow speeds, reduced productivity, and even worker injury. Also, any weld defects—like those that result from welder fatigue—must be addressed. Compared with the effort manual welding requires, orbital welding offers a more efficient and productive solution where an automated system performs much of the work. 

However, operators should apply best-practice techniques to achieve optimal orbital welding results. This article will discuss the critical techniques involved in the orbital welding process that makes it stand out in comparison to other automated welding processes. 

Orbital Welding Process: Key Considerations

Orbital welding designates a mechanized welding process that allows the complete 360° rotation of the arc around the stationary workpiece. This welding option is most beneficial for pipes or tubes, where welding in different angles, positions, and clearances can present an issue. The automated process offers excellent parameter control and repeatability and, as a result, allows operators to achieve the best weld result in every weld cycle. 

Because automation resides at the core of orbital welding, the techniques involved in the orbital welding process might seem obvious. In tube welding applications, for instance, the technique for orbital welding may simply involve the operator pushing a button to accomplish the task. However, if we consider narrow groove welding, the welding technique is greatly dependent on the operator’s ability to monitor the molten puddle and intervene when a weld adjustment is required to keep the metal flowing and fusing correctly. 

Techniques that make the orbital welding process more efficient and productive include proper weld preparation and monitoring. 

Weld Preparation

The preparation procedure directly influences the quality of the weld. This is especially important in the joint preparation of pipes or tubes. From basic steps like removing grease and rust to machining the parts to create an appropriate groove, weld preparation allows orbital welding to produce a more refined result. Some essential preparation techniques may include:

Weld Preparation
Process Description
  • Clean the surface to remove contaminants like dirt, oil, grease, or oxides
  • Use solvent, wire brushes, or other means
  • Removing burrs for even ends without distortion or damage
  • Prepare the pipe ends for better weld penetration in larger weld thicknesses
  • Cut or grind at specific angles to meet the specifications for bevel angle and geometry
  • Utilize standard V or J preparation for orbital welding for joints without gaps
  • Ensure alignment to maintain proper positioning and orientation to ensure full penetration and complete fusion
  • Use fixtures, clamps, or other alignment tools as needed
Purging Create an inert environment prior to weld commencement to prevent the formation of oxidesMake use of purge dams, plugs, or other techniques
  • Temporarily join the pipe ends with intermittent welds to hold the workpieces together
  • Prevents movement of workpieces during the welding process and ensures proper alignment

In addition, preparation requirements should also focus on welding tools, i.e., tools such as weld heads and controllers should be compatible with the type of welding desired. 

Weld Monitoring

In applications such as narrow groove welding for sidewall fusion, monitoring is an important aspect of quality control. Usually, a weld camera for orbital welding provides a real-time inspection opportunity to ensure complete weld coverage. Weld parameters, such as weld head alignment, feed rate, and shielding coverage, can also be easily monitored and optimized for defect prevention and better weld quality. 

While orbital welding is predominantly an automated process, the result does not depend solely on automation but also on preparation, setup, and monitoring. Procedures often require timely manual interventions.

Orbital Welding Is the Favored Welding Option

Orbital welding eases the welding challenges faced during manual welding by automating difficult welding jobs that can be risky or require impeccable control. Relying on automated processes that can weld across all orientations and welding environments can enable more consistent and reliable welds. Weld preparation, setup, and monitoring are integral orbital welding techniques that support automated processes to ensure high-quality results. Ultimately, the unique collaboration between automated systems and operator monitoring makes the orbital welding process the preferred option. 

Arc Machines, Inc. has decades of experience in creating orbital welding solutions that suit the welding needs of our clients. To learn about the orbital welding process and develop a custom orbital welding procedure, contact us to arrange a meeting.

Engineering Department | Arc Machines, Inc.

The first engineers at Arc Machines were also part of NASA’s Apollo program, and we continue to hold our staff to those that level of drive and quality. Not only do we produce the best welding machines on the market, but we can also build customized machinery—tailored to your operation.