What is Orbital Welding?

AMI M15-14 Weld head

Just as it has been for thousands of years, the ability to create lasting bonds between metal structures is an invaluable occupation. Although there is currently a shortage of welders, welding is as indispensable today as it has ever been. In fact, it is likely more important today, as welding applications include semiconductor manufacturing, pharmaceutical processing, large-scale food production and packaging, energy generation, and many other areas that support modern life. And all of these applications share a need for orbital welding.

Orbital welding was developed to address some of the challenges inherent in manual arc welding, such as physical dexterity requirements, inconsistent welds, and safety hazards that include toxic fume clouds. Orbital welding offers an automated process for bonding pipes and tubes during which the electrodes that create the work area—weld puddle and coverage—are rotated continuously around the outer surface of the workpiece. Several techniques may be used to perform orbital welding; however, you’ll attain optimal results by relying on the best process, equipment, and materials for your project.

Types of Orbital Welding Processes

In the past, becoming an expert at manually welding pipes would take years. Still, welders made mistakes that resulted in additional repair time and increased costs for extra materials. These welding mistakes would result from awkward positions, like overhead welding, that welders sometimes encounter. Likewise, fume clouds from, for example, hexavalent chromium when working with stainless steel, could contribute to manual welding mistakes. Just having an off day or being tired could also lead to welding mistakes and increased time and expense. Automated or orbital welding mitigates these issues by removing the welder from the immediate vicinity of the weld puddle. By eliminating physical position concerns, orbital welding also allows less-skilled welders or other technicians to create quality welds. 

Orbital welding is suitable for the following processes:

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Resistance Seam Welding (RSEW)
Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) or MIG Welding
Plasma Arc Welding (PAW)
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) or TIG Welding

Although the processes listed above can support orbital welding, one process—TIG welding—is considered the optimal choice for consistently generating high-quality welds.

Why Orbital TIG Welding?

Orbital welding, invented by Rodrick Rohrberg of North American Aviation, was developed to address leakages in the plumbing system of the X-15 Rocket Research plane. Since then, the use of orbital welding technology has expanded to many industries beyond aerospace, including pipelines and other applications where uphill or downhill pipe welding is required. Orbital welding is even utilized in manufacturing 4.0 operations.

Orbital welding set out to improve the GTAW process and yield more consistent welds. Not only has the process proved to be very successful in creating consistent welds, but orbital welding offers additional significant advantages that can increase the quality, efficiency, and usability of your welding process.

Optimizing Your Orbital Welding Process

For high-spec projects, an orbital welding process can increase weld quality, as well as process efficiency and safety, provided you partner with an industry leader, such as AMI, for the best equipment, materials, and support and follow a few simple guidelines as listed below. 

  • Acquire the best equipment and materials

The quality of the orbital welding machine, weld heads, and electrodes that you use will directly impact the quality of your results. Therefore, the best option is to customize equipment and materials to your specific job type.

  • Perform proper setup and maintenance

Regardless of your equipment quality, you can take steps to maximize performance and longevity. Developing and following a preventive maintenance program and implementing risk assessments whenever there are variable changes are ways to ensure your welding process operates at peak performance. 

  • Partner with an experienced service provider

Knowing your orbital TIG equipment and being able to perform routine troubleshooting will help you save time. However, this should not replace working with an experienced, expert service provider that can answer any question or solve any problem that may arise to keep your project moving forward.  


Arc Machines, Inc. is an industry leader in supplying advanced and high-quality welding equipment and service. This includes orbital welding machines, weld heads, materials, and expertise to aid you in creating the best welds for your piping project, regardless of industry. 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.